CRM in Telecommunications: Vertical Markets Spotlight

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Companies in the telecommunications space today are under more pressure than ever to improve customer service, reduce churn, provide targeted services to customers, and achieve other data-driven benefits, according to Infinity Business Insights, which expects the CRM market for this industry to grow at a compound annual rate of 9.7 percent through 2030.

This sustained growth is also being driven by the increasing competition among telecom operators. Consumers and businesses alike have numerous telecommunications options available to them, though not all telcos serve all channels and customer types. “To continue to improve CX and retain customers, telecom companies have gradually adapted to market trends that are pushing toward restructuring offer models and integrating digital tools—first and foremost CRM—into customer care processes,” Doxee executives acknowledged in a recent blog post.

“Business leaders realize that delivering an exceptional, memorable customer experience at any time, from anywhere, is vital to staying competitive and nurturing long-term customers,” adds Amory Somers Vine, director of customer experience at Expereo, a company that provides internet infrastructure technology. “The big question is whether telco organizations have their CRM systems and processes set up for success. For many, the challenges of multiple CRM systems, disparate data pools, and distributed knowledge sources will hamper progress to harness a single view of the customer and enable AI and automation driven improvements.”

Another industrywide trend is the move among consumers and businesses to cut the cord, abandoning wired, landline phones for more mobile devices, across a wider number of platforms and form factors.

Nearly everyone has at least one mobile phone, while many people have multiple phones that today they use for accessing the internet, sending text and video messages, connecting to social media channels, and even making the occasional phone call. This range of services leads to an even higher number of customer interactions through telcos’ call centers.

Telecom companies are focusing more on their CRM systems as connectivity becomes increasingly important for their customers, Vine says further.

“CRM software offers many benefits for telecom companies,” says Nikolaus Kimla, CEO of Pipeliner CRM. “By analyzing the customer data in the CRM, telecoms can identify upsell and cross-sell opportunities and provide targeted services to those customers. This could include the right plans and add-ons based on usage patterns. A CRM with a robust product catalog feature is critical, as is the ability to quickly view the customer’s current products, services, and add-ons and see the gaps and opportunities.”

Kimla adds that customer experience and satisfaction are other key advantages of using a robust CRM that gathers all the interactions, be it sales or customer service. A complete record of all interactions (emails, calls, and online meetings) allows for more informed communications and seamless, frictionless customer experiences.

Another factor impacting CRM use in the telecom market that isn’t a factor in many other markets is government regulation, which continues to hold telcos and internet companies responsible for how they and interrelated third parties collect, track, and use customer data.

“The increase in regulations regarding privacy and consent means that companies [in this vertical] must have accurate, clean customer data,” Kimla says. “They need a single source of truth—one centralized database that may take inputs from multiple systems but is the central hub for real-time customer information.”

They also need a consolidated communications framework for interacting with customers quickly and easily, especially given the sheer number of people and businesses that could be using their services. One company could have millions of business and personal accounts across the country.

“Many businesses are not using all the communications channels made available by today’s technology to their full potential and are missing out on opportunities to make real connections and drive customer engagement,” says Savinay Berry, executive vice president of product and engineering at Vonage, a communications and contact center platforms provider that was acquired by Ericsson for $6.2 billion in mid-2022. The transaction builds on Ericsson’s stated intent to expand globally in wireless enterprise, offering customers an increased share of a market expected to be valued at $700 billion by 2030.


Key to Vonage’s success has been its direct interface within many CRM platforms, as evidenced by its success with Vonage Conversation for Salesforce, a configurable omnichannel messaging app that enables businesses to communicate with customers directly via SMS, MMS, and WhatsApp from the Salesforce platform, while blending bot and Vonage Contact Center (VCC) agent interactions.

Telcos’ direct interfaces between CRM and other systems don’t end there.

Many telcos have very complicated billing, particularly when there is a mix of basic charges, roaming, lines added, lines deleted, data charges, taxes, fees, and more. This is another area where telcos are leveraging their CRM systems.

Last fall, Salesforce and Aria Systems entered a strategic partnership on billing and customer management. The software-as-a-service (SaaS) offer, described as a “concept-to-care solution for billing and customer management,” draws on Aria’s experience with AI for CRM with generative AI features from Salesforce Einstein added to personalize customer touchpoints.

In mid-March of this year, Aria took the capability a step further, launching Aria Billing Studio, which integrates the billing capabilities with Salesforce’s latest Billing Inquiry Manager offering for complete, end-to-end revenue management and generative AI support within the Salesforce platform.

“Aria Billing Studio enhances the Salesforce experience by simplifying and accelerating deployment of streamlined revenue management processes,” said Brendan O’Brien, Aria’s chief innovation officer, in a statement at the time. “It revolutionizes the way Salesforce Industries users interact with billing systems, as they can now access all Aria billing data and all advanced Aria billing functionality, while never having to leave the Salesforce platform.”

Vishok Persaud, CEO of ENet, Guyana’s leading telecom and media provider, has been a strong advocate for the integration. “Aria’s seamless integration with Salesforce has brought together our full revenue cycle. It has increased our efficiency by simplifying the most common customer interaction—billing,” he said in a statement.

Automated workflows are another CRM component that is becoming a must-have for the telecom industry, given its high volume of customer interactions, according to Kimla. “Automation reduces errors and eliminates many routine tasks, helping all customer-facing staff focus on more high-value activities.”

Vine says Expereo has moved from having many disjointed systems to one business architecture with the CRM system as the hub for telcos’ end-to-end business with customers, including everything from initial communications to marketing to billing and everything in between.

“For us, the evolution has been ensuring that our CRM covers the full lead-to-cash life cycle for our business,” Vine says. “Previously, we would sell a circuit to a customer, the service delivery team would then have to go to a different system to handle service activation and delivery.”

Such a system left too many possibilities for something going wrong or falling through the cracks, which is much less likely with the CRM system as a central hub, according to Vine. “You have to be able to see the context and the entire client journey in your CRM. If you’re dealing with an outage for a customer, for example, you want to know if it’s going to be a credit issue or anything else that affects invoicing and the contract with the customer.”

By centralizing everything in the CRM system, Expereo has been able to improve delivery time of products and services by 30 percent, according to Vine. And the company can deliver 20 percent more services without additional resources.

“I think this is a real point of differentiation for us,” Vine says.

“As a cloud-native organization, we believe our CRM investments and strategy are key to our early-adopter ability to embrace AI and system automation,” Vine says. “Over the past decade we have built a unique platform, with a single CRM system and data lake, covering our full customer journey from lead to cash. Our approach to CRM means customer insights are more easily visible, making the human-to-human interactions more meaningful and helpful to customers but also enabling us to roll out AI and system automation fast and effectively.”

However, for all of the advances that Expereo and other telcos have made with their CRM systems, some firms still have disjointed systems, including some with multiple CRM systems. Part of the problem is the high number of mergers and acquisitions that occur throughout the industry and an ability to then move everything to a single CRM system, according to Vine. “One of the greatest challenges for telcos is the amount of legacy infrastructure and toggling together of multiple systems.”

Other telcos have yet to understand how they can maximize the benefits of their CRM systems. Many mistakenly view CRM solely as a contact management database rather than as a strategic tool in the customer journey and experience, where automation, personalization, product gap analysis, and more can improve efficiency and lead to better service, Kimla states.

Vine sees 2024 as the year that Expereo more fully embraces AI to enhance communication between agents and customers, provide agents with more complete customer information, and integrate voice communication into the CRM system.

Like Expereo, other telecom companies will be using an increasing amount of AI, including generative AI, in their CRM systems in 2024 and beyond, Kimla predicts. 

Phillip Britt is a freelance writer based in the Chicago area. He can be reached at spenterprises1@comcast.net.

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