The crucial role of IoT in creating seamless telecom processesShantanu Vilas Kulkarni
How automating the customer journey can lead to a superior customer experience
“Hey, Dad, I want a new football – you know, the one with the official FIFA logo, like all the other kids have!”
Kids and telecom customers are remarkably similar. They always want more than they have - like their friends. And they want to be pampered.
This is today's expectation economy. Customers are increasingly well-informed, experienced, and impatient and have high expectations of their service provider. They also expect them to provide a level of experience on par with their favourite apps and OTT providers. To top it off, they have zero loyalty.
But service providers are learning to “play the game”. Rather than categorising customers according to “good” or “bad”, they are increasingly assigning “profiles” to each customer in order to know how to relate to them.
Then, once they relate to the customer in the right way, they can convert them into hyper-consumers who will happily spend their hard-earned cash for services that range from normal connectivity, entertainment and ecommerce to connected cars and homes, and all the way to innovative on-demand services that seamlessly and intuitively connect to rest of the world. However, doing this successfully – and transforming into a true digital provider – requires them to totally redefine their customer-oriented business processes by aligning with end-users via a “design thinking” perspective.
This is where digital dexterity comes into play, which entails reconfiguring their existing set of processes (particularly around the customer journey) to exploit existing and emerging technologies to enhance and sustain a delightful customer experience.
IoT is the technology that enables this transition. When it comes to IoT, customer-centric processes can be classified according to three broad domains: customer, product and network. While many other processes come into play, for purposes of simplicity, let’s focus those processes are customer-centric at the core.
The customer journey starts with a customer initiating contact through one or more channels (web, retail, call centre, social media). It ends when the requested product or service is fulfilled. Activities that occur in the interim include handling information requests, sales, setting up a billing account, invoice generation, and resolving fallouts, problems and complaints.
These touch points must all be automated. And while the purpose of automation traditionally focused on reducing manual effort, in the world of IoT, automation relates to a system of connected devices/sensors that collect relevant data at every touch point and feed it to the most relevant domains (customer, product and network). The purpose is to enable every process and interface to become intelligent with every interaction.
Importantly, introducing IoT is not a one-time project. Rather, it must be part of a platform that once deployed, continually evolves. So when embracing IoT, service providers must formulate their expectations and strategies accordingly: the transition must take place across all processes, which is no small matter.
While automation is key to achieving this, it must be part of a broader strategy of meeting the customer on his preferred channel of choice (be it social, on their device, retail store visit or call centre) and ensuring a completely immersive experience. For example, if an existing customer walks into your retail store, the sales rep should have ready access to relevant information about them. If it’s a first-time customer, the emphasis must be on the speed at which their profile is created, the recommendations that are made, and the overall experience as a result.
By combining data from customer, product and network domains, you can create a near 360-degree insight (including trends, habits and connectivity patterns), which forms the basis of such an experience. So, for example, it allows the service rep to suggest the most appropriate “next best offer” for that customer. But to realize the true potential of IoT, it still requires a platform with the capability of providing a fully unified view of the customer by integrating and consolidating the telecom domains (BSS/OSS) with the partner ecosystem (e.g. Amazon, travel info and location-based apps).
Another important point is that achieving customer lock-in is just the beginning. To fully leverage the power of IoT, you need to ultimately convert your customer into an active promoter of your brand. This can only be done through a proactive effort that delivers value through a consistent and delightful experience throughout their customer journey. The ability to provide such an experience requires the collection of data from all the customer’s devices – across and beyond the traditional limits of your system. This information then needs to be analyzed, in order to not only to predict but also automatically adapt to the customer's changing preferences, needs and behaviours.
Digital dexterity is a fundamental need to meet the needs of today’s digital consumers. If this is to be achieved, IoT is a fundamental imperative. But if your system lacks the capabilities to become more intelligent with every transaction, now is the time to consider strategies to bring your systems up to speed.
 Design Thinking is a method designer use in ideation and development, that describes a human-centred, iterative design process focusing mainly on “Empathy” and “fast prototyping”
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)