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The Key to Survival
Becoming a customer-centric operator.
Posted Aug 1, 2006
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The wave of change facing cable, direct broadcast satellite, and telecom service providers worldwide is forcing a reassessment of existing business models, the way organizations are structured, and the overall management of customer relationships at every level. Some of the external challenges these operators now face include the convergence of the telecoms and media industries, the commoditization of broadband Internet access, ongoing market consolidation, and the emergence of nimble new competitors not bound by the need to manage a network or a large operation and thus able to drive down prices while delivering innovative services faster. The key internal challenges of enhancing the customer experience and reducing operating costs can pull an organization in opposite directions. In response to market pressure, service providers have already invested in developing their customer management capabilities, including improved analytics, propensity models, CRM databases, and campaign management systems. However, in most cases these have been deployed in a singular or linear manner, thus moving them out of alignment with other customer-affecting capabilities. The results are inconsistent customer experiences, internal tension, and poor ROI. A more holistic customer service strategy Service providers have to respond by making significant enhancements to the range of services that they offer, and trying to find ways to make their operations more effective to ensure they can limit the erosion of existing customers, particularly the higher value segments. However, simply offering more products and services is unlikely to be enough; customers now expect more. Service providers therefore also need to have the ability to tailor services as well as the way services are delivered and supported according to individual customer needs, preferences, and circumstances. Plus, all this has to be achieved within a strategic plan that aims to reduce costs by overhauling business processes, customer service systems, and optimizing resources in addition to increasing the speed and cost-effectiveness through which providers develop, activate, and deliver new services.
To achieve new levels of flexibility and responsiveness, service providers need to completely rethink the way they market and manage their relationships with customers. Instead of being focused on products, the network, and technology, service providers must now put customers at the heart of their business. Key decision-makers within the company must consider taking a more holistic approach to the way they plan, manage, and develop their entire organization. By becoming more focused on the customer and then fully optimizing and aligning the organization to support such a strategy and related marketing efforts, your organization can create a nimble and responsive business environment that will drive customer loyalty, revenue, and profitability while reducing churn, operating costs, and bad debt. This is not only beneficial for customers and shareholders. Working in an organization that is internally well-aligned and highly responsive to customers' needs is also good for employees. The customer is king Increasingly commoditized broadband access coupled with far more reliable IP connectivity has paved the way for the emergence of a wealth of new, cheaper, and compelling services. Some examples of these are voice and advanced call features, video, sports clips, and high-speed data services, including games and business applications available at home and on the move. Convergence between the media and entertainment worlds is increasing the type and range of content now available to consumers. Consumption of this content is taking place on an ever-growing range of fixed and portable devices. For the operator this shift represents a major revenue and customer loyalty opportunity, assuming the "right" content is available when customers want it, and is automatically delivered in a format they can use. To fully exploit this business opportunity operators must team up with tech vendors that fully understand how to treat customers as individuals, rather than households, street addresses, or telephone numbers. This requires both a flexible and adaptable operational support system and service fulfillment infrastructure, a centralized information repository, and an organization that has bought into the customer-centric philosophy from top to bottom. In today's customer-oriented, multiservice, commoditized, high-bandwidth world, smart businesses know customers are the only real constant--their situation, needs, and various service providers are becoming more and more dynamic. In order to achieve the ultimate goal of developing and maintaining long-term, mutually beneficial and profitable relationships with customers, the only way forward is to become a customer-centric organization using sophisticated, future-proof platforms. By adopting a unique approach and technology operators can make a successful transition to customer centricity in a controlled manner, with accurate and shared information becoming the cornerstone of success. About the Author Joe Frost is vice president of marketing for Jacobs Rimell. Please visit www.jacobsrimell.com
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