So many seams: Smoothing out CEM

I want it all. But I’m not alone.
It’s not just my cell phone. I hate having to do the dance with my broadband provider every six months when my promotional offer wears off and I have to threaten to switch providers. It’s not an empty threat. I really am on the verge of switching every time I call. And was even closer to switching this last go-round when I was told by a rep over the phone that she could sign me up for one promotional rate, but I could get an even lower rate if I went in to the local retail location and asked someone there for a better deal. It all felt tawdry, and in the end, the provider didn’t get any more money out of me. They just inched me closer to churning.

Look, I know this isn’t a confessional, and there is nothing rare about my experience. But why, in an environment of ample choice and widespread competition, is there nothing rare about my experience?

We’ve talked for years and years about the seamless customer experience. We’ve talked about delighting customers, the omnichannel experience and creating a customer-first culture. And CSPs have dumped lots of time and energy into these efforts over the years.

But despite these efforts to promote a seamless experience, there are still SO. MANY. SEAMS.

In a recent survey of about 2,000 wireless subscribers in the United States, less than 10 percent of respondents said they’ve had an in-person customer service agent or retail clerk from their CSP access a shopping cart that they started through another method (online, via app, etc.). For Baby Boomers, that figure was 1 percent.

When asked about what might make them more likely to stick with their service providers, almost half of respondents said a monthly flat rate, more than a quarter said simpler billing, and about the same number said better access to customer service across channels. These calls for access and simplicity were more important to subscribers than having more digital services (such as video streaming) or having more customer self-service.

And respondents want proactivity! Almost half said they would be less likely to churn if their CSPs notified them about better plans or offers, or about service disruptions in their areas. More than a third said they’d be more likely to stick around if they didn’t have to repeat their information or story to everyone they spoke with.

It’s also no big surprise, but Millennials, especially, wanted simplicity and seamless interaction more than any other group. That’s the expectation, and it’s only growing.

Vendors are doing their part to reevaluate what it means to meet and exceed customer expectation and deliver an outstanding customer experience. And part of that puzzle comes down to having good data about customer behavior and leveraging that data to enhance customer care.

IBM’s Watson Customer Engagement suite for telecom, for instance, is one of many solutions that is working to leverage customer data to enhance proactive customer care. It’s interesting to see how Big Blue is taking advantage of the really interesting cognitive learning of Watson to support consistent, personalized messaging and support for subscribers.

Amdocs is another firm that is doing interesting things with omnichannel customer engagement, focusing on consistent conversations in all settings: retail, social media, call centers, online self-service portals, and more. Amdocs positions its customer engagement solutions as part of its larger “digital experience” offering, rightly noting that personalized customer interaction is an opportunity, not a hindrance for CSPs.

I know that the comparisons aren’t always fair. The brands that deliver truly outstanding customer experience—Apple, Amazon, Starbucks, BMW, Disney, etc.—are companies with which you interact only occasionally. But those companies also lack the enormous insight and wealth of information carriers have. And their product is, in so many ways, better than ever.

I appreciate my network and my handset and the beautiful rarity of my dropped calls. I just want all that and a consistent and positive customer experience on the rare occasion that it’s time to re-up my plan or get a new device.

So I guess I want it all. But I’m not alone.


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