This article was authored by Joseph Waring, and was originally posted on telecomasia.net.
Telcos need to find a way to do things differently and get better at reaching out to other parties.
Andrew Hamilton, a partner at Value Partners, said: "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."
He called for a mindset shift and for telcos not to view OTT apps as the enemy.
Speaking at an event in Manila on "Monetizing Data", sponsored by Elitecore Technologies, Hamilton said that 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.
Dhaval Vora, Elitecore VP of product management, noted that there is no silver bullet to creating new revenue streams, so telcos have to experiment and look at all aspects of their business.
But he said that by being able to support a two-sided business model, operators can roll out services such as 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.
But far too often, Hamilton said the only time a telco engages with a customer is when it wants to try to sell him 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 No. 1 priority as our customer have choice. Our responsibility is to achieve brand love."
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.
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. Before responsibilities that traditionally fell to the marketing and product teams now fall into the realm of customer service.
He noted with that 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, he said that accurately calculating the success of your social media activity can be difficult.
Valencia said social media is an imperative for companies, especially in the Philippines where 25% of the population is connected to a Facebook account. "Most digital natives don't have time to go straight to you, but would just Tweet or Facebook their complaint rather than wait 5-10 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 10x 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 that 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.