“It’s the economy, stupid,” was a phrase made famous by former US president Bill Clinton as he set about winning the 1992 presidential election.
For operators looking to win over their customers – widely recognised as a key focus as they attempt to keep up with increasing competition – it is less about the economy and more about changing internal processes and perceptions.
In other words, it’s the culture, stupid.
Two operators that European Communications spoke to at Telecom Work Congress on Tuesday confirmed this.
“The problem is all cultural,” said Peter Crayfourd, head of customer lifecycle experience at France Telecom Orange.
“The technology is there, it’s all about having the desire and inspiration to change.”
Crayfourd said he believes there is a one billion euro opportunity within FT-O if they get CEM right.
Over at Telekom Austria, Michael Havas, group director of customer service and online, is in full agreement.
“The cultural change is an ongoing process,” he said.
Although he said TA has “a clear vision” and is “more advanced than we think we are”, tellingly he added that “speaking up internally” about the changes that need to be made remained a challenge.
A report by Heavy Reading and Alcatel-Lucent, unveiled last week, backed up this view.
It found that securing cross-organisational cooperation is the biggest barrier CEM decision makers at operators are coming up against as they look to implement a better customer experience.
“[Operators] are approaching CEM from different starting points, however, they typically find it difficult to implement it in a holistic, differentiated way,” said HR analyst Caroline Chappell.
For Crayfourd, the challenge is getting out of the silo mentality that sees customer experience tracked horizontally across traditional telco business units.
Instead, operators must start tracking the customer experience vertically from the point at which the customer sees an offer all the way through their journey with the operator.
“Predictive customer profitability is the ultimate goal,” said Crayfourd.
In the shorter term, Havas said his aim over the next 12 months is to be able to say that TA “provides a best-in-class cross-channel experience for our customers”.
Although Havas is keen to point out that a pure focus on the online channel is over – “we have to provide a 360 degree, seamless experience between channels as you can’t have one that is much better than another” – the operator is nevertheless doing some particularly interesting work on the web.
Chief amongst this is the social media integrated crowd-sourced forum developed for the company’s A1 brand.
As a community that counts “tens of thousands” of participants, the forum provides a trouble-shooting service to customers.
Crucially, TA has supported the growth of “super fans” – customers, totally unaffiliated with TA other than owning a subscription, who have become de facto customer service representatives of the brand.
“We are breaking down barriers, aided by our own customers,” said Havas.
Super fans get points for answering other customer queries, which translate into rewards.
“People like to be recognised as experts and we save costs as the community grows – it is becoming a key tool for customer support and brand awareness,” said Havas.
The service was launched eight months ago in Austria and the company is looking at rolling it out in other geographies.
Perhaps surprisingly, Havas said the company does not feel the need to try and control the conversations: “our aim is to moderate where necessary,” he said.
“Ultimately we cannot stop people talking about us although we have set up clear rules and guidelines for the forums.”
Telcos still have much to do to change their culture, but approaches such as these represent an innovative streak that should be welcomed.
“Our aim is to make customer experience part of our DNA,” concluded Havas.
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