For today’s telecoms companies personalised customer experience is just as important as the products they offer

It comes as no surprise that competition in the telco market has become more intense than ever. The explosive growth of connected devices has led to an increasing amount of data being handled by telco operators, leaving businesses with the significant task of working out how to manage it. At the same time, consumers are facing their own challenge due to the deluge of possible contracts, packages and providers – to the extent they are frequently suffering from choice paralysis. After attending the recent IQPC customer experience event for Telcos – Conversity found that most are looking for initiatives on how to simplify offers for customers and how they could use Intelligent Guided Selling to enable them to do just that.

The nature of customers when engaging with telco products and providers has evolved. Consumers today have become much more demanding due to the amount of choice and channels available to them. Interestingly, research also shows that there is a generational shift amongst customers when it comes to both making purchases and their expectations for customer service.

Conversity’s recent research – which polled 1,000 consumers across the UK – found that eight in ten millennials (81 per cent) believe that receiving recommendations for relevant telco products, bundles or contracts when shopping is important, but this figure stands at just 68 per cent for Generation X and 67 per cent for the baby boomer generation. Similarly, when it comes to the quality of the advice given by the telco provider when consumers shop online, 86 per cent of millennials consider this important, falling to 79 per cent for Generation X and 69 per cent for baby boomers.

While telco operators are feeling the pressure from evolving markets, personalised customer experience can play a crucial role in helping these operators to maximise each sales opportunity.

A new competitive landscape

Traditionally, the telecommunications sector has relied on building a big network and charging customers for the demands they make on it. This business model worked well for decades, and telco providers made most of their revenue from voice traffic.

However, with an increasing amount of people using data for services such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Skype, revenues from voice calls are falling. At the same time, video has become increasingly popular, and it is estimated that 80 per cent of all worldwide internet traffic will be video-based by 2020. In addition, the availability of new technologies such as those connected to the Internet of Things is leading to an explosive growth in connected devices, which will have its own impact in pushing the responsibility for handling an overwhelming amount of data into the hands of telco providers.

While this demands improved connectivity and will ultimately transform the telco sector for the better, it will also require the sector to become much more responsive to consumer needs in real time in order to provide personalised customer service experiences. This is important as it will enable providers to offer customers greater choice, flexibility and personalisation and help combat churn through better customer service as autoswitching comes into effect.

Generational shift

As millennials continue to become the dominant force in the retail market, our research indicates that it is having a hugely significant impact on the expectations that consumers have when it comes to customer service.

Millennials have high standards when it comes to customer service: they want to receive recommendations that are tailored to their specific needs and preferences, and they want the quality of the advice they receive to be of the very best.With this in mind, what constituted good customer service in the past is likely to be seriously sub-par in future, so telco businesses need to reassess their approaches and make changes to ensure that they don’t just provide a one-size-fits-all service to everyone.

To meet the challenge posed by this generational shift, organisations need to find a way to empower staff across all sales channels to provide this personalised, high-quality service to their younger customers, without sacrificing the approaches that are successful with older consumers. This is especially pertinent given that 29 per cent of overall respondents said that they would like to have access to technology which helps them compare product features and benefits, with little variation across generations.

While most telco providers have a general awareness of how millennials differ in their general behaviours compared to their older peers, the findings from this research provide some powerful insights into how their attitudes affect the way they search for and choose telco products.

Personalise services, maximise success

Key to providing more effective personalised services is understanding the data that customers generate. For example, using CRM data to understand the usage patterns, personal buying preferences, the supplier that they might be using and the type of services they would like can provide useful insights, and in turn can help to provide specific deals and packages that different generations are looking for. This can allow telco providers to offer customers much more closely tailored recommendations based on their individual behaviours.

Technologies such as guided selling can help in this process: it has the potential to make a difference to the way telco staff across all sales channels communicate with their customers, by providing needs-based recommendations that closely align with customer requirements, needs and mindset at the time they are shopping. By making personalisation of the customer experience more straightforward, telco leaders can make sure that the ever-increasing standards of the younger generation are met, while also making sure older generations are able to benefit from an improved service as and when they need it.

When it comes to upselling and cross-selling and nailing those all-important quad play bundles, better personalisation can also help leverage customer data across channels much more effectively, while cutting through the difficulties attached to managing so many different sources of data and helping to truly take advantage of the appetite for buying multiple products. Guided selling technology such as IGS has the potential to bring together this data with ease, providing a single view that can then be used to improve the overall customer experience.

Success in telco is so often about fine margins. The difference between closing a sale or losing out to a competitor can hinge on the smallest yet most critical of factors. It almost goes without saying that – in a telco world so fraught with choices and complex buying options – persuading a prospect to become a customer is about being able to go that extra mile to make sure consumers are given the right guidance at every stage of the buying process.

This is why telco businesses pride themselves on making sure their in-store staff are in tip-top form when it comes to assisting customers and that support when buying online, or via a call centre is able to reflect this experience.

The generational shift in shopping habits may be gradual, but it’s definitely happening. Therefore, there’s no time like the present to start preparing for this and introducing new technologies that empower and engage staff to offer a more personalised experience.