Content really is king – for telcos

Several of my recent blogs could be summarised with the expression ‘content is king’. I believe that the telcos are moving beyond their traditional areas of competition, such as network speed, and into an age where what they offer on top of connectivity will be the key differentiator for customers.

The use of ‘white spaces’ in broadcast spectrum plays into this. Both Google and London Zoo have recently undergone trials where they used pockets of unused frequencies between broadcast TV signals to broadcast their own bespoke content.

The zoo is broadcasting pictures of various animals live and network specialist Nominet is using white space to monitor water levels in Oxford. Sky is now exploring how these gaps can be used for smart city projects.

At present this seems like a niche project, but this kind of innovative use of spare spectrum capacity can create many new ideas. We are able to use Wi-Fi Internet now because researchers explored how the radio signals used to open and close garage doors might be developed further.

But the underlying trend of content being a focus for the telcos is the important message. If there is spare capacity and the networks can facilitate free or very low-cost broadcast then what can they offer that will help to attract customers to their network?

People may not tune in often to the animals live-stream from the zoo, but it’s an interesting idea and it costs almost nothing to provide the content. Think for a moment of all the sports events and festivals around the country and the opportunities are endless – content that is low cost and could be of value. Imagine if Sky hooked up every non-league football club in the country to their network so every game was available – even just to a relatively small audience?

Network speed really is no longer the argument or marketing proposition, it’s what I can see on a network that makes me want to pay the monthly subscription.

Let me know your views by leaving a comment here or tweet me on @simondillsworth.

SnarlPhoto by Bruce Thomson licensed under Creative Commons

Posted in Technology, Current Affairs, Innovation, Telecoms | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Customer service leading from the front

In my last blog I mentioned some of the most interesting approaches to technology that are changing the way companies – and even governments – are structured. Strategies such as cloud computing and app stores are having an effect on how companies are created and planned that exceeds anything we might have imagined just five years ago.

But the strategic area I am most focused on, customer service, is going to have a similar effect over the next decade. The ‘customer focused organisation’ is going to move from being just a marketing mantra to being a reality – with companies led from the areas where they most interact with customers.

This change can already be seen today. The move to multichannel service means that the customer usually dictates how an interaction takes place and most of the social channels are public, so your interactions with customers are visible to all. Examples of great service are plucked out and shared with friends; likewise the customer service disasters are also shared.

This change has led many marketing directors to realise that the customer service team has direct engagement with customers on a daily basis in a way that potential customers can all see. So customer service is being co-opted into marketing, or marketing is becoming a factor in how customer service is planned… either way, the importance of this customer contact has been noted.

Which means that the sales teams will now be interested, and the operations teams can use this close contact with customers as a channel for feedback. And the R&D or strategy team can use this contact as input into future plans.

In short, company executives are seeing that a great customer service function may well be their best asset. It’s the team that will lead product innovation, sales, and marketing into the future.

Have already you seen companies exploring these changes? Leave a comment here or tweet me on @matt_sims1.

Follow The Leader!

 

Photo by Vinoth Chandar licensed under Creative Commons

Posted in Contact Centres, Current Affairs, Customer Service, Strategy | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

There is no such thing as bad publicity – except when it’s your customer experience

Oscar Wilde famously once said: “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” The implication was that being in the spotlight is always a good thing, no matter what the context. People take note, start to talk about you and raise your profile with potential benefits to be realised in the future.

This idea is supported by a long list of individuals who despite never making any contribution to science, philanthropy, history or the arts, have thrust greatness upon themselves and remain front and centre in the media. It is this relentless media obsession that gives value to their very existence and apparently makes them desirable in some quarters of business and society.

Wilde’s aphorism may have been true for the circles in which he moved, but in the modern business era of customer experience management ‘being talked about’ demands the sentiment of the dialogue to be positive if it is going to be beneficial to the organisation concerned.

I was struck this week to read that a US retailer had tried to back out of a rather embarrassing Twitter gaffe by explaining the abrupt and sarcastic reply posted by one of its employees as a stunt to gain publicity.

This thinly veiled explanation followed a customer complaint, which was handled without compassion, empathy or common sense. The retailers post was soon taken down in an attempt to avoid bad publicity but before that could happen a screen shot was taken by another Twitter user who had seen the earlier rude response and subsequently shared the conversation; of course it soon went viral. Nothing can ever be deleted on the social networks today.

The benefits of first-rate customer service are clear  and include a loyal customer base who will recommend your business to others in their peer network, perpetuating new opportunities to broaden the products your existing customers hold, driving revenue, increasing market share and differentiating you from the competition.

The first of those benefits is powerful and evidence shows that recommendation is a proven model to increase customer acquisition with very little associated cost.  However, it is important to recognise a particular aspect to the human/customer psyche, which is that we tell more than twice the number of people about a bad experience compared to a good experience.  Your business therefore has to work twice as hard to give good experiences if you want the net effect to be positive for your organisation.

Therefore the careful handling and empathy needed to recognise and respond appropriately to the sentiment surrounding customer complaints is critical. Remedial action that falls short of your customer’s expectations today will see them defect while telling double the amount of people about their experience than yesterday’s happy customer will about theirs.

For business there is certainly one thing in life that is much worse than not being talked about and that is when your organisation has failed to respond appropriately to an individual whose customer experience has been found lacking.

Remediation activity is not the arena to test new customer interaction strategies, as loosely claimed by the US retailer – hardly a shock. But what may shock you is that without first-rate customer experience and in particular the right platforms, processes and people supporting your social media customer care programme, you may also become the victim of the power of the channel to highlight those businesses that fall short of the mark.

complaint dept

Photo by Tamara licensed under Creative Commons

Posted in Contact Centres, Current Affairs, Customer Service | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is the future of faster broadband up above and down below?

I read recently that Vodafone are launching the first ‘aggregated’ LTE (long-term evolution) network, which will further boost their network coverage and 4G capabilities.

As I have written before, this is about the network provider finding cost-efficient ways to improve network speed and also improve customer service. Every company in this space is exploring how to offer triple or quad plays so this trend is likely to continue.

Could a further part of this answer be in more strategic sharing partnerships with the electricity providers, as Vodafone Ireland has recently done with ESB?

For those telcos that don’t have any fibre line networks to rival the major providers, perhaps they can start exploring how to piggyback on existing grid infrastructure  – so more fibre lines can be installed in more homes?

I know that I would jump at the chance to enhance my own broadband speed at home – currently limited by my ‘copper-line’.

I expect to see far more sharing and partnerships in the area of broadband provision. These companies can no longer compete and make adequate profits just on comparing the speed of service any longer – they need to add more value to the customer. Therefore the basic grid infrastructure itself will be increasingly shared and managed between various companies.

What do you think? Is this kind of strategic partnership inevitable? Leave a comment here or tweet me on @simondillsworth.

275,000 Volts

Photo by Andy A licensed under Creative Commons

Posted in Current Affairs, Technology, Telecoms | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Crossing the chasm – from small to global

The path to global domination has changed. Small companies can grow to become medium just by doing a bit more of whatever they do – selling products or services and scaling up to increase the size of the operation.

But to jump from being a mid-size player to global was always difficult. Business academics call it ‘crossing the chasm’ because the penalty for failure was often the demise of the entire company. Jumping from that mid-level to becoming a giant always required a laser-like focus on the expansion of your company globally – one of the most critical areas of failure is how to support customers when scaling up from local (probably) single-language service to multiple countries, multiple languages, and across multiple channels.

But technology has enabled a change in the way services are delivered. The default for many new companies is now global because the Internet does not respect national borders. Two specific technologies are fundamentally changing how new companies are launching their products and how mature companies have to change:

Cloud computing; offering services in the cloud allows customers to pay only for what they use and to access services without requiring any special systems or software. Products we think of as normal now – such as email on a browser – previously involved far more complexity and thousands of software licenses.

App stores; allowing services to be packaged up and offered as bolt-on apps was really the genius of Apple, but has become a way of offering tools and services that works within governments and large corporations now – not just on phones.

These business paradigms allow for services to be switched on and off, scaled up or down, and integrated into existing business plans. They also allow companies to offer their products and services globally using various tools that can be easily bolted together.

Customer service is another matter. Now that customers expect support across borders and time zones, it has become almost impossible for any single organisation to deliver a satisfactory service just using an in-house team.

But Teleperformance is not only know for innovation and staying ahead of customer service trends, we operate in 62 countries so it is possible for us to work on local or global solutions.

The way business is conducted has changed beyond recognition in the past decade and this is also true of the way customers are serviced. What are your own views on the biggest changes that have taken place and where most attention needs to be focused?

Leave a comment here or tweet me on @matt_sims1.

App Store

 

Photo by Cristiano Betta licensed under Creative Commons

Posted in Current Affairs, Customer Service, Strategy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Analytics: the key to unlocking the retail omnichannel?

For the past couple of years I have been exploring both omnichannel and multichannel solutions for customer service as the adoption of social media channels have become more accepted.

It’s important to distinguish between the two terms though, as many commentators use them synonymously and that’s not quite right. Offering a multichannel service simply means expanding the number of ways in which customers can interact with a company. It used to be just by phone, then email, then chat, now you can add Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, blogs, forums, review sites… there are a lot of channels in common use now.

Offering an omnichannel solution means tying all this together. The customer that sends an email and tweets a message and later calls for help wants to see that all their various communications have been tied together somehow – the person answering the phone knows about the email for example. As you might expect, pulling all those channels together is a lot more difficult than just expanding the range of channels on offer.

An interesting feature recently in Essential Retail takes this idea even further (for the retail industry at least), extending the benefits of tying together the various channels into the overall supply chain.

Retailers are especially affected by the omnichannel concept because it is not just about a contact channel, they are also seeing shopping channels and behaviour change too. Customers may buy online with postal delivery, they buy instore, they buy online and request collection instore, they order more items than they need and return what they don’t want.

The communication channels have become more complex for everyone, but in retail the operational channels have also changed making the supply chain more complex than ever.

The answer is clearly improved analytics. All this data about customer behaviour and needs is there, but it has to be analysed quickly. I’ll blog next time about some of the analytics our team is exploring, but in the meantime please leave a comment with your thoughts on how the multichannel customer environment is changing your business – or tweet me on @matt_sims1.

Kanyon Mall Istanbul 14

Photo by Dysturb licensed under Creative Commons

Posted in Contact Centres, Current Affairs, Customer Service, Retail | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The future of customer service is already with us today

The social media analysis company Hootsuite has just released a new white paper focused on the future of customer service. You can download a copy here.

As you might expect, it’s packed full of statistics, but I want to pull out three for discussion:

  1. Customers who engage with companies over social media spend an average of 30% more with those companies than other customers
  2. Only 39% of companies bother to answer questions from customers using social channels
  3. Customers almost always share a customer experience where it took place over social media – if it’s a good experience they tell on average 42 friends, if it’s bad then they tell 53.

This is not really about the future of customer service, it’s the here and now. We are seeing the effect of these preferences on a daily basis.

It cannot be denied that voice calls are still the most important channel for customer service interactions, but social media is growing fast.

If the customers that use social media when asking questions are more likely to spend more then it seems obvious that companies should engage – it’s just good business sense. In addition, these customers are likely to tell more friends about a bad experience than a good experience.

With statistics like this it seems that planning for a multichannel social media customer service strategy is something that is urgently needed now and with only 39% of companies regularly answering online questions there is still a lot of room for improvement.

What do you think about the need for a multichannel customer strategy? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.

Iced tea at Georgia's, version 2

 

Photo by Ed Yourdon licensed under Creative Commons

Posted in Contact Centres, Current Affairs, Customer Service, Strategy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment