Can AI turn Telecom Customer Service Around?

A look at the opportunity for AI in Telecom

 

Telecom customer service remains one of the worst in any industry. According to the American Customer Satisfaction Survey, “customer satisfaction with subscription television service peaked in 2013 at a score of 68 on the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s 100-point scale but has wavered since. The industry is now stagnant at an ACSI score of 62, tied with internet service providers for last place among all industries tracked by the ACSI.”1

This boils down to a high volume of incidences, inconsistency across channels and issues, and long resolution times. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the best and most scalable means for telecom companies to provide the support that customers demand today. 

The Telecom Customer Support Landscape 

Every month, I get an automated alert from my phone carrier letting me know my credit card is being charged. If I respond to the text message with a related question – say why it’s higher this month than last –  crickets. I never get a response. 

And it’s not something specific to me. While telecom companies are trying to provide good customer experiences and have put it at the top of their strategic agendas, customers like me still feel frustrated. The sheer thought of having to call my phone carrier with a billing question or my broadband provider when I have a connectivity issue makes me want to shudder.  

So why is it so hard for telecom companies to provide a positive customer experience? 

In a nutshell, it boils down to volume and reach. 

If you look at the top ten searches related to customer service on Google, five are telecom companies.

AI in Telecom
Telecom companies represent 78% of the top 5 searches by volume in the United States over the last 12 months. Search results provided by Google’s Keyword Planner in September 2019.

You did not read this wrong. 919,000 people are trying to understand what’s wrong with their Verizon service every month in the US. 

By search volume, telecom customer service queries make up over 78% of the top five customer service queries and 63% of the top 10. This underscores the sheer number of support tickets that telecom companies receive. 

Whether it’s issues related to billing, being charged for a service a customer never signed up for, service issues or installation requests, telecom companies are inundated with customer needs. What’s more, support is now expected on an increasing number of channels, including email, social, chat, and voice. 

Poor customer service is also anchored by the fact that there is great segmentation within the business. Customers interact with different business groups, and this leads to inconsistency, fragmentation, and frustration. For instance, a person is often asked to provide the same information (i.e. account number) multiple times in a single contact as they get passed around to the right department. Furthermore, the tone of employees that your customers interact varies greatly. Often the sales process is enjoyable and fast. When a customer wants to cancel their contract or make changes to an account, it’s slow and frustrating. 

Providing a seamless, consistent experience is fundamental to high customer satisfaction (CSAT).

The risk of poor Telecom customer service has never been higher 

Providing a positive customer experience is tied directly to customer retention.  A McKinsey + Company’s Report found that satisfied customers are 80% more likely than unsatisfied customers to renew their policies 2

Consumers overarchingly don’t have an emotional connection to telecom companies. They are universally regarded as the same. To your customer, there’s little differentiation in service, quality or price. 

The cost to switch to another provider is lower than ever, and there are more competition and choice today. Just consider the rise of cord-cutting with cable providers losing a staggering 14,000 customers per day 3. WeChat and others are also emerging as competitive alternatives to SMS. Customers are not afraid to look for an alternative. 

With this convergence of factors, customer service excellence is what can get someone to stick around. According to PWC, “even when people love a company or product, 59% will walk away after several bad experiences, 17% after just one bad experience4.” 

If customers feel like getting in touch with a company is frustrating or they are not treated nicely, they will churn. A competitively-priced alternative is a click away. 

How AI in Telecom Can Drive High Customer Service CSAT

When you hear stats like the average wait time to reach a call center agent for a telecom company is 5 minutes and only 44% of operators offer web chat as a support option, it makes sense that telecom is failing at customer service 5. After all, our society expects effortless, on-demand and personalized experiences. 

Bringing AI into the workforce can resolve over 50% of customer service issues instantly. Think about high-volume, mundane and repetitive queries that arise. These can be eliminated from your human agent’s workflow so they can resolve high-touch and complex issues faster. Examples of Telecom workflows that can be delegated to AI include:  

  • Top-up or recharge: Enable customers to replenish mobile account data instantly. 
  • Modify plans: Whether it’s adding a line, changing plans or adding roaming for an upcoming international trip, AI connects in real-time to back-end systems to close tickets. 
  • Incentives to churning customers: Only 28% of telecom companies offer an incentive to avoid churning 5. An AI Agent identifies which churning customers are high-value and worth the cost of an incentive. These customers are offered a promotion at the initial termination request. 
  • Account termination: If a customer does terminate a contract, AI easily communicates with the customer and makes updates on the back-end. There’s no delay in completing a request. It’s easy, so the relationship ends on a positive note. 
  • Billing questions: If a customer has a question on a new charge or why the amount changed from month-to-month, an AI Agent either responds immediately or gathers necessary data before elevating to human agents. 
  • Network issues: An AI Agent reactively gives updates to a customer about an issue or proactively lets someone know about planned service and outages. 
  • Delivery fulfillment: Conversational AI agents keep customers updated on the status of new hardware or parts. 
  • Product / Service research: For prospective customers, an AI Agent guides a customer through the discovery and research process. It helps people compare plans. Virtual agents drive profitability through up-selling. 
  • Reduce truck roll: AI Agents help customers help themselves. It helps troubleshoot issues, activate a SIM card or reconfigure equipment.

Our society is addicted to data. Whether we’re streaming TV or reading the news on the go, we’re consuming data 24/7. Because the services telecom companies provide are so fundamental to our lives, when there’s an issue, we expect swift resolutions. Negative customer experiences boost churn and can cause brand degradation over time, while positive customer experiences can be what keeps customers around. 

AI empowers telecom companies to put the customer experience first. Let us show you how quickly we can launch a powerful support organization run by human and machine intelligence. Schedule a demo.

References 

  1. American Customer Satisfaction Index: https://www.theacsi.org/news-and-resources/customer-satisfaction-reports/reports-2019/acsi-telecommunications-report-2018-2019/acsi-telecommunications-report-2018-2019-download 
  2. McKinsey & Company: Customer Experience – New Capabilities, New audiences, New Opportunities https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/mckinsey/featured%20insights/Customer%20Experience/CX%20Compendium%202017/Customer-experience-compendium-July-2017.ashx
  3. BGR: Cord Cutting Statistics 2019 https://bgr.com/2019/05/09/cord-cutting-statistics-2019/
  4. PWC: Experience is everything. Get it right. https://www.pwc.com/us/en/services/consulting/library/consumer-intelligence-series/future-of-customer-experience.html?
  5. KPMG: Still Searching for a Better Customer Experience https://assets.kpmg/content/dam/kpmg/xx/pdf/2017/07/searching-for-a-better-customer-web.pdf

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