As usual at TMW, a comprehensive conference programme ran alongside the exhibition, catalyst demonstrations, and other events. The conference programme has a number of parallel tracks and it’s always a compromise as to which to choose. This year, in between briefings and other activities, we opted for the Customer Experience Management summit.
Perhaps the most compelling element of all such TMW summits is the way in which a blend of operators, vendors and enterprises present their stories. There are fewer vendor-sponsored presentations than at other events and many more case studies that provide useful reference points. The CEM summit was no exception – and there were insightful contributions from all participants.
Customer Experience Management is a term that has been embraced by many different stakeholders. It has become a highly portable term, being used as the primary message behind a range of different offers. Indeed, it’s been adopted as a reference point by so many vendors that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to understand what it really means.
The CEM summit helped shed light on many of the applications for which the term has been used, with some excellent presentations and provided some strong unifying themes. We weren’t able to attend all of the sessions, but we gleaned much from those we did.
The problem is that CEM is both a specific and generic term. It’s specific, because it can apply to individual practices and issues that individually affect a customer’s experience. It’s generic, because it can apply to the totality of instances in which a customer’s experience can be impacted.
These can include customer service, sales, network performance, service quality and so on. Individually, all of these matter and there are many solutions that seek to address each. But the totality also matters – a network may perform as expected (which is difficult, in and of itself) but if customer service is poor, extreme dissatisfaction may result.
This presents challenges for network operators. The only way to address the problem is to think holistically. CEM is a discipline that touches all aspects of network and service operations, from performance in the RAN or access network, all the way to how customers are treated in retail outlets or in the call centre.
It seems that some operators are becoming aware of this. While there are plenty of solutions that address specific areas, so long as they are treated separately, operators are really only tinkering around the margins. Network operators must actively co-ordinate and connect the different solutions they deploy to address CEM into a seamless whole. Of course, this isn’t easy and, while many technical challenges have been solved, it seems that the greatest challenge of all is cultural.
This point was well made by Maja Neable from Telenor Serbia who described efforts to address CEM within her organisation. Expectations, she noted, are important – but what do people really care about? This isn’t a simple question – what one person cares about may be substantially different from another.
Maja described how Telenor Serbia had designed and implemented a process to help them both understand what their customers want and how to deliver it via a process of continuous improvement. Hardly news to those in the automotive industry, for example, but it’s certainly positive to report that practices that are well established in other businesses are being adopted within the generally more traditional telecoms industry.
In essence, the approach is orientated around discovering what people value, building positions around these needs and implementing systems to ensure deliver across all touch points. That’s holistic CEM in a nutshell, from finding out what customers want from analytics and direct interaction, all the way to ensuring that they get it, not only at the point of delivery but also in their continuing interactions with the provider. To support these initiatives, Telenor Serbia created a dedicated ‘customer’ department. And Maja’s title? Chief Customer Officer.
All of which makes perfect sense, but it’s the way in which the different elements were brought together that was interesting – and, more so, was the apparent correlation between the initiatives and the results: increases in revenue and subscribers. But it’s clear that the initiative (horizontal) depends on effectively implementing specific solutions (vertical) and, to reinforce the point, to then provide some way of connecting them together. Which is why OSS has become so important – it’s how we can create systems that address both horizontal and vertical business challenges.
Jaco Fourie, Senior BSS Expert at Ericsson had mentioned his experience of the frontline in customer service centres at Ericsson’s excellent analyst dinner on Monday. We were struck with how important a lesson such an experience can provide and the lessons it provides for initiatives such as that from Telenor Serbia.
All the predictive analytics or QoS assurance software in the world can’t help you if the agents don’t provide good service, or if you don’t listen to what someone actually thinks. What customers do on the network may be incidental to their real impression of the service provider. As we said, CEM is holistic – it has to be, by definition – and implementing it requires significant cultural change as well as technical innovation.
To be continued.