“We’re proud to hang up on our customers.”

This bold statement was how a Canadian telecom exec opened his talk at a  customer experience (CX) conference I recently attended. It was an obvious attention-grabber, but the story that followed was relatable to every CX leader in the room.

The telecom had a growing customer attrition problem that was the result, in large part, of a problem at its contact center: long wait times and irate customers who, by the time they reached an agent, were at wit’s end and frustrated over even the most routine inquiries. Good CX could no longer be solved by throwing more bodies at the contact center. A wholesale change was in order, starting with a rethink of the operational problems plaguing its customer experience.

The company’s solution was to streamline its triaging process with artificial intelligence (AI)-powered bots equipped to handle a majority of routine problems like expired minutes, plan limits and service changes. When human intervention is needed (requested by the customer or when determined by a bot), all scheduling, reminders and call handling are taken care of. This approach has resulted in significantly shorter wait times and tens of million in savings, while freeing up agents for higher-value interactions. The company’s  bold move has also earned it the number-one rank in customer satisfaction among Canadian telcos for the last four quarters. 

The Hidden Component of CX 

As 5G, AI and the Internet of Things (IoT) inflict massive change on the global mobile industry, these advancements are helping the industry meet the new expectations of the digital economy. These advanced technologies are also driving the convergence of the telecommunications, media and technology industries, as well as a divergence from the traditional way content is bundled, packaged, delivered and consumed.

But the lesson learned from the example above isn’t all about smart use of digital technologies: To adapt your customer experience to digital-economy expectations (especially those of Gen Z consumers), you also need to get the operational side of your house in order. If your core isn’t strong, nothing else will be. No amount of effort placed on customer experience will move the dial significantly if it’s built on shaky ground.

The fact is, without behind-the-scenes changes to the way digital strategies are developed and deployed, hoped-for changes will not be completely realized. For example, when one of our media advertising clients recently asked how it could enhance its revenues, we answered by reframing the question: What unmet needs exist in the market, and how can the company meet the marketing goals and practices of advertisers? The answer was to build a successful self-service product to attract new advertisers.

Armed with this insight, our digital engineering team went to work, with its  pods, guilds and DevOps practices. We launched the new solution in seven weeks vs. the six months it would have taken to build traditionally. Such velocity is critical today. Amazon and Google measure the time between software releases in minutes. Yet most traditional product and technology projects take weeks to test and release new code. 

Getting Your House In Order for the Modern Economy

We recently conducted a study on how businesses across industries are succeeding with their efforts to meet modern-economy realities, particularly with the adoption of digital technologies and approaches. As it turns out, the telecommunications, media and technology industries are ahead of the average industry in many areas of digital maturity. To ensure they continue making progress in their digital excursions, we suggest they make the following assessments:

At an operational level:

  • Do we have standardized systems, processes and data in place to support core operations?
  • Do we have a platform to configure digital offerings quickly?
  • Are the appropriate digital components available on a developer platform for external partners?
  • Do we know our customers’ preferred price points and how our digital technologies can meet demand?
  • Do we have an accountability framework for our digital offerings?

At the customer experience level:

  • Have we fine-tuned our product and marketing strategy to the shifts in customer expectations and needs?
  • What services offer the most compelling value to our buyers?
  • What can we learn from our competitors’ digital efforts, and which will offer better financial outcomes?
  • How do we create a customer experience that reduces churn, increases loyalty and helps us to cross-sell while lowering costs?

The answers to these questions will help your organization ensure that both its operational and customer experience houses are in order – and that it’s ready to consider “hanging up” on customers.

For more on these topics, visit us  at Mobile World Congress in Los Angeles, where I’ll be leading a panel called Profit and Possibilities: Making Sense of the Connectivity Buzz on Tuesday, October 22, at 2 p.m.

Tiran Dagan

Tiran Dagan

Tiran Dagan is Cognizant’s Chief Digital Officer for the Communications, Media, Publishing and Marketing segments. Before joining Cognizant in 2018, he worked... Read more