Now, digital engagement is not a choice, it is the only option

Written by on August 25, 2017 in Opinion with 0 Comments

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The question of how operators transform into digital players has been around for some years now. As a result the goal and the way to achieve it tends to get sidetracked by buzzwords and simplistic solutions. Perhaps it is better to see ‘digital engagement’ as focused primarily on the customer experience. Improve that, and we must – dramatically – and the road to real digital engagement with customers becomes a lot clearer.

The arguments for better digital engagement are not hard to find. As a survey by Bain and Company concludes, ‘businesses with higher levels of engaged customers outperform peers by 26% in gross margins and 85% in sales growth’. This is according to the new ‘Digital Engagement Playbook’ available from Openet, the real-time specialist.

Clearly, excelling at customer engagement is better for business, as well as customers.

As far as Openet is concerned, ‘digital engagement means interacting with customers in a way that’s timely and relevant, through channels which are convenient and easy to use—which these days, for most customers, means digital channels’.

This is obviously a challenge for operators whose customer service operations are likely to have been born at a time when a letter or a phone call were the only realistic ways of interacting.

This challenge is highlighted by a recent survey that Openet asked European Communications to carry out on their behalf, which showed that ‘eight out of ten consumers use three or more channels to reach their wireless carrier (Source: Optymyze) yet only 20% of service providers are able to have contextualised conversations with their customers across all channels. This despite the fact that 74% of operators believe that contextual conversations are highly impactful’.

When asked how long before their operations were true digital operations, most operators believed it would be between two and five years, and the majority of those said five.

The good news is that there are things that operators can do now, using existing billing, analytics and network tools.

Some of these, according to the Playbook, include:

  • Allowing customers to donate unused balances to their favourite charities. This is a win-win. It increases loyalty to the operator and the customer feels that the operator is socially responsible.
  • Giving customers rolling refunds on unused data, as Google’s Project Fi does. A similar scheme in Malaysia allows customers to roll their data allowances both forward (to the next month) or back, to ‘borrow’ from next month’s allowance.
  • Many subscribers regularly consume less than 50% of their allowance, which creates an opportunity for the customer to ‘gift’ their data to family members or friends.
  • The attitude towards overage charging is changing too, and notifications and a friendly ‘overdraft’ type idea is beginning to emerge. And why not be lenient on customers who are loyal?
  • Other techniques described in the Playbook include digital asset trading – swopping minutes for data, say, or sharing data between devices and family groups. And examples are emerging of operators innovating with zero rated Netflix, for example, and in one case, Vodafone has enabled traders to offers vouchers instead of change, to great effect.

While there are many examples of things that can be done now, there really is no time to lose. The Chief Marketing Officer’s (CMO) Council found that 12% of customers switched from service providers that poorly rewarded their loyalty. And that translates to ‘thrive or survive’. No longer can operators rely on new subscribers for revenue growth, they must focus on existing customers.

It is also true that, just as the established channels of communication must be available, new channels must be a focus for operators. In fact ‘a McKinsey study found that “consumer-to-consumer word of 
mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising and showed that customers acquired this way had a 37% higher retention rate’. Clearly, in this day and age, word of mouth means social channels.

It is dangerous to play down the challenges that still lie ahead for many operators, but there are things that can be done that will allow operators to become digital now. And if they use this iterative approach, they will also begin to behave like the digital players they must emulate. Gone are the days of waiting until the product is perfect before launching. Try things, get the feedback, improve the offering – and repeat.

The Digital Engagement Playbook is well worth the read. It is full of practical examples and ideas for going digital, and can be downloaded for free here (short, simple registration required).

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Alex Leslie

About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .

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