How to improve customer experience: Tips for telecommunications providers

Telecom Writer

People love their smartphones, but they're not especially thrilled with their wireless providers. That's the key takeaway from the 2015 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) survey of telecommunications customers. The wireless industry was among the least favored groups in the study, with only social media and airlines earning lower levels of customer satisfaction. The survey results, released last month, show that customer satisfaction with wireless telephone service dropped 2.8 percent from the prior year. Ouch.

This begs the question: How can wireless providers improve customer experience? You can probably guess the first tip. When a customer contacts support, resolve his or her problem on the first call. Obvious? Apparently not. A 2014 J.D. Power and Associates study found that when wireless customer service callers can't have their inquiries resolved on first contact, their satisfaction levels plummet. They hate re-contacting their carriers and spending additional time on the phone. The likelihood that a customer will switch carriers jumps from 16 percent when a service call lasts fewer than five minutes to 30 percent when the call lasts 15 minutes or more, the study found.

Improve customer experience through analytics

C Spire is the nation's largest privately held wireless communications provider, serving nearly a million customers primarily in the Southeastern United States. To beat the wireless giants in its core markets, it needed to find innovative ways to keep customers happy. The solution: predictive analytics and decision models to study customers' behaviors closely, determine the right mix of services for each user and uncover indicators that a customer is ready to leave. Combined, these tools enabled C Spire representatives to react proactively, address subscribers' needs and reduce churn.

The use of predictive models was so successful, in fact, that C Spire was able to boost the effectiveness of its customer retention campaigns by 50 percent. By tailoring offers based on customers' account preferences, the carrier was able to boost cross sales of some accessories by a staggering 270 percent.

From customer to evangelist satisfied customer is always a good thing, but how do you turn that person into an evangelist for your product or service? Evangelism marketing, or "turning a customer into a mouthpiece for advertising," is a marketer's dream, says Apple is a classic example of a consumer-focused tech company that's mastered the art of customer evangelism. But how can wireless providers use data-driven solutions to satisfy their own customers?

Dublin-based eircom is the largest integrated telecommunications provider in Ireland. Its fixed-line voice, broadband and mobile networks cover more than 90 percent of Ireland's population. Increased telecommunications competition has enabled Irish consumers to easily jump between mobile operators. To reduce churn, eircom has turned to commercially available predictive analytics solutions. Sentiment analysis tools, for instance, enable the carrier to aggregate, integrate and analyze customer data from a variety of sources, allowing it to swiftly determine which subscribers are most likely to leave. Data-driven insights have also helped eircom develop and enact proactive policies that cut churn by about 6 percent. One example: It's improving the onboarding process in its retail stores by helping customers import contacts from an old phone to a new one.

Predicting outcomes

According to Datanami, most communications service providers now use predictive models to correlate independent variables, analyze real-time and retrospective data, predict outcomes and modify their customer-retention efforts on the fly. The ability to carefully analyze customer behavior is a major plus. For example, did a subscriber act upon a past promotional offer? The provider can use this data to predict the likelihood of the customer accepting a similar offer, or a modified version, in the future.

In addition, by analyzing statistics on past churn rates and failed calls, providers can pinpoint which business and consumer subscribers are most likely to leave. Of course, when this threshold is reached, companies will want to take swift action by reaching out to the customer, making retention offers, improving service and hopefully reducing churn. Finally, predictive analytics must integrate with a carrier's operational management applications. This key step enables alerts, particularly when algorithms and predictive models detect patterns showing current or potential device or network failures.

See how IBM is using predictive analytics to better understand subscribers - visit the IBM Analytics for Telecommunications solution pages.