Making the case for social customer care in telco

Social Media is Eating the Internet, Mobile is Eating Social Media

In 2010, Social media became the number 1 online activity. The average American spends upwards of 3 hours per day on social networking (1).

But there’s another trend on course to eclipse it — namely that mobile is eating social media: 60% of social media time is spent on a mobile device (smartphone or tablet) (2).

Not surprisingly, telcos, along with many other sectors, have been seizing the opportunity to invest this new catchment zone.

However, if telcos are so keen to succeed in social media engagement, it is also because in this mobile, always-connected lifestyle, no forward-thinking operator wants to be relegated to the role of “dumb pipe” (3).

In other words, customer demand is one reason to rethink customer service provision and social media engagement; The existential threat of commoditization and losing share of wallet to other players in the value chain is another.

Being there versus being useful

For many aspects of social media, brands are pursuing gradual approaches and maturity levels certainly vary. However, for social customer service, the difference between just being there and actually being useful is more of a binary one for customers:

Either it’s relevant and works or it isn’t and doesn’t.

This doesn’t mean that social customer service is an all-or-nothing proposition. On the contrary, a gradual roadmap is possible.

When designing your social customer service roadmap, think about how you want to prioritize the following 3 driving factors. This will help you plan a staged approach.

The 3 Telco Social Customer Service Drivers

At the end of the day, social customer service in the telco sector is being driven by 3 interconnected factors, namely cost, complexity, and relevance.

The cost containment imperative

Internal efficiency has always been a dominant theme in customer service. However, increased competition is pushing operators to look beyond optimization to rethink the whole equation.

There are 3 main items in cost-to-serve:

  • Marketing/Customer Acquisition,
  • Network Air Time/Minutes,
  • Customer Support.

For the latter, most costs are incurred during the 3 first months of tenure (the on-boarding period) and because Customer Service Agents make up for 70% of that cost, this makes the community approach extremely compelling.

Enabling peer care and leveraging user-generated content deflects pressure from more costly customer service channels.

However, because mobile services are getting increasingly commoditized, operators are looking for ways to differentiate:

  • Either through improved customer service (availability and choice of social channels…)
  • Or through richer bundled offers, which in itself brings about the need for improved customer service because of the resulting sophistication!

Which brings us to…

Reducing the pain of complexity

As a general rule, customer service provision is getting more complex. Major convergence is underway, with banking and payment services, for example. And a reduced high-street presence is shifting customer service issues and concentrating them elsewhere in the value chain.

Furthermore because handsets and apps are more sophisticated, operators are on the hook to support them.

The “zero touch” or “self-assisted” community approach is a compelling proposition for cost containment. However, a community is only one aspect to the social CRM  story. Addressing complexity also means being able to define a customer service mix that supports the operator’s value proposition. Oftentimes this means being able to balance approaches from self-assisted, through light assisted, all the way to direct assisted.

The hard part is to engage consistently over a range of channels both emerging and established.

On one hand, existing social media management tools weren’t designed to handle large scale inbound volume in a contact center setting; On the other, existing contact center infrastructure or CRM solutions are facing the twin challenges of retooling for cloud delivery and to handle a plethora of fast-evolving, proprietary social channels.

Delivering a relevant customer experience

The scramble to deliver customer care that is congruent with a connected lifestyle is largely in response to changing demographics, but not only.

Today’s customer journey is less linear and predictable (and operators’ product and contractual cycles more prone to customer churn). The likes of Google and Facebook have given us the twin notions of Search and of Discovery. For these reasons, the brand no longer has the same control of customer acquisition and retention as in the past. Peers are considered more trustable than brands.

Customer care is following the same path as digital marketing before it

Product research and discovery begin online. Transactions are increasingly online. We see the same phenomenon in customer care:

The customer wants the choice of autonomy or getting help. Younger demographics, the digital natives or millennials, appreciate the choice of channels and the ability to use them where and when they want.

Marketing is seizing this opportunity. Customer Care is is hot on its heels.

 

Sources:

(1) http://www.marketingcharts.com/online/social-networking-eats-up-3-hours-per-day-for-the-average-american-user-26049/ 

(2) http://www.businessinsider.com/social-media-engagement-primer-2014-10

(3) http://www.telecompetitor.com/report-aims-to-debunk-dump-pipe-fears-but-challenges-remain-for-u-s-carriers/

Photo credit: LoboStudioHamburg / Pixabay / CC0 Public Domain

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About the author
Andrew Cassidy