by Bruno Teuber, a senior vp with Lithium
Now that the dust has settled after MWC 2013, it’s apparent that one of the main takeaways is the fact that the intersection between mobile and social is becoming more amplified than ever before. Telecom companies (Telcos) are beginning to realise how important it is to implement a sustainable social program. One thing I noticed in particular is the need for a renewed emphasis on customer service. Call centres strain resources; are a management headache and an implementational nightmare.
Far worse, these operational issues mean many are shunted off to the developing world, leading to deterioration in the relationship with the very customers they’re meant to care for.
It’s time to put the call centre to sleep. Telcos need to turn to the power of social media.
“Customer questions are now answered by its community in an average time of 93 seconds”
Telcos have been experimenting with social media for the last few years. However, it’s not enough to put up a Facebook page, or turn to Twitter to talk to customers.
The telecom industry needs to become more business-like when it comes to social and treat it like any other type of investment.
Telcos need to wake up and see that social can be used as a competitive weapon.
Telcos need instead to harness the power of social media to start driving real business impact, boosting ARPU.
It will do this by impacting the most crucial metrics for any Telco – customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Telcos are fully aware they have problems in this area. A report we recently published in conjunction with Telesperience here, surveying over 40 global telecoms companies, found the top goal for 76 per cent was to increase customer loyalty.
54 per cent said that customer service was their top goal.
The problem is that only 5 per cent rated their customer service as excellent. Such a huge gap between business goals and customer reality is a serious problem.
On a more positive note the survey did find some rays of hope. 95 per cent of Telcos said they were planning to maintain or increase social media budgets in the near future.
Social communities let Telcos develop peer-to-peer support and cultivate a new customer workforce.
This strategy lowers costs – Gartner estimates by up to 50 per cent – improves customer relations and creates an army of superfans that support the brand.
Social communities really are the heart of customer service, replacing the antiquated call centres of the past.
In the USA, our report found that 64 per cent of Telcos are already driving conversion through their owned social hubs, with 73 per cent using social media to transform the overall customer experience.
As a result of social, 18 per cent of Telcos were able to reduce call centre costs in 2012.
This is as far removed from simply throwing up a Facebook page as it’s possible to get!
Only the Telco serious about social will survive
One fantastic example is mobile operator giffgaff, which uses social media for its entire customer service strategy.
100 per cent of customer questions are now answered by its community in an average time of 93 seconds, which has led to an incredible 84 per cent customer satisfaction rate.
Drive new product development
Social media also enables Telcos to develop entirely new revenue streams by turning to their customers for new ideas.
Our survey found 15 per cent of telecoms operators had already brought customer-sourced innovation to market, with 12 per cent already seeing revenues from their customers’ suggestions.
Verizon is one Telco that collaborates with customers to design and build products that are community-suggested.
Just a year after it launched the programme, 1,700 ideas were submitted, 250 are in progress and 31 have already been implemented.
Telcos need to stop paying lip service to social media, start taking it seriously and using it to reinvent their outmoded, inefficient customer service processes.
Social media is the best bet Telcos have for truly putting consumers at the, healthy, heart of their business.
Bruno Teuber is a senior vice president and general manager for EMEA at Lithium. You can follow Lithium on Twitter at @LithiumTech.