How CSPs can leverage automation to deliver superior customer service (Reader Forum)

In the competition for customers’ business, communication service providers (CSPs) are emphasizing their commitment to customer service. In fact, an Ernst & Young survey discovered that 68% of global telecoms executives ranked customer experience management as a top strategic priority. And yet, once providers win customers’ business, a new set of obstacles emerge: With sprawling networks, how can CSPs manage large volumes of data and operate with agility, all while controlling costs? Moreover, how can they achieve these goals in the face of heightened industry regulations, skills shortages and rising customer expectations?

Enterprise automation software can help alleviate these pressures so that telecom workers are positioned to deliver a winning experience to customers. When leveraged by service providers, automation makes routine processes more efficient and cost-effective, freeing employees up to address customer needs sooner and more thoughtfully. Here’s how integrating automation into their customer service models can help CSPs achieve a competitive advantage:

Increase the quality of customer service

Naturally, as CSPs acquire more customers, their customer service departments experience increasing demand. This pressure is compounded by the fact that, since the pandemic started, individuals are opting to conduct business online and over the phone to avoid in-person interactions. By consequence, agents are spread thin trying to address every customer inquiry, which leaves them feeling overwhelmed and unable to deliver top-quality service.

With robotic process automation (RPA) to support their workloads though, agents are more available and energized to engage in customer-facing activities. RPA enables users to build, deploy and manage software robots that emulate how humans interact with digital systems. These robots have the potential to navigate software platforms to identify and extract data as needed, understand information on the computer screen, and perform a wide range of defined actions based on input cues.

Further, robots typically execute these tasks faster and more accurately than people do, which means employees can dedicate their valuable time to more nuanced tasks that benefit from their critical thinking.

Agents can leverage software robots on their CSPs’ websites as the first point of contact for customers, instead of fielding every inbound themselves. These robots can assess the complexity of the inquiry and determine next steps accordingly. If it’s a straightforward question, they can supply the answer instead of adding it to an agents’ queue. If the inquiry contains information deemed high value (e.g., intentions of switching to another provider), the robots can raise it to an agent for immediate attention. To then improve the quality of those conversations, robots can automatically pull up the customer’s profile so that the agent has all the necessary information available to not only quickly resolve the case, but also make strategic, personalized upselling recommendations.

Automation can also be leveraged to reduce customer churn. Typically, efforts to reduce churn are conducted retroactively; only once a customer has admitted to terminating their contract or switching to another provider does an agent step in and try to convince them otherwise. With automation, agents can create a framework for avoiding churn proactively, such as programming robots to flag when a customer contract is about to expire or a customer’s account shows an inquiry containing negative sentiment so that an agent can intervene and sway the customer’s opinion.

Manage unwieldy datasets

Vast customer networks present challenges on the back end of operations as well, which can hinder the quality of service providers deliver. As providers expand their customer bases, they accrue high volumes of information from network providers, sales representatives, engineers, and customer service representatives — all of which are coming from different sources, tend to be formatted differently, and thus are difficult to consolidate. So much unstructured data is challenging to draw insights from, and the effort it would take providers to parse through it manually is not only time-intensive, but also prone to error — causing more issues down the line.

To make data processing more efficient, CSPs can again leverage RPA to compile information from various locations and then automatically plug it into their operating systems. When Finnish telecoms provider DNA leveraged RPA to automatically update its subscription database whenever a customer made a change to their account — versus having employees doing so manually — the provider witnessed a tenfold increase in performance, with 100% accuracy for the information being recorded. Supported by RPA, employees can sooner get to work analyzing that data to inform business strategy.

CSPs compete for who can deliver the fastest service for the best cost — but they need to also pay attention to their customer service offerings if they want to retain customers and operate with agility in the long term. By transforming routine processes through automation, service providers can trim costly and time-intensive activities to free them up for more meaningful work — both internally and on the customer front.

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