Mindset shift essential in new world telecoms

Telcos need to find a way to do things differently and get better at reaching out to other parties, according to Andrew Hamilton, a partner at Value Partners
Speaking at a data monetization event in Manila sponsored by Elitecore Technologies, Hamilton called for a mindset shift from telcos when it comes to over-the-top (OTT) applications. In short, operators should not view the apps, or players, as the enemy.
"There is no point fighting the OTT players. You have to work with them and ride the wave of third-party apps. Telcos have to open up their distribution networks -- but it has to be very simple for them to use."
Hamilton said most operators have been poor at marketing and execution on new business models, and should extend their offerings to fill the gaps the handset and internet giants don't cover.
However, Dhaval Vora, vice president of product management at Elitecore, noted that there is no silver bullet to creating new revenue streams. That means telcos must experiment, and look at all aspects of their business. Being able to support a two-sided business model will enable operators to roll out services including smart roaming plans, 3G/Wi-Fi plans and parental controls, which can boost loyalty by improving the customer's experience. Some can save customers money while others can generate additional incremental revenue for the operator, Vora said.
Hamilton countered by pointing out that, far too often, the only time a telco engages with a customer is when it wants to try to sell them something.
In a panel discussion on customer experience, Earl Valencia, Smart Communications' head of corporate development and innovation, explained that the customer experience covers every thing from the discovery of a service until disconnection. He said telcos need to learn from best practices such as Starbucks, where people want to hang out in the stores, and car insurance companies where, if a customer disconnects, they end by saying ‘hope you consider us again when you think of insurance.’
"We must have the humility to make the customer and their experience our number one priority, as our customers have choice. Our responsibility is to achieve brand love,” Valencia said.
Glenn Alvia, Bayan Telecommunications' enterprise business group head, agreed that the customer experience is a combination of all touch points, from sales and marketing to operations and back-end support to customer support. “It is not defined from a single standpoint, but from a systemic point of view – all related systems working together to deliver the requirements of the customer," he said.
Social media has role to play
An increasingly essential part of the expanded customer service view has become social networking. Alvia said it's no longer an isolated section of the business but part of a larger customer-engagement strategy. Responsibilities that have traditionally fallen to the marketing and product teams have now entered the realm of customer service. He noted that, with social media, the company can get feedback from the target audience without incurring high research costs, and can help it reach market segments that traditional marketing may not have been able to tap into.
On the downside, there are security and privacy issues that must be addressed. In addition, accurately calculating the success of your social media activity can be difficult, Alvia noted.
Valencia said social media is an imperative for companies. “Most digital natives don't have time to go straight to you, but would just Tweet or Facebook their complaint rather than wait five to ten minutes for the agent on the line. This is the new world, and we must adapt to it as telecom companies."
He noted that it's said that anything bad is multiplied ten times in social media, but it is also a blessing when you do something good. Operators should assign a team to focus on addressing social media concerns as this is the new call center.
Hamilton, defining the customer experience as the sum total of the customer’s interaction with the devices, apps, staff and services that the customer perceives as linked in any way with the service provider, noted the virtual experience is driven by the adoption of other peoples' experiences reflected in the customers' selected social media. "The combination of these two elements creates a highly integrated and volatile environment that service providers are continuing to find new ways to measure and react to in a timely manner," he said.
Many service providers are becoming far more proactive in the virtual experience area in creating, promoting and funding special interest communities that help them get ahead of the curve on focused areas of customer expectations and trends, Hamilton said.