Users of telecom services and the applications that run on top of them are turning to social media platforms as a channel through which they communicate with their service providers, not just as a means to complain about poor service, but to ask questions about current and new services, or about details of their account. This is driven by a broader trend of social media platforms as a communication channel, and the recognition of this trend by service providers that are making it easier for customers to contact them using social media.
Vendors of customer care and self-service IT solutions are gradually building in the capability to integrate social media with other channels such as contact centers, web portals, short message service (SMS) and smartphone apps, which are themselves being managed in a more integrated and consistent way. But bringing social media into a multi-channel platform is being done in ways that vary widely -- both within the service provider and the vendor communities.
Some service providers position social media teams within their marketing departments -- and see social media as primarily a way to measure or test customer satisfaction, and to gain useful strategic and tactical insights as they develop new services and processes. In other companies, responsibility for social media belongs with the customer service team, which looks on social media as an additional engagement channel, and one that can deliver some level of automated self-care or self-service.
Vendor solutions to support different visions of multi-channel customer care and self-service also vary in the level of sophistication with which social media is used: Some vendors have developed solutions that allow service providers to enable their subscribers to Tweet common service requests relating to balance inquiries or usage data, and for these requests to be dealt with automatically. But many vendors are only just starting to integrate some form of social media channel into their real-time self-service (RTSS) platforms, often working closely with existing customers to build the type of channel interaction capability that makes most sense for the service provider.
Many suppliers of customer care and self-service platforms say that the space is evolving quickly, and that the ways that social media will be used are not yet clear: Most vendor and service provider effort in self-care is currently being put into mobile smartphone and tablet apps.
But it is clear that communications service users are making extensive use of social media for interacting with third parties. Service providers currently investing in multi-channel RTSS -- and there are many -- must challenge their vendors and their own marketing, customer care and IT departments to come up with a robust and future-oriented strategy that includes a place for social media.
The Heavy Reading Insider report, "Real-Time Self-Service: Telco Transition to Digital Services," examines the ways that telecom operators are learning from other sectors -- specifically online retail -- as they move to deliver improved consumer real-time self-service and self-care capabilities. It examines how the complexity of telecoms networks and services and the state of legacy systems means that there are different ways that operators might move towards a consistent, multi-channel self-service vision. It looks at the components of solutions that can deliver that vision, and profiles 14 leading vendors of such solutions.
— Danny Dicks, Analyst, Heavy Reading Insider
Real-Time Self-Service: Telco Transition to Digital Services, a 27-page report, is available as part of an annual subscription (12 monthly issues) to Heavy Reading Insider, priced at $1,595. This report is available for $900. To subscribe, please visit: www.heavyreading.com/insider.