By Michal Harris, Head of Amdocs Market Insight & Strategy Group

Service providers live in a highly competitive reality with saturated markets and an industry that’s moved from high growth rates to experiencing revenue growth erosion. At the same time, they have been required to make large-scale investments in their networks, IT services and customer care.

For their part, consumers are enjoying a wealth of choice and experiences at attractive prices. But despite spending more on communications and media services, customers often still receive poor service from their provider.

This gap between the reality faced by service providers and their customers’ individual worlds is expressed by low levels of loyalty and a growth in churn. So how can service providers reconnect with their customers?

The first step is to stop and listen. Recent Informa Telecoms and Media research, commissioned by Amdocs, pinpoints a growing gulf between customers and service providers’ priorities.

For example, service providers see service quality (97 percent), network coverage (95 percent), network capacity (92 percent) and customer care (86 percent) as key drivers of customer loyalty.

But consumers regard these as basic service requirements, and certainly not as competitive differentiators.

In fact, according to a separate study by Amdocs, almost two-thirds of subscribers say that providers need to go beyond the basics. They want targeted promotions and tailored services in order to win their loyalty.

Yet loyalty is on the wane. A majority (66 percent) of service providers believe that customers are less loyal today compared to two years ago. So what’s the answer?

Service providers focus on customer retention offers, but this, as we will see, is too little, too late. Also, they have traditionally prioritised potential churners over existing customers.

Service providers are waking up to the importance of customer loyalty – 82 percent believe that this will be an important operator strategy over the next five years, almost twice as many as today (43 percent).

Traditionally, the service provider’s road to growth has centered on adding new subscribers. But within a saturated market, this path to growth hits a dead end.

Instead, service providers need to stop their customers churning and concentrate on maximising the value of each customer.

This translates into meeting the customer expectation at every interaction – be it when the customer is shopping for new services, consuming these services, paying for them or seeking care. The service provider has to offer real-time, proactive, seamless and personalised experiences that empower the customer, providing a superior experience.

If customers are tempted to churn for the sake of a better offer from another service provider, this is less likely to happen if an emotional bond has been established – one that will not be broken by the offer of a shiny new handset.

Customers do not just buy a product/service from a company, but the total customer experience around purchase, use and support. When they interact with a point of sale and customer service, everyone on the customer-facing side of the operation needs to be aware of the programme, the benefits, and communicate this to the customer – with access to relevant, contextualised information when they need it.

Improving the customer experience should not increase support costs or complexity. Instead, service providers must redefine and simplify the user experience for their agents - optimising existing complex and disparate systems and processes to achieve improved first call resolution.

This means building an operation that is integrated across channels (assisted to unassisted), across BSS and OSS systems and across services, network, pricing and devices.

With customers more prone to churn than ever, now is the time for service providers to differentiate themselves by providing the customer experience that keeps subscribers loyal and satisfied.

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