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The Future of CX: Personalized, Immersive Friendly and Very, Very Smart

By Special Guest
Shrey Fadia
April 10, 2019

Customer Experience (CX) is becoming a great priority for Communications Services Providers (CSPs), also known by some as “telcos” and, earlier this month, CX Network  issued a fascinating report sharing specific data about how companies in the always competitive real time communications services industry are implementing or planning to implement programs designed to deliver great experiences.

A survey was carried out among CX leaders and the free report revealed that CX strategy (68%), customer insight (52%), customer service (36%) and digital transformation (32%) are the focal points.

Leaders who participated in the survey included Managers, Directors, SVP/VPs, C-level executives and others,  many who continue to follow the examples of companies like Amazon, Spotify, and YouTube, who track every move subscribers make (when they have permission) to primarily make recommendations on new products, music, videos and streaming on-demand programming.

According to insights from the report, constant improvisation is the key to remaining relevant and attractive, as is being agile enough to shift from trend to trend, depending on what the market is saying – based on massive volumes of data being generated.

While these fundamentals apply to every B2C organization, telecom companies are in an especially interesting position as they continue their digital transformations, moving up the stack from basic voice and data connectivity services to applications and services, including services that compete with “challengers” like Amazon and Google.

They are investing in their online customer experience and customer analytics tools, as well as in Voice of the Customer (VOC) and customer journey mapping, and are now capturing increasing amounts of data, in real time and near real time, including from voice conversations which leaders in the industry are recording, transcribing, analysing and applying Artificial Intelligence software which is making compliance easier, and marketing insights deeper.

We asked Joe Galvin, CEO of CustomerView, a Denver-based company whose platform is being used by CSPs, contact center providers, CX Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) providers and other business to weigh in on the report and the technologies that will help digital businesses compete better based on delivering a premium CX.

“There is no question that every CX initiative today and in the future will require quality automation, AI, machine learning and data analytics capabilities that scale,” Galvin said. “With the confluence of software applications, cloud capabilities, and the ability to deliver Customer Experience as a Service, it’s now possible for even the largest companies with massive contact centers to track every conversation, including what is still the most popular channel for customer service – voice.”

Galvin says CSPs are in a unique position to succeed at omnichannel CX because they understand voice, messaging, interactive video, embedded web applications and “telecom APIs” better than other large enterprises. Given that they are also regulated by the FCC in the US, for example, they are also required to comply with laws, including those in place to stop “cramming and slamming” offers to consumers and businesses.

“A great CX is one which works for the customer and the business,” Galvin said, “and while we’ve supported mission-critical compliance programs helping service providers avoid audits and fines, the real ‘aha’ moments have come when the entire business is provided customer insights that ensure their policies for providing service, including maintaining a friendly and helpful tone, and smart, swift answers to questions. While it is impossible to ‘listen in’ to every conversation, it is now possible to receive reports on which agents are doing a great job, or text alerts when certain triggers occur.”

Galvin says another advantage to tracking and analysing data from every conversation – whether bot-based or human-based – is understanding trends. “For example, let’s take competitor A, whose contact center is suddenly bombarded with inbound requests to switch to competitor B for a less expensive service or a better service. Almost immediately, using AI, the product marketing team can learn that the competitor’s advertising campaign is creating a retention threat, and the marketing team needs to adapt a counter-offer and work with the CX team to immediately train and coach agents. As everything from mobile services to fiber and spectrum broadband services continues to grow and become increasingly price-sensitive, this information becomes the lifeblood of a dynamic, thriving business.”

The survey revealed the telecom industry is actively and increasingly tracking online customer experience and leveraging data analytics and feedback tools to pursue their CX projects. The report quotes Gartner research indicating that collecting customer feedback can increase upselling and cross-selling success rates by 15% to 20% which translates into tens of millions if not hundreds of millions of dollars of improvement annually for the largest CSPs.

Important decisions are made based on the investments in tools that help improve the CX. As per the survey, in 2019, tools like NPS measurements, LIVE chat and speech analytics can help collect customer feedback but real CX transformation happens when Telecom companies take action on feedback provided.

Another trend impacting the industry is the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) which in the consumer market translates to smart homes, smart cars, health and fitness trackers associated with mobile devices, and more.

Thom Jordan, Managing Director of the Telecom and Networking practice at Rocket Wagon Venture Studios, who has been working on the real time communications and marketing industries since the late 1990s, says it’s critical for CSPs to “prepare for impact” now.

“There are tremendous opportunities for service providers to not only generate new revenue by providing managed services associated with IoT offerings such as in connected homes, but to also provide an over-the-top CX,” Jordan said. “CSPs run the risk of being marginalized as their core services such as broadband, streaming entertainment programming, and VoIP become commoditized.   CSPs need to take advantage of their natural position in the consumer IoT market and leverage differentiating technologies, such as AI and next-gen CX, to move up the value chain and provide more agile and value-added consumer services.  Disruption is coming.  CSPs must be prepare now to protect and grow their customer and revenue base. Challengers are actively working to own the relationship and pull customers away from the traditional telecom brands.”

Jordan says the steady move to spectrum and 5G networks and services makes this the perfect time for marketing and operations teams to work collectively with CX teams to create extremely agile and savy service offering road-maps. Consumer, product and competitive information and data can be automatically monitored through IoT device sensors, and securely accessed through a WiFi router or other Internet access points.

“Think about the potential for CSPs to partner with electrical utility providers,” Jordan said, “to get the most out of digital metering and energy conservation services. The use cases are many, and in this case everybody wins – more commercial business for the CSPs, cost savings for the utility provider, energy conservation for the home owner or building management company in the case of apartments and condominiums – and when great services come with great customer experiences, the desire to switch is reduced and retention programs enhanced.”

Other highlights from the report include sentiments on chatbots and AI-driven Virtual Assistants as a high priority for those looking to compete based on CX. The biggest impact AI can have on CX is by making it automated, fast and hassle-free, according to respondents. Chatbots, which are particularly programmed to simulate human interactions can play a major role in answering the customer's queries, and with the right software can elegantly and quickly route inbound from a bot to a live expert human.

When it comes to the challenges, demonstrating Return on Investment (ROI) and integrating solutions with existing tools and company processes continues to be a major hindrance, but the report suggests a thoughtful and collaborative planning process is what is making the difference in assuring CX programs are successful.

Digital customer experience, digital transformation, emotional engagement, big data and analytics are the top trends in 2019, according to the report, and will continue to drive investment in more online tools like support forums, communities and online self-service portals to meet the rising demands of customers.

However, the report suggested that to increase customer loyalty and retention, and foster emotional engagement with their brand, companies should remove barriers like Interactive Voice Response systems (IVR)’s which don’t allow customers to reach a live person.

According to a Microsoft global survey, also referenced in the CX Network report, more than 30% of customers find this a frustrating and poor customer service, which leads to negative brand sentiment and a lost opportunity.

In summary, based on the input and perceptions of the participating leaders, in 2019 and beyond CX strategy will be all about immersive and personalised customer experience, and investments in technology that make that possible.

Edited by Maurice Nagle
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