Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

Early answering machine. (Photo:

Early answering machine. (Photo:

By Rob van den Dam

For years, Communications Service Providers (CSPs) dictated the products and services consumers would pay for and adopt. The problem is, they weren’t always the most creative or innovative. In more recent times, the more interesting services such as free video, television and messaging served over traditional networks, have come from so-called, over-the-top (OTT) providers like Skype or What’s App.

In the process, the CSP has largely been relegated to middleman status. But that’s about to change.

CSPs are at a tipping point. Just as the broadcast and media industries have built robust businesses by aggregating audiences that are attractive to advertisers and then extracting fees for providing access to these audiences, it is time for CSPs to look for similar opportunities.

One of the greatest assets of the CSP is its treasure trove of customer data. However most are not using it to deepen their customer knowledge. Only 30 percent of telecommunications executives believe they have a high level of customer understanding, according to a new IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) study, Restoring Connections.

The key finding from this comprehensive study – which combined interviews with telecommunications executives, with consumer surveys in 35 countries and secondary research – is that is that CSPs must rebalance their priorities to reflect the growing importance of the customer experience. To find the nuggets of information buried in mountains of data and facilitate communication with customers, CSPs should focus on smarter capabilities in the areas of big data and analytics, social media and social analytics.

According to the 22,000 consumers we surveyed, CSPs need to focus on providing stellar customer service. More than half consider their providers “average to poor” in a host of even basic services, including billing and customer interaction. It is difficult to build trust if CSPs are not able to provide assurances about the quality of basic services.

Rob van den Dam, IBV Global Telecommunications Industry Leader

Rob van den Dam, IBV Global Telecommunications Industry Leader

In other words, CSPs need to work on standing out in the crowd. They should differentiate a type and quality of customer experience by establishing an enduring idea they believe in.  They should consider a business strategy that will successfully deliver a   seamless experience across multiple channels. Only 44 percent of the consumers we surveyed were to some extent pleased with their provider’s omnichannel experience.

It’s time for CSPs to turn the tide. Becoming a successful customer experience company requires a strong executive leadership that passionately drives the vision and embeds it into structure, processes, measures and incentives, making customer experience a core net of the organization’s culture.

To learn more about this IBM Institute for Business Value study here.

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