Customer experience is hard

20 March 2018 | Stuart Mackie

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Stuart Mackie

Blog Author | Director of Customer Intelligence, Colt Technology Services


A really good experience isn’t just picking up the phone quickly, or delivering a service quickly, it’s part of every single thing we do, and it needs to be consistent. This means a uniform experience whether you order a service or interact with us in the UK or in Tokyo.

Good customer experience is hard. Especially if you’re a B2B network operator. We put fibre in the ground and connect enterprise buildings, clouds and data centres together, therefore the thing we sell is the connectivity, right? Well, not really, that stuff is the commodity. While it’s necessary to have the right bandwidth in the right locations, what we really want to give the customer, the thing we are selling, is a really good experience.

But a really good experience isn’t just picking up the phone quickly, or delivering a service quickly, it’s part of every single thing we do, and it needs to be consistent. This means a uniform experience whether you order a service or interact with us in the UK or in Tokyo.

Positioning the experience as the wrapper that goes around commodity assets is something every company in every industry can leverage for business gain, but not many do so successfully. And in an industry where many of our competitors have a negative Net Promoter Score (NPS), that’s because it’s a hard thing to do.

So what is NPS and why should you care about it as a business? NPS is a customer satisfaction score typically used across many consumer sectors and increasingly the business sector too. It is determined by surveying customers and subtracting the number of detractors (people who would not recommend your service) from the number of proponents (people who would recommend your service). Passives (people who would do neither) are not counted. It is scored as a range from -100 to +100, and is used by many industries as a numerical indicator of customer satisfaction.

We scored +41 at end Q317, benchmarked against an EU B2B cross sector average of 15, that drops to 4 specifically in the telco sector. In fact many telcos are on a negative score according to NPS authority Satmetrix, and again, that’s because customer experience is hard.

For any company there are other elements to trade on – typically the product or the price - and that in itself is one of the main reasons the telco industry at large has such a bad reputation. Product is very difficult to differentiate on and pricing quickly becomes a race to the bottom.

So what are the actual challenges to delivering a good customer experience? What puts companies off tackling this? Well, industry analyst Ovum identified several obstacles that telcos face in delivering a good experience, with four key challenges being:

 - No centralised data structures or end to end view of progress

  - An inability to justify the cost of changing the experience and a lack of expertise internally

 - Too many, or stove piped OSS and CRM systems

 - A lack of consistency in customer interaction

All fair points but also all challenges that Colt already has a plan in place to overcome in order to differentiate on customer experience.

Colt’s response to the four challenges identified are:

- Better data migration, analytics and integrity and a 360 degree view of the customer. 

A culture that is driven by the customer, with every employee from the CEO down incentivised to improve the experience. This is backed up by a €100m investment in transforming the customer experience

- Continuous improvements driven by a €20m investment in streamlining our back end processes

Predictability – the same interaction experience across all operations

Our vision is to be the most customer oriented business in our industry and ultimately, we’re focusing on making it easier to do business with us, giving customers more control and enabling them to get things done faster.

To this end we see customer experience becoming more about customer intelligence. This isn’t something that will happen in the course of one year, it will take several years, but we have already seen the transition taking place in the consumer space, so we are accelerating our ‘consumerisation’ of the B2B experience.

In the consumer space, customers are tired of obtrusive push notifications based on general customer segmentation, minimal tailoring and a mostly outbound approach. Meanwhile from a customer engagement perspective the B2B space suffers from almost the exact opposite problem.

The increasingly demanding consumer makes no strict distinction between the several channels of communication they use with a provider, but expects a smooth, convenient user experience. By engaging more with our customers and listening to what makes a difference to them, we are embracing this trend, evolving from poorly targeted mass communication towards the right interaction through the right medium at the right time - while growing revenue because we have a better customer experience.

As part of our €100m investment in transforming the customer experience we are creating a collaborative, consumer-like digital experience via the creation of intuitive portals that put the customer in control for service ordering, delivery and configuration; we’re improving our back end processes, cutting quoting and ordering times to one day each and more than halving total lead times to 30 days; we’re proactively monitoring performance and capacity planning, increasing automation and driving a 35% reduction in support ticket volume; and with better data migration, analytics and integrity we gain a 360 degree view of the customer, helping us better understand how to help them and also helping them get more insight about their network infrastructure.

Depending on your business, a good customer experience can translate into higher customer retention; faster revenue growth; the ability to command a price premium; lower operating costs; less regulatory pressure; and more engaged employees. Analyst house Forrester Research estimates that customer experience leaders can achieve 5.1x revenue growth over laggards, so the rewards are clear.

With a strong opportunity to make the most of technology, we are in a good position to make a large amount of fast, intelligent decisions using lots of data. AI is becoming a part of most key technologies and this is no different in the telco environment. We’ve acknowledged that the telecom sector has a pretty bad reputation for customer experience and we’re not content to be the best of a bad bunch.

We believe that we work harder for our customers than any other network provider – and our customer satisfaction scores bear that out – but we won’t stop there. As a result, we’re continuously investing in setting a New Standard in terms of how easy it is to interact with us and this is why we don’t see ourselves competing against other telcos, we actually see ourselves competing against the likes of Amazon – companies that are founded on delivering a good experience – because we believe a good customer experience is an intelligent and personalised customer experience.