The multi-level infrastructure and communications shift, demanded in large part by digitization, has rapidly become a critical issue for Communications Service Providers (CSPs).

That’s because, in the telecommunications world, new subscriber growth has slowed and profits have slowly been eroded due to price wars that often lead to the self-destructive commoditisation of services. This reduces monthly ARPU at the same time that the cost to serve and consumer demand for connectivity speeds/volume of data consumption have increased.

In some ways, this is ironic. Simultaneous with the above mobile, fixed line, broadband and media/TV convergence or partnerships have meant an increase in the products and services available to consumers – while IoT, other new delivery paradigms, and new types of devices are driving the trend for individuals to use and pay for multiple lines simultaneously.

So what next? At a time when their offerings are in greater demand than ever before, many service providers are struggling to compete. The end user may have reached the promised land but the enterprise, it appears, has not.

This new landscape and its associated realities clarifies one thing. No longer can the telecommunications industry treat or charge customers as they have done before, at the SIM card level. Today, how CSPs engage customers at a household level is their key to future profitability.

Successful customer engagement in the Age of Customer-Centricity requires a deeper understanding of user preferences, profiles and requirements in order to capture their interest in relevant products and services and thus to maintain brand loyalty. Traditional approaches to customer engagement i.e. batch data-based, below-the-line campaigns and static, transactional points program-based solutions must therefore give way to a set of new, highly engaging, offer and loyalty programs that are built for a generation of demanding, social media-empowered digital natives.

The Four Pillars Of Engagement

The recognition of this accelerating technology-led change has led us to identify four key pillars of action, the response to which I believe will define how brands drive customer loyalty in the nascent, always-on, connected world and how successful they are at doing that. These are:

Intelligent Customer Engagement – A focus on customer engagement must now be a priority for any business operating on a digital platform; with particular regard to loyalty, it is critical in order to keep customers satisfied and maintain long-term, active relationships with the brand. The digital channel allows CSPs to engage customers in real-time, at the ‘moment of truth’, no matter where they are. Intelligent customer engagement, for example via gamified mechanics, keeps subscribers excited and satisfied.

Deeper insight through analytics – The amount of data available to brands continues to grow at an exponential pace as consumers use digital channels to interact and transact, thereby leaving digital footprints that provide insight into the entire customer journey from initial awareness through to post-purchase satisfaction. For CVM Campaign and Loyalty programs, this data will form the basis for personalisation, reward relevance and for designing superior customer experiences; it is therefore critical that CSPs are able to access solutions that fully leverage the insights that data holds.

More choice through an open partner ecosystem – The walled garden approach of traditional rewards programs is giving way to a more open ecosystem of partners where loyal customers can ‘spend’ their credits with a host of different partners. The digital channel has opened the opportunity to integrate with physical and digital partners on a global scale. This trend of openness is here to stay, and will remain a key element for brands to remain relevant and to secure ongoing customer engagement within their loyalty programmes. For CSPs, the technologies required to manage such open relationships with important brand partners is now critical.

Catering to always-on and omni-channel – Customer Value, Retention and Rewards Programs have to adapt to an always-on consumer who is channel agnostic, expecting the brand to engage on email, app, or twitter, or SMS in real-time. This is difficult, but it is also an opportunity to engage with customers in a highly relevant and timely manner. Telcos must find ways to provide meaningful cross-channel experiences at the right level of frequency.

Investment required. But in what?

The Four Pillars of Engagement suggest that CSPs urgently need to revitalise or even reinvent their customer engagement tactics and processes. This is because they have to manage their customers’ journeys more effectively and deliver a far more personalised experience.

Neither of these goals can adequately be met using legacy technologies. This means that CSPs will face making vital investment in customer engagement.

Applications addressing requirements in areas such as self-care and provisioning in particular have seen increasing attention in recent months. A piecemeal approach to solving the problems of operating effectively in the new digital landscape is unlikely to work. Joined-up thinking and joined-up operations (a new, lean customer-centricity where experience is prioritised by both operations and IT systems) has to be the goal.

Data also represents a challenge as it is axiomatic that improving customer-facing processes requires better access to data sources. This is why data management has been a focal point for early digital transformation efforts. Effective customer engagement means bringing together multiple data sources. Good-quality data and improved data storage are the backbone of both improved engagement and innovative use cases.

Engagement, driven by personalisation, demands the unification and standardisation of communications across multiple channels and categories of customer-related operations. Technology therefore needs to leverage a broad mix of capabilities.

New systems will need to integrate with both digital and non-digital customer channels as well as with back-office platforms such as billing and product catalog and front-line activities such as sales and marketing. A wide range of functions will need to be better aligned to support the customer experience, including cloud infrastructure, unified customer data management, security and compliance mechanisms, interaction intelligence, and process automation.

The requirement today is for a new type of Customer Engagement Platform (CEP). This will be a technology that moves away from traditional product-centric and siloed approaches and replaces legacy with a holistic approach to customer engagement.

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