The time for omni-channel support is coming

Written by on March 18, 2015 in BillingViews, Opinion with 0 Comments

Omnichannel-Tube-large-fotoliaWith the latest Which? Survey into customer service amongst the UK’s broadband service providers just in, it seems timely to look at where providers need to aim to beat the competition. The answer, according to a recent survey by consultancy Northstream, which was supported by AsiaInfo, is high – and holistic. The survey advocates an omni-channel approach to customer service.

In practice this means supporting customers across multiple channels, with a particular focus on the use of social media. This should not just be used for sales and marketing but for pro-active customer service. The consequence of not integrating social channels is clear – that customers will use those same channels to complain publically about bad service.

Self service is part of the overhaul that is needed and goes a long way to solving the problem. As one manager at an international operator put it, “With the perfect online environment, we believe that 20% of customer care issues could be resolved by customers themselves.” That said, customers should be able to pick up the phone if they want to and continue the conversation where they left off, on Twitter or Facebook.

Clearly it is not an easy task and, as usual, the real barrier is the legacy IT. But doing nothing is no longer an option. As the CEO of TeliaSonera said two years ago, “universal, high quality connectivity and superb customer service are now table stakes.” Bearing in mind the country they operate in, that is quite a statement.

2015.03.16_CRM-ad-300x300The paper itself takes a scientific approach to the problem, for example the key assumptions they used were:

‘The ‘Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s estimate of the average EBITDA margin of 34% for European operators (2013), against which Northstream approximates that, on average, OPEX is about 66% of revenues (or 56% excluding interconnect costs) 

Total Western European mobile revenue is assumed to be $174bn, as reported by Ovum (for 2013). The corresponding OPEX, excluding interconnect costs, is therefore calculated to be around $97.5bn.’

The conclusion is that although investment is needed in the transformation and it will not be an easy road, the opex savings in Western Europe alone could be as high as $4.6 billion. The level of investment, according to Bengt Nordstrom, CEO of Northstream, is clearly not easy to give a general answer to, but “a successful transformation to omnichannel capabilities requires service portfolio rationalisation, process re-engineering, and sufficient time and capex allocation. The level of required investment depends on the operator’s legacy infrastructure, complexity of service portfolio and obviously size of operations.”

However, as an example, “John Lewis, who have accomplished a lot more than many others across industries, their ‘Web Services’ project was funded to the tune of £40 million or 7.5% of 2014 CAPEX.”

What the report does not quantify, because it is almost impossible to do so, is the extra revenue that can be generated. The evidence is anecdotal, but in industries ‘adjacent’ to telecoms, such as retail, there is certainly an uplift in revenue. Take John Lewis, where “the move to omni-channel retailing has been a challenge. We’d just got our heads around splitting [the different channels] into three, when we realized that customers are not doing that.” Instead, John Lewis saw that customer behaviour had evolved. The retailer now estimates that at least two-thirds of its customers are already omni-channel – in other words, their purchase journey extends in some way (from research to payment) across online, in-store, phone and other mobile devices.”

The extra revenue – and the efficiencies and cost savings – will come from centralizing customer information into a single view, which allows agents to offer services and products that are relevant to a customer’s overall needs. Add this to the benefits of a single, central product catalogue and common sense alone says it will benefit both customers and customer service agents.

The time for omni-channel customer service is coming fast and operators need to put it high on the agenda, if they have not done so already.

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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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