As the telecoms industry has evolved, businesses have become much more multi-dimensional. Even a few years ago operators only primarily focused on ARPU, and while this is obviously still important there is now a far stronger focus on parameters that simply weren’t considered previously.
Customer satisfaction is becoming increasingly important to operators around the world. Retaining or increasing ARPU is now widely seen as being less important than retaining customers. This is occurring, of course, as operators realise that it’s significantly cheaper to invest more to hold on to existing customers than it is to acquire new ones. An added benefit of this strategy is that existing customers are more likely to upgrade and use new services, making them more valuable than newly gained customers.
Data monetisation - using the information an operator already has about its customers to retain and upsell them - is another major new factor in how operators are structuring strategies to place greater emphasis on customer retention.
“Operators used to look at subscribers as a faceless wallet”, says Udi Ziv, CEO of customer lifecycle management solutions provider Pontis. “All they cared about was the amount that subscribers spent. That doesn’t work anymore – they have to look at their customers as individuals. Even though they may seem similar in terms of behaviour and demographics, each is different and must be treated as such.”
As a result adaptive strategies are now essential for telecom operators – the world around them is constantly changing, with new competitors or regulations disrupting their business. Matching an operator’s multidimensional strategy to each subscribers ‘mini-strategy’ is challenging, but essential for what Ziv terms Contextual Continuous Engagement. He refers to the process as ‘taking a journey with the subscriber’, engaging them with specific actions such as upselling, promotions or freebies, surveys, or other loyalty initiatives.
Time, context and presence are three key factors in mobility that need to be present for any particular customer experience to be appropriate; otherwise it could be seen as intrusive, or providers could miss opportunities. For example, a customer in a shopping centre is far more likely to welcome promotional material than a customer who is in their workplace, for example.
Customer location can be used to provide a variety of other services. Operators are already facilitating information delivery services focused on health, transport, telecom regulation and governance. Rather than blanketing a subscriber base with this information, location and context-based services allow this information to be used upon request and by specific demographics to which it is applicable.
“It’s about the value you can offer the customer. Right now, banks and merchants are trying to get to know their customers better and this improves the customer experience from both sides”, says Jagdish Mitra of Tech Mahindra, a solutions provider specialising in this area. “Today what ends up happening is that the customer is spammed with annoying information; if companies don’t know their customers then they can’t offer them anything that’s particularly relevant.”
Using knowledge about subscribers allows operators to address specific interests, but the danger is that they abuse this by doing it too much – this makes customers feel harassed and unhappy. Both the volume of communication and the directness can be upsetting – consumers can be unsettled by the ability to pinpoint their interests.
“Context is king. Subscribers won’t accept anything that is out of context now”, notes Pontis’s Ziv. He adds that it is essential to use Centralised Contact Policy smartly – customers are completely uninterested if offers are not relevant to them, but very receptive if they are both timely and appropriate. For example, if a user has attempted to use a function on their phone unsuccessfully, it would be possible to push a tutorial on this function to them which the customer then appreciates.
Mitra observes that an operator knowing more about their customer’s tastes is beneficial to both parties. Customers can specify product preferences, and their buying behaviour can also be analysed to further tailor promotions to their tastes, but there are wider-reaching applications of this tech – it can also help with fraud prevention. For example, if a customer suddenly begins purchasing atypical items - e.g. items associated with a different demographic - this not only suggests that their details have been compromised, but also provides a way to track the fraud and prevent it.
Campaign management has evolved from being product-centric, in which customers were segmented according to whether they’d be a good fit for specific products. Ziv argues that it is increasingly apparent that customers can never be considered identical in terms of how the operator should engage with them, and this type of segmentation is becoming obsolete. To optimise engagement with each subscriber, they need to be treated separately and not as part of a larger group. Contextual continuous engagement can be used to affect every subscriber differently.
The network usage context that lets an operator know what to offer a client needs to be balanced with the behavioural context which helps to understand how the client will respond. By learning more about a consumer’s buying patterns it becomes easier to target them at the right time. Ultimately, a combination of the two is critical – it’s the only way to gain a true insight into customer behaviour, and this information can be very powerful.