By Adam Spearing AVP for Salesforce in EMEA

These days the connected consumer – continually online via their smartphone, tablet and now wearable device – is firmly in the driving seat, choosing exactly how and when they interact with brands.

All these new potential contact points present a huge opportunity for operators: an opportunity to improve the customer journey, and in doing so, to increase the loyalty and average revenue from each customer.

What’s more, as telcos move towards 5G, they need to reflect on the profile of their future customers, and look now at how they plan to interact with them. 

Establishing a personal connection between customer and telco remains vitally important.

Increasingly customers, particularly those from generation Y (and already some of Z, too) are demanding new ways of interacting with organisations – they look for interactions that are personalised and offer a community feel.

So how can operators adapt their customer engagement to be more effective and efficient, while at the same time keeping up with the changing expectations of their customers as they gear up to 5G?

More connectivity, greater expectation

Customers used to instant connectivity and unlimited bandwidth already lead instant, always-on lifestyles where they expect high levels of responsiveness.

The use of Twitter is a case in point. Research from Lithium Technologies shows nearly three-quarters of consumers expect a complaint on Twitter to be answered in less than an hour today.

As stated before, consumers have also come to expect the freedom to engage with organisations on their own terms.

This explosion in multichannel has made it more difficult than ever to monitor customer engagement and to make sure that nothing slips through the net.

Clearly operators will need to make a change when 5G rolls out as these expectations are likely to increase. But how?

First, operators must be able to respond quickly to their customers from anywhere, and to do this successfully, their customer teams and executives need access to important data on the move.

For example, if a critical case is escalated or if call wait times exceed thresholds, they need the information immediately in order to make an informed yet timely decision about next steps. 

Also crucial is access to multiple apps or data feeds from a single dashboard. Those telcos that empower their teams to truly work from anywhere will be the ones that deliver the 21st century speed of customer engagement that we expect 5G subscribers to demand.

Connected everything enables a new level of service

The launch of Apple Watch and various wearable and IoT announcements at Mobile World Congress show that customers’ preferred communication channels are bound to include numerous devices – including wearables -  in the very near future.

Behind every one of these devices, apps, posts and tweets is a customer.

While wearables and the IoT gives consumers more power, they also enable businesses to offer an enhanced level of service – leveraging analytics and data to resolve issues before the customer has complained – even intervening before that customer is aware that there is an issue.

Analysts are predicting more than 50 billion connected devices within two years. These will provide an enormous amount of detailed usage data, helping to analyse device behaviour and patterns, and to improve customer experience. 

Philips, for example, has partnered with Weight-Watchers on a wearable product called Direct Life to track activity levels and process data to alert users when they are dropping out of their weight-loss regime.

Similar solutions can already tell your customers important information about their data usage or roaming requirements, but the possibilities to further enhance engagement are endless if the right data and analysis tools are in place.

Engaging your customers through apps

The key to delivering this new type of service lies in apps. The new generation of tech-savvy consumers is already living its digital life though app-based social, professional and commercial networks.

According to comScore, a huge 88 percent of mobile internet use happens on apps (as opposed to mobile browsers). Successful telcos are already working out how to weave their customer experience seamlessly into that life.

But for apps to reduce customer service costs and drive customer satisfaction, they also need to offer a simple and fast way for customers to find both specific and general information – all while being engaging.

Increasing ARPU

This app-based next-generation customer service is not just an opportunity to avoid the “wooden spoon” awards, but also to increase revenues.

Engaging with customers across social channels should no longer just be an extension of existing customer service.

An example of this from another industry is the US Bank, Wells Fargo, which uses social channels to drive new business.

Wells Fargo uses data from LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to interpret what customers are saying and react more quickly, offering customers insight into the bank's products and services; all important factors in helping customers understand the services they really want and need, not just the ones that they happen to have. 

In essence, every company must pivot to its customers to stay competitive. Technology advancements are creating ways for businesses to provide outstanding customer service.

By the time 5G hits the mainstream, Generation Z will be firmly ensconced as mobile consumers and purchasers.

Operators need to think about their expectations for brand interactions when designing their customer service solutions aimed at a 5G customer base.

Getting the right apps to serve customers in a timely manner is vital to shake off any residual perceptions of poor customer care before customers begin evaluating 5G providers.

The reality of the current economic climate is that if you don’t focus enough on your customers, someone else will.

European Communications is hosting its fourth annual customer experience seminar on 14 April. Click here to sign up to attend this free event, featuring Orange, Amdocs, AsiaInfo, EY and more

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