As telcos around the world look to balance the intensive capital investment demands of 5G, with increasingly fine margins, competition for subscribers has never been more intense.
Little surprise, then, that analysts are tipping customer service to be a key battle ground in the race to win more subscribers.
Paolo Pescatore, tech and telecoms analyst at PP Foresight believes that telcos need to evolve the way they do business, placing the customer at the heart of everything they do, in order to capitalise on customer loyalty.
“There are fewer customers to acquire and the cost of signing new users is still quite high due to heavy discounting. Telcos need to improve the way they connect with customers. Improving the relationship with customers will drive engagement and ultimately revenue. Telcos need to understand each user, their habits and usage to provide a personalised experience. This is the future of any telco or provider for that matter,” he said.
Ultimately, consumers will start to demand more control over their interaction with telcos, with telcos having to provide bespoke, tailored services to individual customers, Pescatore said.
“Customers want to be in control and want to have the choice to interact with their provider anytime, anyplace and anywhere. This is what they’re accustomed to with other services whether that be banking, travel or something else. The moves toward new ways to customer service should not be considered as a direct replacement for existing channels but rather another means as part of the numerous ways for customers to interact with customers.
“It is in the telcos interest to move towards an app based, self-service approach, as it allows them to better understand users interest, pain points and so forth. Also, it represents a key means to promote and market additional services to users,” he said.
Last year, an independent study by Service Hero found that the Middle East’s telecoms sector had the highest level of customer dissatisfaction of any sector in the region. As the GCC continues to take a lead role in the rollout of cutting edge, next generation networks, it must also find new and innovative ways to reach out to and interact with its customers.
Customers at the heart of a telco's business
du has been at the forefront of the UAE’s digitalisation process and has been instrumental in driving a whole swathe of technological advancements in the country. Anthony Shiner, chief digital lifestyle and innovation officer at du’s parent company, EITC, acknowledges that customer experience will be the lifeblood of telcos in the 5G era.
“Without customers, we don’t have a business,” he said.
“Moreover, digital is entwined in multiple facets of customers’ personal and professional lives, hence it is essential we innovate our digital capabilities and offerings alongside their growing appetites for all things digital. At du, we are creating seamless customer service innovations that are evolving around ensuring our customers associate du with effortless interactions and enriched touchpoints. To live up to this we need to remove complexity from both physical and digital customer touchpoints. Overall, the new competitor in the market is the last best experience that a customer has received. Therefore, customers expect telcos to lead – all be it with a higher expectation.”
Streamlining the customer experience
Recently du announced that it was partnering with Apple Pay to allow its customers to make, smooth, seamless and secure online payments – just one example of how the company is striving towards a more flexible approach to customer engagement. As Shiner explains, du’s commitment to redefining its customer service offering will go way beyond this.
“The customer shift to self-service, online services is already well underway, and du is proud to be leading transformations in this space to redefine how telcos care for their customer bases.
“Several of the ways we are showing our customers we genuinely care about their concerns include the new du app and the evolution of Blu – our AI-powered WhatsApp Chatbot, which has handled over 100,000 interactions since being launched in 2019,” he explained.
“We believe a large quotient of our digital touchpoint innovation will encompass an increased focus on growing smarter, more intuitive AI-powered capabilities to power breakthroughs in how we manage and solve customer queries in the hyper connected era. Our online approach to improving our digital estates for the betterment of customer experiences has also expanded to include 24/7 SIM delivery or handset delivery to save customers time and add value to their lifestyles in more ways," he added.
Saying goodbye to the ‘one-size fits all’ approach
Shiner believes that du will be able to leverage its cutting edge 5G networks to massively revamp its customer service offering, whether that is for their consumer or enterprise clients.
“The one size fits all approach is being left behind by an era dominated by enriched customer-centric experiences that address customer needs in more efficient and impactful ways. The services we provide are still a core part of our offerings. However, the degree of personalisation we deliver through these is of far higher importance.
“5G is enabling a new era of service offerings and efficiencies to drive the industries and consumer experiences of tomorrow. The Middle East has proven to be a capable leader in the commercial rollout of 5G, and this trend is showing no signs of slowing as the region’s telcos look to evolve broadband capacity and new business cases to power smart city and digital transformation visions,” he added.
“As society becomes more connected than ever before, it is integral for telcos to explore new areas of focus in order to generate new revenue streams and service the needs of an expanding customer spectrum. At the heart of this, the customer service dividend will be under the microscope as we attempt to personalise the client journey and revolutionise customer experiences from all angles for individual customers and companies,” he said.