Andy Hicks, Research Director, EMEA Telco 2025, IDC
In the research we've been doing on customer experience in telcos (including the materials we have produced for Oracle), we keep running up against a central fact: there's no such thing as "the customer." Rather, increasingly there are many types of customers, each with its own set of needs and expectations.
As with many things with telcos, customer experience has historically focused on consumers. They are a big market, and until relatively recently, consumers didn't have anywhere else to go. But over-the-top providers quickly started to usurp the primary customer relationship from the telcos by providing more innovative services more cheaply. To win them back, communications SPs are improving service quality and slashing service time to market, but are also pouring money and energy into the soft side of customer experience by training customer-facing personnel, redesigning customer journeys (or, more often, consciously designing them for the first time), and implementing a better view of the customer's experience by integrating systems and improving analytics.
It's understandable that the consumer market was the primary focus for so long: consumers still make up the bulk of customer relationships, and historically consumed the same handful of services. But as telcos focus more on the enterprise market as a source of higher-margin services and better competitive position against over-the-top players, they are realizing that they must design experiences for many more roles and services than they're used to.
Enterprise experiences must be designed for employees in different departments, line managers, service procurement administrators, and increasingly for the enterprise's own customers in a B2B2X relationship. Moreover, all those customers expect an experience that matches the best they receive in their own lives as consumers. The reverse is true as well: in their personal lives, whenever they manage a family plan or administer their smart home remotely, consumers are performing functions that resemble enterprise functions, and that the telcos can design based on their experience with enterprise best practices.
Then there's the small and medium business segment. Telcos have struggled with this area for years: taken as a whole, it's a large market, but each individual account is so low margin that it is hard to serve it efficiently. New technology may finally be the key to cracking the SMB market: automation will help telcos provide services more efficiently, and artificial intelligence will help them serve SMBs with a full set of features and capabilities without involving the contact center.
And there's another new class of customers: in a sense, the Internet of Things is making all those "things" your customers as well. Of course, they won't be calling your care representatives, but they will still be interacting with your ICT infrastructure, will still be subject to SLAs, and will require segmented experiences. Your CRM systems, therefore, will increasingly have to interface with OSS and other management systems in real time. And while you're managing devices, contracts, entitlements, and accounts, you will have to prove to the humans that you have given their things the proper experience.
Serving all these customers requires a telco to have systems that can not only manage the complexity, but increasingly that will use AI to find new patterns in customer behavior, whether identifying customers that are about to churn or identifying needs that can be addressed with a new feature or service. It is impossible to fully anticipate all future needs, so customer experience transformation will never truly end. Telcos should therefore create an environment that makes continuing transformation easier to achieve, supported by a truly digital, cloud-native platform. Handled well, this can enable customer experience winners to extend beyond their communications business and become heavyweight players in the broader digital marketplace.
About Andy Hicks
Andy Hicks is a research director in IDC's EMEA Telecommunications group. He oversees research on the services and information technology consumed by communications service providers in the region, as well as their portfolio strategies and operational models. He increasingly writes on Digital Transformation in the telco, examining how best to change technology to improve business results. He has also written on mobility, emerging markets telecommunications, and enterprise services. @AndyHicks and https://www.linkedin.com/in/andyhicks