By Philippe Ougrinov, VP Sales & Marketing at TELUS International Europe
With the Huffington Post earlier this year declaring customer services to be “one of the last frontiers of sustainable competitive advantage”, and behavioural research company TARP revealing the true potential of poor service – a dissatisfied customer on average tells 12 people who then tell six more people each – the importance of customer service has never been greater to companies in the telecommunications sector.
Yet, it is an area where there is room for improvement. According to detailed research commissioned in 2011 by customer rights group Customer Focus, the telecoms sector has one of the poorest records of delivering customer satisfaction.
Here are five of the key trends that will shape customer service in the telco sector over the next 12 months. Each offers a fresh opportunity for companies to reinvent the service they offer customers and in so doing gain significant competitive advantage.
1. The arrival of Generation Y
Generation Y – those born between 1980 and 2000 – will in 2015 account for almost $200 billion in spending per year worldwide. In the workplace, Gen Y already accounts for 80 percent of the total number of employees in some contact centres. This is a significant generational shift which will gather momentum in 2015.
Generation Y grew up surrounded by computers, mobile devices and video games consoles. This generation is confident with technology but it also has a shorter attention span. The internet puts everything at Gen Y’s fingertips, and this affects not only how they expect customer service to be delivered but the level of service they expect.
Telecom firms that recognise this shift, and re-engineer their customer service provision accordingly – even going as far as seeking out contact centre partners with a high proportion of Gen Y employees – will find themselves more in tune with the customer service demands of 2015.
2. Investment in technology
In their joint September 2014 report “Digital Marketing in the Telecom Sector”, Econsultancy and Adobe found that only half of organisations believe they have the technology they need to succeed in delivering customer experience, but that this will change in 2015.
The report was based on a global survey of more than 200 telco executives based mainly in North America and EMEA and it found that telco companies are aiming to tackle these technology challenges by increasing investment.
Eighty four percent of respondents said they are planning to increase their budgets specifically for digital marketing technology over the next 12 months, compared to only two percent who are planning a decrease.
3. The rise of omnichannel support
Where will telcos be investing for improved customer service? Primarily to gear up for the shift to omnichannel support. The customer of 2015 will demand 24/7/365 support and will expect it anytime, anywhere and from any device.
This generation of telco customer simply wants service their way. They expect companies to solve problems quickly and they expect to enjoy themselves while they are doing it. The days of waiting patiently in line are long gone. Specifically, we can expect to see a quickening of the shift towards customer service via social media and webchat.
4. Growth of two-way video support
In 2014, Avaya became the first company to offer customer support via two-way video. Companies in this sector have a clear incentive to demonstrate the capability of this emerging technology, and so we can expect to see many following Avaya’s example throughout 2015.
5. New offshore locations
For many years now, corporates have been torn between the high costs of outsourcing customer service to European countries, and the low service levels often prevalent in offshore locations. Yet this is changing rapidly, with many telcos recognising South Eastern Europe as a viable location for customer service.
Indeed, the 2014 AT Kearney Global Services Location Index ranked Bulgaria in the top ten countries for outsourced customer support. With its combination of multilingual skills, a highly educated and motivated workforce, and competitive pricing, we can expect to see Bulgaria and other South Eastern European countries like Romania become an increasingly attractive choice for telco firms looking to outsource their customer service.