Transforming the telecom industry with Artificial Intelligence
Blog: NASSCOM Official Blog
Telecommunications might not be the first sector that comes to mind when we think of industries that are considered the pioneers in customer experience. During COVID-19, the expectations for customer experience are even more profound and the stress on telecom providers couldn’t be higher. While we would not have been able to maintain our ability to work, stay socially connected, learn, shop, get healthcare, and more during the pandemic without the connectivity that telecom companies deliver, the current customer experience has tremendous potential for transformation.
Despite the growing global dependency on reliable and fast connectivity, downward trends that have impacted telecom companies for years continue to affect their present performance and hinder their ability to emerge stronger after the crisis. Slow growth due to declining ARPU (average revenue per user), industry saturation, customer churn, competitive disruptions, and the need to achieve return on investment into 5G and other technologies all continue to impact the industry.
According to Bain & Company, COVID-19 has caused a rapid and sharp reduction in new customer sign-ups. Telecoms need to transform customer experience to reverse the long-term trends of poor customer satisfaction, low loyalty scores, and high churn rates.
Telecom players are laggards in adoption of emerging technologies
Many telecommunication service providers are laggards compared to other industries when it comes to customer experience. High call volumes generated during the pandemic only served to emphasize the state of the archaic systems and processes in their contact centers. Long wait times, slow resolutions, and the challenges of remote work combined has frustrated both customers and agents.
Nearly 80 percent of people polled in a survey conducted by a leading global conversational AI company in April 2020 want to speak with an agent. Yet over 33 percent of callers waited for more than 30 minutes on hold, with 5 percent saying they waited for more than 2 hours in the same survey.
We all know customer tolerance has its limits; 72 percent of the survey respondents say they ended a call while still waiting to speak with a live person, and 43% of respondents who did get through to an agent said they felt angry, annoyed, or frustrated because they were put on hold.
AI and automation can remove friction
Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation can provide telecom companies with a way to move from a laggard position to a place among leaders in customer experience. Companies must use these technologies to deliver a frictionless customer experience anywhere along with an end-to-end conversation—from self-service channels (mobile, web, and IVR) to live agent interactions.
Boston Consulting Group (BCG) believes that AI technologies will “accelerate the rethinking of customer interaction to improve customer experience.” Citing examples of AI usage within telecom companies, BCG reports that “At a challenging time for customer service staff and field forces, AI has helped decrease the time employees spend on simple tasks and refocused them on more pressing issues.”
While some telecoms have deployed point AI or automation solutions, they have not been successful in creating the much-needed frictionless, end-to-end experience for customers. For example, many self-service channels still do not understand customer sentiments or intent, nor transfer this context as conversations move between channels. Agents have limited in-call coaching guidance or lack immediate access to customer information, such as customers’ current equipment, which increases average handle times and creates delays in order fulfillment. That is because point solutions do not cover an entire conversation and instead create additional silos within the customer journey.
A Conversational Service Automation (CSA) platform, in comparison, uses conversational AI, robotic process automation (RPA), and workflow automation to bridge humans and machines and back office and front office operations throughout a customer conversation and across digital and voice channels.
Customer-centric telecom experiences
Telecoms can deploy CSA to meet the new needs of customers with empathy and understanding. It can help agents be more effective and productive irrespective if they are working from home or in the contact center and still deliver a high-quality experience at lower costs. Telecoms can remove the friction that frustrates their customers by using CSA to automate and transform their customers journeys. Here’s how:
- Conversational Self-Service: Automate telecom journeys such as paying bills, service inquiry, service upgradation, tracking usage, and more. Conversational AI can help telecoms understand customer sentiments and intent to drive self-service automation rates, thus reducing contact center costs. Should a customer need agent assistance, a CSA platform passes context from self-service to agents to create a frictionless interaction and a lower average handle time.
- Agent Co-Pilot: CSA enables real-time analysis of customer context, including sentiment and intent, to help co-pilot agent performance with in-call coaching alerts. The platform gives agents insight to be more empathetic as well as to improve upselling or cross-selling. For example, the AI could suggest that the agent offers a triple or quadruple play bundle when a customer already has more than one service; this helps increase ARPU.
- Post-Call Analytics: A CSA platform can automate post-call analytics on 100% of customer interactions. These include voice, email, and chat to understand reasons for customer churn and sales effectiveness. It also helps drive 100% compliance and identifies other core, customer, and agent-centric experience areas for planning and operational improvements. Telecoms can also get insights into how customers are using channels such as self-service as well as to identify potential points of friction in a customer journey to optimize customer experience.
Understand customer conversations to build stronger, lasting relationships
As consumers navigate their way through these challenging times, understanding and acting on customer conversations will be critical for telecoms to drive measurable and sustainable improvement in customer satisfaction and loyalty. Automation helps telecoms deliver the kind of frictionless experiences that consumers today demand while reducing operational costs.
Automating and improving the entire conversation—self-service, human-to-human, and after a call—using CSA is a winning way for telecoms to overcome immediate challenges and emerge more robust in a post-COVID world.
The article was first published on ET CIO