At no time since the first commercial radio signals were broadcast in the 1920s, have consumers been more reliant on the connection from their homes to their service providers. In a modern-day twist on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the home-working shift has increased the reliance on home broadband, mobile coverage, fixed-schedule TV, streaming OTT services and connected gaming to a position not far above the need for food and shelter for many people!
This has driven demand for high reliability and high quality of service from Service Providers, however, they are in a constant struggle between the need for cost optimisation to offset the continuing large investments required in next-generation infrastructure, and service differentiation to attract new customers and reduce churn of existing bases.
Digitisation of care for connected homes is on the face of it an attractive strategy to pursue to deliver on both sides of this struggle. As a digital transformation challenge it is complex, however, since it necessarily will impact many different functions within the business. Many early attempts in the industry have failed to deliver a return on this investment of capital, time and attention. At the heart of many of these failures we believe is an attempt to apply a one-size-fits-all model to delivering care. Done correctly, with due regard to each customer’s own context, care history with you and previous behaviours, personalised digital channel care can make a significant contribution to meeting many of the OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) of the Product organisation in the modern service provider and so it is a prize worth pursuing.
OKR – Optimise Product Profitability
One of the primary drags on operational product profitability, after all the capital-intensive product development has been completed, is the ongoing cost of customer support. Encouraging customers into fully-automated digital self-service channels and containing them through to full resolution of their issue is a very attractive way to minimise these ongoing costs. More importantly, consumers increasingly expect self-service to be an option and will try that before any other support channel. In Microsoft’s 2019 Global Customer Service study they found that 86% of over 5,000 respondents expected a self-service option and two-thirds would try a personalised self-service first before contacting a live agent. Digital automated self-service care can meet the increasingly digital-first consumer demand for support, delivering operational cost efficiencies in the process, but it must consider the circumstances, history and psychology of the individual seeking that support.
OKR – Increase Engagement
In an increasingly fractured digital marketplace, building engagement between your customers and your products and services has never been more important. Digital engagement is primarily a result of the trust a customer has in the digital channel. That trust is driven by how relatable and effective each automated experience is for the customer. Interactions that don’t take a personalised approach to the customer’s psychology, the context of their home environment or previous care interactions with you are going to have limited success in gaining customer trust.
One other finding from the Microsoft report provides an important clue to another critical element of a successful self-service offering: “more than two-thirds of customers want an organisation to reach out and engage with proactive customer notifications. This proactive experience feeds the customer’s need to be recognised, and in turn, generates customer engagement and strengthens loyalty.” If building engagement is one of your key objectives, then understanding when best to contact a customer proactively, on which digital channel, and regarding what types of issue, is a critical concern. Individualisation and personalisation within self-service care are essential to ensure all such notifications are both relevant and timely.
OKR – Increase CSAT
Many service providers rely on a Customer Satisfaction metric as the ultimate lead indicator of future retention and customer growth. It has long been clear that customers feel more valued when the support they receive demonstrates an awareness of their own particular configuration and environment of use, their history and previous relationship, and their psychology and behaviour. Looking once more to the findings of the Microsoft report an overwhelming “75% of respondents want the agent to know who they are and their purchase history…respondents reported that only occasionally (31%) did the agent have this information.” More recently a Twilio Segment study of 3,000 businesses and consumers found “52% of Gen Z consumers wishing brands knew more about their style preferences and what suits them, compared to 42% of Millennials” – so if anything, the evolving customer base will demand increasing levels of personalisation. One-size-fits-all technical support that pulls from a standard catalogue of answers without any consideration given to the self-service capabilities of the individual consumer or the specific configuration of their local environment is more likely to drive increased frustration at a poor outcome than it is to deliver a successful outcome and the associated bump in CSAT.
OKR – Gather Actionable Intelligence
Delivering successful new products to expand the total share of wallet from your customers and provide an increasing barrier against churn is a key objective of the Product organisation within service providers. One of the most important inputs to this process is to be continuously learning about your customers. Many years ago, I co-hosted a design thinking workshop with one of Europe’s largest communication service providers. Present were representatives of their engineering, product and customer service organisations together in the same room at the same time – with many meeting each other for the first time on our premises. The objective was to identify untapped opportunities for efficiency improvements. A breakthrough moment was reached when one of the customer service agents said that they spend by far the most time of anybody in their company talking to customers and yet they are one of the last to be asked for input on what should be done to improve the product. The point where customers are solving problems with their existing service, whether assisted or through self-service, is a key moment for gathering actionable intelligence directly from the individual about their personal circumstances and unmet needs – and by extension those of similar cohorts – that can be fed back into the organisation, informing future product innovation efforts. And as also reported in the Twilio research, 53% of responding companies reported that they are increasingly focusing on using first-party data (directly gathered from users) to power their personalisation efforts since “it’s higher quality”.
OKR – Sweat Existing Digital Investments
On the other hand, looking within the existing organisation, many digital investments have already been made in service providers that are being underused. We are still in the midst of an evolution from monolithic disparate IT systems towards more modular, microservice-based, API-first architectures that can support multi-system exploitation of their capabilities in a way that would have been previously impossible. These rich sources of diagnostic data regarding each customer’s home setup, customer relationship data regarding their subscriptions, and behavioural insights are far too often under-utilised when they could be playing a crucial role in achieving the personal touch. And even better, such uses provide a welcome additional ROI for the previous investment made in these digital enterprise enablers.
OKR – Upsell More
As discussed earlier, gathering actionable intelligence to inform product innovation efforts is critical, but so too is being able to take action in those moments when a customer is most well-disposed to being sold additional products or services. We describe this as “Solve-to-Sell” to highlight that if a customer is engaging for the purpose of self-solving an issue, everything about that interaction must be focused on solving their problem. When this presents an opportunity to upsell them a relevant product or service, both the care objective and the upsell objective can potentially be met at the same time. A win for the customer and for you. But to be effective these upsell offers need to be clearly (in the mind of the customer) linkable to the particular circumstances of the issue being addressed at the time, or it will be perceived as opportunistic selling rather than tactically helping them resolve their issues.
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