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Customer experience has become a bit of a buzzword these days — right up there with digital transformation, agile methodology, and design thinking. Startups talk about customer experience as their differentiator, almost every company now has a CXO group, and even telcos (who are generally slower to adopt new trends) are jumping on board.

Since I happen to work in the telco space with service providers globally, I can tell you firsthand that almost all of them are currently undertaking some sort of digital or customer experience initiative. But I can also tell you that most of them are not having the kind of success they had planned.

It starts with the misconception of what customer experience actually is — where it starts, where it ends and whose job it is along the way.

The reality is that your Customer Experience is the sum of all parts and not a single part of your company. It is destined to fail if it is relegated to just one team (a CX team) or an engagement channel (your website or app) or even just one member of the C- Suite.

To succeed, it must be defined in a way as to include all of your product, your service, and the way customers get to experience your company throughout multiple channels. While it needs a distinct sponsor or champion, it quite literally is everyone’s job.

The Excuses We Make

It’s not news to anyone that consumers have become accustomed to finding information and conducting transactions online. But a quick visit to most telco websites will find that while some information may be available, the only action a consumer can take is to “call us now” for more information. And that’s not ideal.

Business telephony is too complex to be transacted online, is the standard response from telcos. After all, provisioning new telecom services is a very complex and arduous task and simply can’t be done online.

This is true. And in reality, a business looking to provision a 1,000-seat multi-site, multi-location UC service isn’t trying to transact online in one click anyway.

Even though the process to actually provision telecom services may be very much manual and a multi-step process, there are other parts of the process — other customer touch points — that can still be simplified to improve the customer experience.

But because telcos can’t fix that arduous and manual multi-step process of the provisioning, most don’t even try to fix the other parts of the process.

Digital Transformation - Examples from the outside world

When I think of a process that requires heavy manual processing, immigration comes to mind. In fact, immigration might be the most manual process in the world. I travel to and from the United Kingdom (UK) quite a bit so I recently applied to become a registered traveler to allow me to get in and out of immigration faster. Can you believe the entire process (from the customer side) is done online and is actually a fantastic experience?

The UK government and immigration services didn’t create a new system or a new process for actually improving the registered traveler — in fact I’m certain there’s still someone manually reviewing every application, which takes around 60 days to get approval. But the end user experience is so vastly improved! You apply online, you receive notifications on where you are in the approval process throughout the 60 days, and most importantly, you don’t have to stand in a line for hours at Heathrow.

Another example that comes to mind involves the pizza chain, Domino's. And no — Domino's didn’t digitize the pizza process. As far as we know, that process is still very much manual. But in addition to being able to transact online, Domino's customers can track where in the process their pizza is: order placed, prep, bake, box, delivery.

This is so important. Domino's really nailed the part of the customer experience in the pizza world that’s important. They know that customers don’t complain about the pizza; they complain about how long it takes to deliver. Think how many “where is my pizza?” phone calls are no longer placed to individual Domino's franchises!

3 Ways Telcos Can Improve Customer Experience

1. Start thinking about customer experience more holistically.
    Customer experience is not just the job of a CX team — you need reps from product, marketing, sales, and legal (yes, even legal). After all, even the web’s slickest one-click transaction can be killed by an 80-page legal form you have to sign. That’s why everyone needs to be involved.
2. Customer experience is not just product experience — in fact, 80% of customer experience happens BEFORE you even get into the product.
    How easy is it to join a meeting? Is the menu hard to find? Is it easy to transact? How hard is it to return? What does the packaging look like and how hard is it to get the product out of the box (the folks at Apple are geniuses on this one!)?
3. Ditch the all or nothing mentality.
    It may still take the back office team 10 steps to provision your telecom services, but even something as simple as alerting the customer where they are in the process (think about the Domino's pizza tracker!) so they don’t have to call you three times and ask could do wonders for your customer experience.

I’ll be speaking at our upcoming Connections event in Miami on ways in which Cisco is helping service providers win by taking a “digital first” approach to customer experience.

If you're not able to join us in Miami, register to watch the General Session live streams on November 13 and 14.

About the Author

As Digital Engagement Leader, D.P. Venkatesh enables our customers to embark on their digital transformation journey. DP and his team focus on helping customers rethink their end-to-end customer journey from a digital-first perspective. In leading the BroadSoft Digital Engagement team, he works with our partners to help them sell, onboard and grow their customers.