Can Telecom Customer Service Be Turned Around By AI?

Written by Dylan Max  on   Oct 8, 2019

A Look At The Opportunity For Customer Service Automation In Telecom

Customer service in telecom remains one of the worst in any industry. Can it be helped by better leveraging customer service automation?

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. Since then, it has wavered. The industry is now stagnant at an ACSI score of 62, tied with internet service providers for the 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 strategies, 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? 

Volume and Reach 

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

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 try to understand what’s wrong with their Verizon service every month in the US. 

Telecom customer service queries make up over 78% of the top five customer service queries and 63% of the top 10. 

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

Fragmentation is Frustrating

Great segmentation within the business also leads to poor customer service. Customers interact with different business groups. This leads to inconsistency, fragmentation, and frustration. For instance, a person is often asked to provide contact information multiple times as they get passed around to the right department. Also, the tone of employees that your customers interact with varies greatly. In contrast, 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 overwhelmingly don’t have an emotional connection to telecom companies. 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, as cable providers lose a staggering 14,000 customers per day 3. WeChat and others are also emerging as competitive alternatives to SMS customer service. Customers are not afraid to look for alternatives.

Customer Service is the Key 

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

How Automation in Telecom Can Drive Higher CSAT

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

Incorporating AI for customer experience into the workforce can help resolve over 50% of customer service issues instantly. Think about high-volume, mundane and repetitive queries. 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. The AI Agent offers a promotion at the initial termination request. 
  • Account termination: A customer terminates a contract, AI easily communicates with the customer and makes updates on the back-end. There’s no delay in completing a request. The relationship ends on a positive note. 
  • Billing questions: 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. A Virtual agent drives profitability through up-selling. 
  • Reduce truck roll: AI Agents help customers help themselves. They can help troubleshoot issues, activate a SIM card or reconfigure equipment.

We Are Data Addicts

Whether we’re streaming TV or reading the news on the go, we’re consuming data 24/7. Telecom companies provide services that are fundamental to our lives. We expect swift resolutions when there’s an issue. Negative customer experiences boost churn and can cause brand degradation over time. Positive customer experiences can keep customers around. 

Customer service automation empowers telecom companies to put the experience of their consumers first. Let us show you how quickly we can launch a powerful support organization run by human and machine intelligence. Schedule a demo with Netomi’s chatbot platform.

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//

How to Get Executive Buy in for AI-Powered Customer Service

Written by Emily Cummins  on   Mar 12, 2019

A Quick Guide to Becoming a Champion for Automated Support Within Your Organization.

AI is no longer reserved for the companies that are first-to-market; the ones that liberally trial new technologies on a whim with varying degrees of success. No… AI-powered customer support solutions are often now fundamental to a company’s success. Customer service is now a competitive differentiator on par with cost and quality, and AI-powered automation is the means to deliver the world-class experiences that your customers demand. [Read more about customer expectations here].  

Many customer service executives on the front lines of managing CX understand the value AI can bring:

  • Personally responding to repeatable issues, about ~50% of support tickets, instantaneously [Higher CSAT → Brand Loyalty]
  • Deflecting tickets from human agents by automating resolutions [Cost Savings]
  • Empowering human agents to work better – using AI integrations, such as Zoho chatbot, to recommend replies, pull relevant information, etc. [Faster resolutions → Higher CSAT]
  • Improved agent performance and job satisfaction as the day-to-day focus is on high-impact work and less mundane tasks [Less Agent Turnover → Cost Savings]

There’s often polarizing views of AI within an organization: Some are entranced with the buzz around the new shiny object, excited for the opportunity to say that their organization uses AI. Others are skeptics, wondering if it’s all just hype; if it’s affordable; if the real value will be seen or if human agents are going to be replaced with machines.

The reality is that companies can’t afford to not adopt AI-powered solutions. According to Microsoft, 95% of consumers cite customer service as important in their choice of and loyalty to a brand and 61% have switched brands due to poor customer service, with nearly half having done so in the past 12 months.

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“Most traditional companies don’t think of digital as being strategic to the organization. It’s often thought about as a support function. We’re thinking about how to make digital, and a culture of innovation, be part of the DNA of our company.” — Alfredo Tan, WestJet’s Chief Digital Officer. [Watch a video here]

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So as you champion AI within your organization, use our guidelines to ensure a successful program is introduced that the entire organization can see value in.

1) Start Small With AI-Powered Customer Service

Identify very defined use cases for customer service automation with AI, such as order status or refund requests. This will not only help keep costs down, but it will enable everyone within a customer service organization to learn the process of implementing AI and witness how it evolves over time.

2) Identify the Right Use Cases

Pinpoint where there is a lot of historical data that can be used to train AI. AI and customer service is such a great place to start, as companies have troves of historic emails, chat and social messaging data that can be used to bootstrap AI training, and new tickets are continuously being created to give your AI the ability to learn in action. Determine what to delegate to AI by identifying which queries come infrequently and don’t require human oversight.

3) Create a Game Plan for a Human Agents and AI-Powered Customer Service

AI will not – and should not – replace human workers. It will help them work more efficiently while freeing them up to work on complex and unique tickets. Outline the situations in which AI will manage autonomously, which use cases will be exclusively managed by human agents (more sensitive issues), and which queries AI can help a human agent work faster by clarifying or pulling information from various business systems.

4) Solve Real Issues and Map Out KPIs

Set a clear understanding of what success will look like and how it will be measured. You should be implementing AI to solve real pain points for the business. Many companies struggle with meeting customer expectations for immediate, personal and convenient support. Even by leveraging AI to respond to 30% of your incoming tickets at first, the impact will be felt immediately.   

We like to tell our customers to measure AI as they would an employee: How is it learning and improving? Is it doing its job (i.e. resolving tickets)? Is it having a positive impact on the customer experience? Is it working well with others?

Some of the specific KPIs that our clients use to measure the success of a customer service AI is a deflection, CSAT, cost savings and time to resolution. Set realistic goals based on where your organization is performing today and how AI should impact this in 3, 6 and 12 months.

5) Educate Your Organization About What AI is… and What it Isn’t

Ensure everyone understands the capabilities of AI. Often, there are some within an organization who have been swept up into the hype and have a very unrealistic view of the maturity of the AI market today.

Set your AI up for success by educating your colleagues on what AI can manage – tasks that are a high-volume, highly-repeatable, low business risk. Communicate how an AI learns from real-world experience and how it will get better over time. The performance on Day 1 is not what it will be on Day 30 or 60.  AI should not be expected to be creative, have empathy or manage complex or long-form queries.

The Time is Now for AI-Powered Customer Service

You cannot afford to delay adopting an AI-powered customer experience into your organization. AI Agents improve over time, in terms of accuracy in understanding questions as well as learning how your human agents respond in various situations. Your competitors have adopted AI; it will be impossible to catch up if you don’t move fast.

Are you ready to become an internal champion for AI and transform your customer support with automation? Let’s chat about AI and chatbot tools.

For more information on customer service, visit: