Operators beginning to focus more on customer-experience management, says Julio Puschel

After a Mobile World Congress early this year full of meetings about customer-experience management (CEM), it was expected that the topic would get a lot of attention from many operators. Last week I participated in a CEM conference, and although there is no standard definition for the term, operators are starting to take customer experience seriously.

The first time I heard about CEM, eight years ago, it concerned how operators could improve customer channels, call-quality assurance and first-call resolution. Operators are creating their own CEM areas, normally reporting directly to the company’s CEO. The focus of CEM is still on customer channels and customer care. This is an obvious area of focus, since it’s normally a sensitive moment in the customer/operator relationship when the customer contacts the operator. However, the fact that the new CEM areas are reporting directly to the CEO demonstrates operators’ willingness to evolve to a more holistic approach, assuring a great customer experience throughout the entire customer life cycle.

The conference started with an interesting presentation from Rogers Canada, which presented its “no frills” Fido brand. For the operator, CEM starts with the brand, its mission and values. To bring all the operator’s departments into the same boat, it is important to transmit the brand values to the entire organization and make CEM part of the brand’s DNA. The operator has a management council that evaluates the brand, customer satisfaction, CEM and churn on an ongoing basis, and all operator departments have been involved in the strategy since the beginning and play an end-to-end role.

Also at the conference, Belgacom demonstrated how CEM can be applied in areas beyond customer care. The operator reviewed its service’s offers in order to provide a simpler portfolio that will make it easier for the customer to choose the right bundle. Some of its initiatives range from helping customers set up a new smartphone (reducing the rate of return on those devices) to proactively helping customers install broadband equipment at home (Belgacom can identify when customers are having problems with the plug-and-play equipment and call them to offer help). Furthermore, Belgacom has reviewed its contact-center processes to reduce waiting times, improve IVR capabilities and simplify the customer bill. Therefore, the operator is approaching CEM as a more holistic strategy, including different touch points at different stages of the customer relationship.

Vodafone Italy has demonstrated how to use social networking to improve its interaction with customers. The company has created its own community (in addition to its Twitter and Facebook presences) with which it can interact and test new concepts. Vodafone also says that it’s important to have a dedicated team to manage its interaction through Twitter and that members of the team need to more familiar with social-media communities than traditional customer-service agents are.

The other big topic discussed during the conference was the “customer journey” and how the operator can be prepared to offer and manage the different channels for different customer profiles at different stages of the relationship. Orange demonstrated how it is offering consistency across the different channels and focusing on lifetime value. “Customer journey” seems to be a key element of operators’ channel strategies.

The interesting thing is that I am now at a conference about policy control, and CEM is also a hot topic. I was wondering what would happen if we joined the two audiences: On the one hand, the CRM, marketing and customer-care managers, and on the other hand IT and network managers. I think the discussions would be insightful.