New Technologies Give IT, Telecom Providers Tools for Better CX

According to the 2022 State of Customer Churn in Telecom report, customer loyalty to telecom providers is down 22 percent post-pandemic because of poor customer experience. But that decline can be turned around.

With that in mind, iQmetrix – a software company that enriches its employees, partners, clients and their customers with a wireless retail experience that is as human as the fundamental need for connection – cites research by PwC listing the five factors that create great customer experience (CX). They are consistency, trust, convenience, speed and personalization.

The rise of modern technologies like 5G, the internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) – especially the generative AI tools – give telecom and IT retailers more power to meet the consumer landscape and address customer’s pain points.

However, these solutions require sophisticated digital infrastructure, intensive human resources and increased bandwidth from telecommunications providers.

One-size-fit-all solutions are not the best way to approach consumers in today’s IT landscape, the company insists. It says that customers still want to do business and to interact with companies that care about their specific needs and provide tailored solutions to even a minor matter, such as minimizing the time of a device activation.

On the other hand, the solutions should be flexible enough to operate with other vendors and ensure reliable performance within the system.

Stacy Hamer, the chief operating officer at iQmetrix, shared insights on the shift in customer behaviors and preferences in the industry, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nothing new here

“Remote work for IT teams is not a new concept,” Hamer said. “This work model has been around since the early ‘90s, especially for technology companies.

“For example, Cisco launched one of the first systematic programs in Silicon Valley in 1993. COVID-19 inevitably sped up and secured both the work environment and socio-economic shift from in-office to a remote or hybrid structure in today’s workplace,” Hamer said.

For IT businesses to adjust effectively to the hybrid, remote or distributed workforces, they may need to make changes with hardware and infrastructure improvements to ensure their staff have the right and necessary technological needs.

Just as importantly, Hamer said, is “companies also need to adopt the right communication tools to establish social connections with one another as they would face-to-face.”

She cited Tsedal Neeley – the Naylor Fitzhugh Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School – as writing at length about this shift in her book, Remote Work Revolution. Neely wrote: “… professional isolation is a cognitive and emotional experience, not a physical position. Team members could sit beside one another every day and still be strangers. …When connections are strong, then the team is cohesive … a cohesive remote team – with all its inherent time and money saving advantages – has the capacity to be even more productive than its brick-and-mortar counterpart.”

Hamer said, “In relation to telecom operators, this shift enhances their need to deliver strong, reliable and secure network connections to end users on all their devices, regardless of if they’re working from home on their hardwired laptop or using a 5G connection on their tablet poolside.”

Flexible options for EX, CX

While Hamer agrees remote or hybrid work enhanced the work/life balance for many, which has enhanced the employee experience (EX), she added that in many regions women are predominantly the primary caretakers for children and their families.

“Providing flexible options allows them [women employees] to stay in the workforce, advance in their careers, and still balance and prioritize personal responsibilities,” Hamer said.

The shift also affects the customer experience,” Hamer added.

“With added consumer user scenarios, ensuring strong customer support wherever and whenever the customer requires it has now been heightened,” she explained. “Let’s take wireless operators as an example. Since many employees are now extremely dependent on a strong network, regardless of where they’re working, there is a great opportunity for wireless operators to bundle strong offerings.

“Depending on their companies’ hardware policy, some have the opportunity to ‘bring their own device’ enabling them to purchase the hardware that best suits their lifestyle,” she continued. “Furthermore, customers want to purchase and ship new products wherever the wireless operator can offer them – powering a unified commerce experience in-store and online has never been more in demand.”

On the other hand, Hamer said that when employees work directly with consumers, whether to provide support or as part of their day-to-day roles, the dynamic shifts.

“The flexibility of remote work allows them to provide faster responses to customers, increase accessibility and availability, etc.,” Hamer explained. “However, there are also associated challenges, such as in communication and personalization, requiring employers to quickly address and find the solutions that are suitable to their situation to ensure remote teams can deliver exceptional customer service.”

Limit negative impacts

An important way to ensure remote work has limited negative impacts on work is to align internally with business goals.

“Alignment with your strategic intention and goals for remote work; understanding of your communication methods and clarity on tools to enable collaboration; standards for security and hardware; strong training and enablement for your leadership within your defined remote experience all impact how work gets done at the end of the day,” Hamer said. “Defining the collaboration and technical tools needed as soon as possible limits gaps in service delivery and day-to-day operations.”

Addressing artificial intelligence (AI) Hamer said, “Accompanying or replacing tier-one support is already a widespread strategy within our industry. The difference with AI as a support tool is it supports an ‘add-on’ environment. Not only can AI effectively answer support questions for customers and leave more technical issues to the experts, but it can also showcase other ways to utilize the specific tool, system, or product.

“AI can also advise the customer on an alternative solution based on the understanding of the original problem the customer was facing,” she said. “This can and will fundamentally change how customers purchase products and how wireless operators staff their businesses.

Prioritize human connection

However, the agents in a call center should not assume AI can solve every problem in the customer service arena, and they should be willing to intervene.

“Human connection is still a priority for consumers and should be an important aspect of your company brand,” Hamer insisted. “When finding the limit to this, it’s about determining your AI-to-human support ratio.”

iQmetrix recommends that companies using AI should determine the customer’s specific journey for the organization in which AI is optimal versus when human contact is preferred. This determination could be learned by the reporting algorithms found within the AI engine.

Hamer explained that while AI can respond to simple queries, there are limitations and when that occurs a real human agent needs to be ready and willing to take the call and provide the human touch that is needed.

“The irony within telecom, specifically in North America, is that technology is still catching up to match the customer experience in other retail verticals,” Hamer bemused. “Solving the customer pain points around buying online and shipping to home or, worse yet, wanting to return online-purchased products in-store, are still not yet streamlined.

“There is an added layer of difficulty when considering network connectivity services with products for streams like this to be as seamless as other retail verticals,” she explained.

Future brins new company cultures

What it boils down to is the challenge facing telecoms running remote/hybrid contact centers isn’t the consumer’s problem. Customers simply want to shop or get their answers seamlessly and without taking a lot of time.

“Furthermore, customers want to be incentivized for being loyal to a brand, though unfortunately, loyalty programs within telecom between the carrier and secondary distribution channel are exceptionally disjointed or non-existent,” Hamer pointed out.

Hamer knows that some companies believe in the pre-COVID office routine and long for it to return, but she is hopeful and optimistic the “new normal” includes remote and hybrid work.

“When I look to the future I see many companies past that [traditional] hump, working comfortably within a new normal hybrid workforce,” she said enthusiastically. “That future comes with new company cultures, new office environments focused on collaboration, fewer and more streamlined internal tools with clear norms to instill communication, and leadership teams empowered with the training and tools to engage productive teams across the world.”