Charlize Theron in the 2012 film "Snow White and the Huntsman." Credit: United International Pictures
If you are not a digital native, you may remember a time when the phrase, “The customer is king,” could be met with a measure of cynicism, if not outright derision. Customer-centric businesses were often little more than fictions concocted by astronomically funded marketing teams. Not today. Welcome to the age of the digital native, who differs from their ancestor in one important respect. Give one of these discerning consumers a negative experience, and they will share it with thousands in less time that it will take you to read this article.
In the Middle East telecoms sector, digitally savvy consumers, armed with virtual royal sceptres such as Facebook and Twitter, have forced communications service providers (CSPs) down transformative highways, reimagining the customer experience from the ground up. At the epicentre of this re-design is a robust business support system (BSS) platform - the nerve centre of the telco, where infrastructure, business model and customer experience (CX) meet. To deliver onto the millennial all that which he or she demands, you need to become a digital service provider (DSP), expanding CX, solution offerings, partner ecosystems and a host of other capabilities.
Wow your customer
Operators that want to serve customers the way customers want to be served need to strike a pitch-perfect note in every interaction; they need to understand that marketing, care, sales, and support teams have subtly different relationships with subscribers and business customers, and if the tone is jarring, the customer will notice. The DSP is in search of nothing less than the ability to serve every customer according to their individual needs, through the contact channel of their choice - the much sought-after “personalised service” ideal. Treat every customer like this and you will have entered a zero-churn utopia with unprecedented LTV, where upselling is effortless, and every customer is a fervent ambassador for your brand.
The right BSS consolidates and homogenises data, allowing decision makers at all levels - from the boardroom to frontline sales teams - to get to know their customers more intimately. Profiling goes so much deeper than names and contact history. Your BSS needs to gobble up every piece of data available if it is going to provide you with the actionable customer insights that will set you apart from your competition.
The BSS must also cover the automation of business processes. The individualisation of service is best delivered in an environment where employees -sales, marketing and others - can be confident that the basics of customer courtesy and SLA compliance are being fulfilled. In such an environment, your representatives can turn their skills to more one-to-one interactions, humanising the experience for the subscriber or business user. Indeed, the starting point for some of the most successful one-to-one interactions will be the automatic, accurate collection of customer data - everything they do and say; any trifling indication of a want, dissatisfaction, intention, plan or musing must be captured.
Don’t forget omni-channel
Digital natives want what they want, when they want, and via the channel they want. They have power and are discerning because they have choice. And the ease with which they can change their minds has never been greater. The omni-channel experience has grown out of that power. The modern business cannot afford to dismiss gripes such as “Why can I not place an order via WhatsApp?” If your subscribers are using WhatsApp, then you must make it your business to deliver it as a channel option.
So, you must seek out a BSS that allows you to offer that experience. And just as your customers would have expected seamless convergence between online, phone and a physical branch—back in the days when they were the only channels about which you had to worry - today, they will expect the same continuity between all their traditional and digital interactions. Your BSS needs to be able to guide your people in their navigation of that activity, so that customers never have that “starting from scratch” feel in dealing with you.
The same goes for digital channels and self-care facilities. They can help to slash call centre costs by allowing customers to help themselves. Your BSS must cater to these capabilities as they are an extension of the omni-channel experience. Although many customers may prefer to speak with a representative, a growing number of consumers will opt for self-care, and if you do not offer it, they will remember, and they will speak out on social media.
Partner up and play for keeps
In the age where your subscribers value “experiences” over services, a robust BSS can also help you win them over by extending your offerings beyond just traditional voice and data. DSPs can grow their own partner ecosystem by onboarding third-party providers - from airlines to health insurance companies - swiftly, attracting swarms of new customers in the process. Entirely new streams of revenue can be created overnight.
But remember, before you start counting your digital chickens, you need to consider the partner experience. Finding themselves in a sea of CSPs trying to become DSPs, potential partners have a lot of choice - just as consumers have - so it is vital that you empower them the same level of service and experience, when they do business with you. To this end, your BSS needs to be up to the task of delivering on partner expectations such as easy self-onboarding, self-care and transparent reporting.
Becoming a DSP and pleasing digital natives every day is not an easy journey. But staying relevant in a market driven by millennial demands starts and ends with your BSS. It is your brain and your consigliere. Use it wisely.