Changing industry dynamics, increased competition, and a historically negative reputation for fair and efficient customer support is forcing incumbent telecommunications providers to reconsider their business, and more importantly, their customers in a new light, as noted recently in Forbes.
Competition from the likes of Amazon and Netflix, who provide both world-class services and customer support, continue to siphon customers away because the incumbents inconsistently apply the core dimensions CX – empathy, ease, relevance and orchestration – as they design and operationalize customer support experiences. As incumbents look to combat this competitive pressure, it is paramount that Product, Business, Technology, and Support teams work collaboratively across the entire CX ecosystem to design and orchestrate personalized and responsive customer support (see Fig. 1).
Figure 1: Customer experience ecosystem
The importance of cross-functional design collaboration is highlighted by the recent focus incumbents have placed on applying smart technology solutions to the problem of creating and orchestrating customer support that is both personalized and responsive. The likes of Comcast, AT&T and Cox Communications are building out sophisticated home health and network health solutions that provide real-time diagnostics, creating the opportunity to proactively communicate around and/or resolve customer issues.
This emphasis on smart technology solutions brings into focus the interrelationship between Product, Technology, Business, and Support functions, which have traditionally been characterized by silos and misaligned priorities. As technology becomes integral to both the top and bottom line for incumbent providers, the question becomes how can better alignment be forged cross-functionally within these functions to design and orchestrate significantly better customer support that better allows incumbents to compete with Amazon and Netflix?
How to Create the Right Support Model
The key to better customer support lies in defining a collaborative design process that brings all of the key players to the table early in the product design process – Product, Business, Technology, Customer Care, and Field Services. Importantly, early engagement ensures that enabling business process and technology solutions are considered in the creation of an easy, relevant and well-orchestrated customer experience that puts the customer first and drives towards meaningful business results, namely customer retention and revenue growth. As incumbents develop new initiatives designed to innovate and drive growth and retention, they must make major strides towards the following:
- Break down the silos: Orchestration of the necessary customer support requires closer collaboration and partnership across multiple functions – Marketing, Sales, Field Operations, Technology Operations, Customer Care, etc. To orchestrate, incumbents must bring these boundary partners together as new products are being designed, which requires intentionality, top-down buy-in and advocacy from executive leadership, and visibility across functional strategic plans and roadmaps.
- Align and design: The cross-functional nature of orchestrating the support experience requires reduced friction and increased agility between all stakeholders on the Product-Business-Technology-Support continuum. Once functional silos are broken down, the resulting alignment enables the ability to design customer support that places the customer at the center of the experience and which is built on the foundations of ease, relevancy and coordination.
Looking beyond the obvious benefits to the customer, cross-functional alignment provides the following benefits to each key stakeholder group along the Product-Business-Technology-Support continuum:
- Product: In addition to reduced friction and more agility in engaging with the business, there is reduced risk to delivery timelines since customer support is (and rightly so) part of the critical path to product launch.
- Business: The business is afforded the opportunity to choose the right technology platforms in alignment with its over-arching strategy. The ability to marry business capabilities to technology platforms, and schedule delivery between platforms, also follows from cross-functional collaboration.
- Technology: A well-defined support experience and clear articulation of how technology needs to support the operational model means less duplication of development efforts, regrettable work, and the associated administrative and economic costs.
- Support: Clear definition of a cross functional support model enables the clear definition of performance metrics with which to measure the efficacy of customer support. This in turn can result in support model refinement, which benefits both the customer and the efficiency with which the support model operates.
As incumbent telecommunications providers look to combat the increasing pressure of customer demands for great products and service, it is critical for them now more than ever to break down functional silos and put cross-functional design teams into place that put a premium on incorporating the support experience and model early into the design of innovative, technology-driven products and services. Otherwise, the ever-increasing expectation of customers for more personalized and responsive support will drive customers into the eagerly awaiting arms of the disruptors who understand the importance of both high-quality products and world-class customer support.