European Communications held a successful customer experience seminar in London on Wednesday.

Attendees saw presentations from a range of speakers from across the telecoms ecosystem and participated in a lively discussion on how to provide a best-in-class service.

Kantar Worldpanel’s customer insight director Fiona Keenan kicked off proceedings by presenting the latest data on what smartphone consumers are using now and what they want in the future.

On the plus side satisfaction levels are rising, reported Keenan, but fortunes among handset manufacturers remain mixed. Research in Motion, which is today the subject of takeover rumours, is losing ground in most European markets except Spain, while Nokia is down across the board.

On the OS level, Android has overtaken Apple’s iOs in all European markets surveyed. As Alcatel-Lucent’s head of strategy Peter Spencer pointed out, it is important not to “idolise” Apple despite its customer experience successes and amid the overwhelmingly positive media attention.

When choosing a handset, OS is now almost as important as the brand of the device itself according to UK consumers.

Friends and colleagues remain the most popular source of information for UK consumers when buying a handset, but the importance of retail should not be forgotten with store displays coming a close second.

Keenan also pointed out that the trend of consumers moving from PAYG to contract tariffs will continue as will increases in data usage. The flip slide is that is consumers want value – they want less for more.

Andrew Jones, managing director of service design at Openreach, then took the stage to give an overview of how customer experience works in practice from a wholesaler’s perspective.

Openreach, part of BT Group, looks after the UK’s local access network. By providing a wide range of operators with their infrastructure needs, Jones said the company’s mission was to provide an open access to all their customers equally.

“We not only have to look after our immediate operator customers but also have to keep an eye on the end users too,” said Jones.

Key to Openreach’s current work is laying a fibre optic network to cope with the continued growth of mobile and video services.

Jones said the board has a “huge pile” of KPIs that it monitors in a weekly meeting, but when pushed said there were perhaps half a dozen that were considered more key than most.

The problem, he acknowledged, was that the telecoms ecosystem remained a very complex one that involved a supply chain which needed to be simplified.

Dan Adams, executive director of communication, media and technology at consulting firm Accenture, focused on the physical retail side of the customer experience.

There were three key trends, he said: the shift from retailing to me-tailing, improvements in service management and developing a flexible supply chain to support cross channel retailing.

The me-tailing strategy – defined as treating consumers as distinct entities – has potential far-reaching consequences and tied in with some of the data Kantar’s Keenan pulled out earlier.

Whereas as operators have traditionally separated consumers into retail or enterprise groups, there are a myriad of other segments that operators could target specifically – from women to green consumers.

Equally, this precision retailing will require stores to diversify – some will be large showrooms but temporary pop-up stores are equally valid depending on the audience.

The common denominator, however, is an enjoyable and entertaining experience.

Sanjeev Kumar, head of telco consulting Europe at consulting firm Infosys, concluded the presentations by advising telcos to focus on differentiation.

To do this, he urged participants to learn from best practice in other industries.

There were four key areas to focus on, according to Kumar: provide a seamless customer experience across all channels; user customer data to improve their experience; develop differentiated services; and engage customers’ “hearts and minds” through authentic and serious conversation.

Add your voice to the customer experience debate by taking our new quarterly survey.

Exclusive videos of the seminar will be available next week. Keep up-to-date by registering to receive our free daily enewsletter or follow us on Twitter @eurocomms.

 

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