Three steps for how to improve customer experience in telecom

With technologies like Big Data and Artificial Intelligence reaching maturity, telecom operators have a huge opportunity to transform how their customers experience their products and services through the design of richer, easier, immersive and contextualized user experiences. Within this context, managing and providing ‘digital experiences’ across tools, devices and locations have become mandatory for companies to meet and exceed their customers’ expectations. But what does a ‘digital experience’ really mean?

Man holding a phone

The answer is simple. If ‘customer experience’ is the quality of consumer encounters with a company’s products, services and brand, the ‘digital customer experience’ addresses customer interactions over digitally enabled channels. This represents an influential area of intervention that can significantly improve brand perception and help gain a competitive advantage. But what are the strategic guidelines a service provider should follow to architect, design and deliver a compelling and outstanding digital telecom customer experience? Here are the three steps you’ll need:

 

Key ingredients of a digital platform

Executing a successful digital strategy requires a solid foundation. Front-end digital experiences require an agile platform on which operators can deliver an enriched digital experience to customers. Ericsson Digital Experience Platform is an integrated set of technologies, based on a common platform, which enables consistent, secure and personalized access to information across digital touchpoints:

  • True Omnichannel – There’s a big difference between multi-channel and omnichannel. Omnichannel provides the context and the continuity to interactions across multiple digital touchpoints. Interactions cover all aspects of the customer journey: Awareness, Research, Buy, Care, Use, Pay, Trust, Leave and Re-Join. A good omnichannel framework should take into account the channel ergonomics and should have the intelligence to understand and optimize, according to user behavior. 
  • One touch to Zero Touch with AI – This is a new field that has the potential to fundamentally alter how customers interact with the system. Zero Touch can be interpreted into two ways.
    • On the front end it’s a new way of interacting, based on voice and gestures, and enabled by advancements in Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Augmented Reality (AR). By the year 2023, up to 85 percent of customer interactions related to Care will go via cognitive bots. With supervised learning capabilities the bots will become more accurate over time.
    • On the back end it could be anything from tariff plan optimization to intelligent segmentation to provide accurate, personalized and timely marketing campaigns, promotions and offers, without human intervention. Here, deep learning is also key to, for example, enhancing the rate of product recommendations based on past buying patterns. 
  • Digital Commerce – Operators should aim to completely transform the buying experience, augmenting product information with personalized real-time information that helps customers make the right choices, faster. The new benchmarks are currently set by the internet players, such as Google, Amazon and Facebook, and operators are in catch-up mode. 
  • Contextual Digital Marketing – Whether digital or not, the role of marketing is to bring new customers on board and increase revenues from existing customers by establishing a strong brand identity. Here, we often find that campaigns turn into spam. For customers, the digital experience should focus on relevance, and for the operator, it should take into account the features that help alter existing value chains and capture new markets. 
  • Data – Assets – Insights - Actions – Today, there’s an explosion of user-generated data, most of it unstructured. Operators should aim to exploit this enormous volume of data and turn it into assets to be monetized. It’s important to note that data and insights on their own do not help until action is taken to refine them. It’s here that Data Assets, Digital Marketing and Digital Commerce really come together. 
  • Cloud Native and Open Architecture – This is a no-brainer. Operators by default, expect that the new investments they make are built on a cloud-native architecture and that the platform is Open to integrate with other southbound and eastbound systems over standardized interfaces.
functional overview
Fig1. . A functional overview of Ericsson Digital Experience Platform

  

Crafting a digital customer journey

The customer journey is arguably the most important part of the Digital Experience and a critical aspect that companies need to differentiate themselves from the competition.  In today’s saturated digital landscape, technology and functionalities alone are not sufficient anymore. Instead, a products’ usefulness, openness and the quality of interaction with a brand through all its touch points are what makes the difference from a customer perspective.

Digital customer journeys are what puts the theory into practice, presenting information to customers in a coherent, relevant and accessible way. When defining these journeys, operators often make the mistake of implementing them purely from a technical capability perspective, or as a rational, linear flow of events, rather than adopting a human-centric approach. This often results in very generalized solutions that aren’t able to answer customer needs and demands.

A question to keep in mind is, how best can you empower customers to take care of themselves? This means providing them with access to the right information and tools at the right time at different life cycle stages: from discovery, to the purchase of a product, to its use and after-sale. One should also keep in mind, however, that there is no single recipe for the design of a successful journey. It is for this reason that a credible Digital Experience platform should be flexible enough to allow for configurability and the attuning of contextual needs.

Digital experience journey
Fig 2. Ericsson Digital Experience Journey

 

The graphic above offers a general description of a desirable journey and some possible directions for its implementation. But it doesn’t provide any guidance on how to achieve this vision or how the experience will come across – through its media, aesthetic qualities and interactions, for instance. The only way to explore and define which of these are preferable is through the exploration of what a ‘desirable experience’ is, which brings us to our final point.

 

Experience prototyping 

The design of successful products and digital journeys require certain methods and processes to guide the design, and develop a deeper understanding of the customers’ needs and expectations. Achieving a customer-centric approach is all about ‘active engagement’ including the participation of future users in the process of the design of new products and services. 

‘Design thinking’ is a term widely used today to refer to a set of creative and human-centered approaches to innovation, aimed at integrating people’s demands with the possibilities of technology and requirements for business success. To understand the challenges and identify solutions, designers employ a distinctive set of tools.

First, they carry out user research. User research and ethnographic activities are today a mandatory starting point for the design and delivery of outstanding digital experiences by understanding customers’ true needs and demands. 

 Secondly, to investigate future concepts and guide strategic decision making, designers build mockups, lo-fi and non-functional prototypes and use them to collaboratively explore, iterate and rehearse the qualities and interactions of possible future products and services.

This ‘experience prototyping’ is necessary to ensure products and journeys meet the right needs and expectations through the right functionalities before their public release and implementation.  It’s also why Ericsson is today increasingly internalizing these competences and expertise, and making them available to clients through new units like the Experience Design team. This diverse group of interaction and visual designers, UX developers and user researcher provide, together with platforms like Ericsson Digital Experience Platform, a comprehensive set of tools, knowledge and methodologies, to help project managers and operators design and implement successful and customer-centric digital solutions.

Download the Ericsson Consumer and IndustryLab report, The zero-touch customer experience

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 Contact us to learn more about the Ericsson Digital Experience Platform.

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Related links:

Digital Telecom Customer Experience

Cloud Infrastructure


ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR
Michael Fireman
Michael Fireman (Director of Product Management) is part of Digital Business Support Systems team at Ericsson. He serves as Strategic Product Manager for Ericsson’s BSS products and solutions. He works on Value Creation and Value Capturing for Ericsson’s Digital BSS portfolio. Michael is also involved in customer engagements to analyze programs experience, achievements and future enhancements. Michael is a Telecom Industry veteran in the area of BSS and OSS. and he served in various capacities in companies such as Motorola, Nortel subsidiary , Comverse and others. Michael joined Ericsson in 2015.. Michael led product and solution management, development and delivery for various Telecom projects in North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Michael holds bachelor’s degree in engineering from Israeli Institute of Technology (Technion).
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