Home Market Research Getting Up, Close and Personal with Customers

Today customers are more aware, deriving leverage from exposure to a wide range of services, knowledge of product substitutes, and use of social media to share praise or blame for their products.  Having experienced excellent service from some categories, consumers now apply these standards across all service providers and demand a superior quality of engagement from MNOs.

A critical aspect of delivering outstanding customer service in an individual-cantered economy lies in maintaining a personal connection with customers at key moments of truth during the journey. MNOs who maintain consistent and frequent interactions will grab an increasing share of consumer mind share and spending.

A recent study conducted by Mahindra Comviva of Tier One MNOs in India and Africa, indicates operators speak to their customers for 8 minutes in a year.  Each customer on average makes 3.4 calls annually to the contact centre, lasting 110 seconds. Agents are primarily assessed on the “volumes of calls” handled and the “average call handling time”, which are measures of productivity and cost rather than quality-based metrics such as the ability to make an emotional connect with the customer.

Given the contact centres are the primary customer touchpoint handling between 60% and  80% of total customer transactions, the absence of personalized, real-world interactions is reflective in high levels of customer attrition in most markets. Globally in 2013 MNOS lost  USD  1B on account of churn.

For many consumers, the most outstanding aspect of customer experience is the personal human touch. MNOs need to balance the cost to serve with customers’ need for personalized interactions.  Investments in mobile self service apps can help operators improve quality of care and engage customers at every stage of the purchase path..

A self-service app resident on the mobile device offers wide reach.  By itself the app is however just another touchpoint for the customer.   The value rests in CMOs uniting mobility with location-based, analytics and personal data and offer progressive levels of hyper-personal care   to customers.  Personalization will be based on an intersection between customer history, context awareness and intent and would essentially span four stages – “Know Me,”  “See Me”  “Understand Me” and “Be Me”.

Know Me

At the “Know Me” stage MNOS use KYC and transactional data to understand customers to deliver an optimized service experience across critical touch points of the customer journey – from discovery to post-purchase support. Customer data can be used to deliver enhanced customer experiences, improve service quality, target marketing efforts, capture customer sentiment, increase upsell opportunities, and trigger product and service innovation.  For example, inform users when they are approaching their data threshold, send relevant promotions and extend simple, secure options to act upon that information.

Customer data can also be used to influence positive customer behaviour.  For example send a proactive notification informing customers of direct bank debt service to high net worth customers, who frequently default on timely payments. Rather than using personalization only to provide offers, use detailed knowledge of the customer to be responsive to their communication needs. For example, know when and when not to communicate with the customer, and how to communicate (e.g., SMS vs. Twitter)

Another key aspect of knowing the customer is a voice of the customer program.  Since MNOs operate in a consumer-dominant economy, MNOs need to adopt an outside-in approach focused on understanding services customers would really value.  A voice of the customer program can aid MNOs canvas feedback, understand users’ opinions and drive servicer and product improvements.   A simple screen inviting customers to provide new ideas or feedback can make customers feel engaged.

Several industries offer interesting lessons.  For example Changi airport, Southeast Asia’s biggest international airport, handled a record 53.7M passengers in 2013. Its air passenger handling capacity is expected to double by the mid-2020s. Changi airport is one of the early adopters to utilize automated feedback systems at all passenger touchpoints. Through this system, Changi airport collects over 1.5 million real-time feedback responses a month, thousands of times more than manual methods previously used. Changi airport was voted the best airport in the world in a 2014 Skytrax survey of travelers from over 160 countries. This is the fifth time that Changi airport has received this award.

See Me 

At the “See Me” stage NNOs can combine knowledge of customer transactions with location to deliver hyperlocal offers.  For example offer customers the option to login to a Wi-fi hotspot at a congested cell location. MNOs can also leverage information to send third party push notifications to consumers.

Understand Me  

 At the “Understand Me” stage MNOs based on customers’ click-through streams, social media posts, and context are able to infer customer intent and accordingly tailor quality of care.  For instance send a discounted offer to a customer who spends considerable time browsing information on the merchandise section of an event ticketing site. A leading MNO in Bangladesh analyses international calling pattern along key remittance corridors to acquire customers for its international money transfer service.  In a remittance driven country, customers who call the same international number regularly are likely beneficiaries and receptive to promotional messages around the service

Be Me 

At the “Be Me” stage the app takes decisions on behalf of the users.  For example lodge an immediate complaint when the customer is experiencing consistently slow browsing speeds, accept contextual services and offers on behalf of the user. The app is able to act on account of built in intelligence to identify and learn customers’ behavior over time, enabling it to respond in real time.

To successful deliver hyper-personal care and build lasting relationships with customers, MNOS needs to view care as a day-in, day-out, continually evolving service, requiring constant innovation to stay competitive.

Many customer service organizations struggle with the gaps between the speed of change required by business and the speed of change that traditional organizational structures,  infrastructure, applications, information and sourcing — can handle.  CSPs would need to invest in the right platforms to onboard and tear down new services quickly. Likewise realising the vision of hyperpersonal care would require MNOs to adopt more fluid organizational structures where CTO, CMO, and CSD departments work together.  For example, customer satisfaction surveys act as warnings of a new issue — while the second voice (e.g., customer experience monitoring) would investigate the issue in detail.

This needs to be a well-planned journey but MNOs who make the leap would benefit from lasting customer relationships,



Mobile App Strategies Will Be Transformed by Cognizant Computing; Gartner; Jessica Ekholm  Annette Zimmermann



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