This Industry Viewpoint was authored by Joshua Feast, CEO and co-founder of Cogito
Between customer complaints and requests for perks, discounts, and upgrades, telecommunications contact centers face unique challenges. Frontline agents often serve as the first point of contact for many customers, making them the face and voice of the company. In such a competitive landscape, where one bad customer service interaction could result in the consumer switching service providers, telecommunications teams must figure out what to do to stay ahead of the rest.
To be successful and maintain and grow the organization, telecom providers must acknowledge the pain points they endure—a highly competitive landscape, the churn of representatives, and the wide range of directions any call can take—then identify a way to operationalize excellence with artificial intelligence (AI).
Pain Point #1: The Many Options Across Today’s Competitive Landscape
There are over 900 wireless telecommunications businesses in the US as of 2022, alongside some of the bigger players like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile, all of which give plenty of options for customers to select from. Often only needing a single provider for all telecom needs, the competitive landscape is a battleground for fighting for wallet share. This is only heightened by the somewhat generic offerings you get from telecoms’ services, making it increasingly difficult for customers to differentiate one from the other.
As self-service and selection becomes easier for customers, telecom companies have invariably made it easier to switch providers at a moment’s notice. As a result, companies must focus on differentiating services through customer experiences. When customers call with a problem, issue, or concern, those that create memorable, positive connections will stand out from the rest.
Pain Point #2: Churn of Representatives
The turnover rate for frontline contact center employees is high at 58%, with some verticals seeing turnover reach as high as 85%. In 2021, Indeed ranked customer service agents on its list of the top 12 jobs with the highest turnover rate. What’s more, according to the Association of Talent’s 2021 Development State of the Industry Report, it costs organizations an average of $1,267 to train employees. Additionally, it costs contact centers $10K-$20K to hire and train a new agent. With such high turnover, this is a costly feat.
Not only does turnover impact a company’s bottom line, it also makes it increasingly difficult for organizations to maintain a consistent brand image, service experience, and high employee morale—an important factor to attract and retain talent.
Pain Point #3: The Wide-Range of Directions a Call Can Take
Telecom contact center agents never know what call they’ll be dealt, whether it’s the customer’s emotional state or the problem they need solved. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies even reported an increase in customers calling contact centers to fulfill their need for companionship. The variability of complaints and interactions creates complicated conversations that need to be handled effectively, personably, and positively to keep customers engaged and loyal. Today’s most effective telecoms find a balance between strong service training and supportive technology to overcome these challenges.
Moving Beyond the Pain Points to Operationalize Excellence
Combining the competitive landscape, high turnover, and the varied customer interactions that come with working in a contact center results in a difficult working environment with high expectations on both sides of the equation. Telecom providers must find a better way forward—prioritizing the employee experience and operationalizing excellence from the inside-out to improve CX. More specifically, identifying the right tech stack is needed to move the needle for employees and customers. According to a recent Gallup survey, a positive employee experience reduces turnover by 18% in high-turnover organizations and 43% in low-turnover organizations.
When considering the technology landscape, telecom providers will find success with artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies. AI technology has advanced dramatically over the last decade, now able to effectively collect and interpret human-aware data from customer interactions in real-time. Organizations can use this data across the contact center to help inform agents of the customer experience and provide more consistent feedback. Historically, call feedback has taken hours or days to receive after calls, lacking the contextual insights that allow agents to improve interactions. However, AI has become a source of real-time insights that make it easier and more efficient for employees to do their jobs and create feedback loops with supervisors to know when additional support is needed.
At the end of the day, telecom providers need to understand that 76% of customers will consider leaving a brand after one bad experience. Expectations are only growing. Not only can technology improve the customer experience by equipping teams to handle the most complex interactions, but it improves the employee experience by providing a guiding hand needed to stay ahead of the competition. With AI, the overall organization, employee experience, and customer experience can experience winning outcomes.
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