Gone are the days of brick-and-mortar music stores and video rental shops. In today’s entertainment ecosystem, digital-first brands like Apple, Netflix, and Hulu dominate the niches once occupied by TV and DVD rentals, while high-growth online subsidiaries have taken over many other media companies. Meanwhile, as mobile phones with high-resolution cameras become ubiquitous, more and more people are posting their photos and videos to person-to-person platforms like Instagram and YouTube.
The telecommunications industry is undergoing similar disruption. In a 2015 survey by market research firm Ovum, a majority of telecom marketers cited “new products and services causing market fragmentation” as the top force driving competition in their industry. A majority also cited “investments in improving the customer experience” as the top strategic response to these rising threats.
To find out how companies in telecom, media, and entertainment are working to set themselves apart in 2017, I caught up with Chris Jenkins, Adobe’s director of business development for the telecom and media & entertainment industries, for the first instalment of a new five-part series on customer experience in 2017.
During his time at Adobe, Chris has developed custom marketing solutions to help telecom customers and partners increase engagement and revenue. Prior to this, Chris served as head of global customer experience measurement and continuous improvement for Vodafone, where he defined global strategy and vision for customer data, and headed the Global NPS programme for end-to-end cross-channel customer experience. Throughout those roles, he’s remained focused on using data to improve customer satisfaction across all touchpoints.
JB: Chris, how do you define the customer experience in telecom and media &entertainment?
CJ: I define it as the sum of all the ways in which customers communicate with one another and interact with content, across all platforms and touchpoint.
JB: I like that definition. How has customer experience changed in these industries over the last few years?
CJ: Both telecom and media & entertainment have become defined by a proliferation of options, in ways we scarcely could have imagined five or 10 years ago. Consumers are connected via a growing range of screens and touchpoints and they expect compelling, unified experiences. Meanwhile, companies are facing a flood of real-time data from devices, servers, and the cloud; most of which they’re still learning to use effectively. And as core businesses erode, companies are racing to remain relevant in a digital-first landscape where agile new competitors appear almost every month.
JB: What about this changing competitive landscape makes customer experience so essential for success?
CJ: It boils down to two main issues. First, customers are demanding more control over their entertainment. A 2016 survey by Leichtman Research Group found that two million households unsubscribed from cable in 2015. Viewers are also skipping at least 86 percent of ads, making it increasingly difficult to monetise media in traditional ways, so many companies are forced to create customer experiences that can be monetised. Second, now that just about every telecom and entertainment disruptor provides access to the same basic products and services offered by traditional providers, it’s becoming almost impossible to differentiate oneself on that basis alone, which means companies have to use their existing customer data to provide better experiences, and set themselves apart in that way. In Adobe’s 2014 Econsultancy Survey on Digital Marketing in the Telecom Sector, a full 72 percent of telecom executives cited customer service as the primary area in which they planned to differentiate themselves over the coming years.
JB: What are the major challenges faced by telecom, media, and entertainment providers who recognise the need to address those issues?
CJ: One of the biggest challenges is that of unifying data, marketing focus, priorities, and key performance indicators (KPIs) across departments. Many large telecom, media, and entertainment companies are split into mobile, Internet, cable, and other separate divisions, many of which store their customer data in incompatible platforms. These companies are going up against new competitors who adapt every call and website visit around each customer’s past behaviour. Traditional companies are falling behind in terms of customer satisfaction, because customers can see clearly that they’re not getting the quality of experience they’d get from a company that takes personalisation seriously. But this wealth of multichannel data also offers a huge opportunity for larger companies who can integrate it, derive insights from it, and use those insights to deliver unified, personalised experiences across every device.
JB: What’s an example of a media or entertainment company that’s recently set itself apart in terms of customer experience?
CJ: Time Warner Cable recently used data to overcome some major challenges in its sales and customer relationship management (CRM) processes. The company already had a wealth of first-, second-, and third-party customer data, but it was struggling to personalise and optimise customer experiences and campaigns across all its digital properties. The company adopted a central, scalable marketing platform that enabled it to integrate more than 100 CRM data points into visitor profiles, improving the relevancy of its content and offers—a change that netted it a 49 percent increase in new conversions and an improved customer satisfaction score.
JB: It’s interesting to note that none of those improvements involved changes in the company’s actual services or products, just integration of existing data to deliver more consistent experiences.
CJ: That’s exactly right. And large telecom companies have been achieving similar results just by using data to improve customer experiences. For example, Swisscom recently faced the challenge of improving visitor experience and staff efficiency in its call centre. By applying analytics to its customer behavioural data, the company gained insights into the paths customers took through the self-service channel, and the exact points where those customers encountered friction. By addressing those hang-ups, Swisscom increased the speed of delivery of new information and services by 25 percent, lowered web management costs by 20 percent, and boosted portal conversions by as much as 150 percent—all of this, again, just by acting on existing customer data and providing a smoother experience for callers.
JB: So in a world where just about every telecom and media & entertainment company is providing many of the same essentials, the difference really comes down to the level of personal service each customer receives, and the seamlessness of that experience across screens?
CJ: Precisely. And many large, established companies already have the data they need to provide that experience. They just need to integrate it across departments, and use it to obtain customer insights their competitors don’t have. That’s how the most successful companies are going to stand out in 2017.
JB: That’s a great sum-up, Chris. Thanks for giving us some clearer insight into this year’s challenges and opportunities in telecom, media, and entertainment customer service.
Thanks for reading the first part in this five-part series on the trends that will define the customer experience successes of 2017. If you’re ready to set your own company apart from the competition in this new experience-first world, we at Adobe are here to help.