Customer Experience Management (CEM)

Redefining Customer Experience Benchmarks

Customer experience management (CEM) has become a buzz-phrase in terms of managing expectations of savvy digital customers. With increasing competition and revenue pressure, telcos are shining the spotlight on customer experience and engagement -- how to improve the customer relationship beyond a transactional billing one, how to sell more services, how to earn customer loyalty and trust.

CEM gets a bad rap for being fluffy or nichey or just plain hard to define. It may be all of those but the business drivers behind it are critical. It's about ensuring future revenue streams for telcos by putting the customer first, reinventing awkward silo processes, making better use of customer data that is buried in applications and systems, and designing new engaging customer interfaces.

Operators are making good progress to understand the customer journey, investing in network and customer analytics, upgrading IT systems to try to track every interaction and get a single view of the customer across their business. In terms of measuring improvements in customer experience, most telcos are using Net Promoter Scores (customer promoters less detractors) and increasingly the broader Customer Experience Index that represents the sum total of each customer's entire experience -- i.e., network performance, number of calls to customer care, billing complaints, etc. It is helping telcos get a better understanding of customer behavior, monitor quality of experience, segment high spenders, reduce calls to customer care and detect potential churners.

This is positive, but telcos still find it difficult to institute cross-domain sharing of data, establish a single view of the customer truth and tame business intelligence (BI)/analytics tools and data sprawl. In reality this is complex, as insight has to be gathered from all customer touch points and channels, CRM systems, in-store and partner channels, social media, website, network and application usage and beyond. These mountains of data need be extracted and analyzed with speed and precision.

Companies that were born digital such as Amazon or Google are very good at managing customer data and digital care, making it all look easy, because it's always been that way. They have limited direct personal contact with customers -- their processes are digital with well-designed interfaces and are highly efficient -- and their customers expect this level of service.

It's still too unpredictable with telco digital self-care. It's not always possible for telco customers to handle everything online for all services. Customers would like to have real-time information and control over the characteristics and features of a service -- again it's not always possible and depends on the service, bundle, etc.

And if customer care is not consistently "joined up" across channels and touchpoints, then the experience breaks down in silos. My husband recently visited a local mobile operator store to change his contract (he actually wanted to upgrade and pay for more data). Instead the person in front of him typed in the mobile number and then told him he needed to go home and phone customer service. That is not "omni-channel" or customer-centric, or even digital, e.g., not even having a customer terminal in the store where he could take care of this. This is inconvenient, it's poor service and understandably he now wants to switch to a different provider.

As customers of both telcos and an Amazon or Google, customers will compare and contrast their experience and hold telcos to an equally high level of service expectation. It's time for telcos to define a new benchmark that plays to their strengths, that's personalized, shows leadership and drives engagement. It will be interesting to see which operators are doing this the best and how.

This blog is sponsored by Huawei.

— Sandra O'Boyle, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

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