How to approach network investment
Insights > Industry Insights

How to approach network investment

How to approach network investment to positively impact customer experience.
Rick Oatley
Key Account Manager
19 November 2020

Operations leaders have a lot on their plate and the list is growing. They’re being tasked with managing complex change within their organisation, whilst also keeping one eye on what’s happening outside the organisation.

This is especially true for the COOs of telecommunications providers, utilities, and other asset-intensive industries. The day-to-day focus may be on network performance, IT systems, and cost reduction, but executives are also being evaluated on factors like customer experience.

That’s because in the grand scheme of things, competitiveness hinges on meeting the growing expectations of customers in a world shaped by digital experiences and disruptive market forces.

Your infrastructure may underpin everything, but customers care more about how easy it is for them to connect and the quality and convenience of the services available.

Operations executives need to invest in and manage their network with the additional target of delivering excellent customer experience—or risk losing relevance.

Why does customer experience matter for service providers?

Customer experience (CX) refers to the overall impression customers have of your brand as a result of interacting with your marketing, employees, products, and services across the entire customer lifecycle. When it comes to telco and utilities service providers, the accessibility and reliability of your services obviously impacts how customers think and feel.

Almost a third of complaints about Australian telcos in early 2020 related to phone and internet problems not being fixed, or not being fixed quickly enough. Some of those outages may have been a result of devastating bushfires in the summer of 2019-20: but the cause is irrelevant to an inconvenienced customer.

Poor CX leads to significant churn—the rate at which customers stop using your service or switch to a competitor.

For instance, in the wake of highly-publicised disruptions to the Australian Vodafone network in late 2010 the company lost around 500,000 customers. Before unlimited data allowances became more common, frustration at having to pay excess usage fees often prompted customers to shop around.

Losing customers costs money and not just through lost revenue. The organisation needs to invest in additional marketing to find new ones, spend more time on set-up and service, and it contributes to an overall decrease in market share and brand reputation.

It’s not easy to impress people. Customers today are more tech-savvy, better informed, and less loyal—they’ve more options than ever before when it comes to switching service providers. Network quality combined with a great customer experience have become important differentiators in this commoditised and competitive business environment.

Is it operational gains versus customer-centricity?

Writing for Disruptive Asia, Teresa Cottam argues that telcos are rarely motivated by improved CX when investing in upgrades to their systems and instead are usually focused on reducing operational expenditure and keeping up with competitors in the technology stakes. She believes the industry needs to focus on understanding, demonstrating care, and communicating with customers, and says telcos must “meet customer needs faster and deliver change sooner.”

We know through our work with customers in asset-intensive industries that network investment decisions are complex. Organisations often have a range of objectives including:

  • Building a robust network that’s stable and functional
  • Reducing wasted time, wasted resources and, power to cut costs
  • Being able to understand usage and capacity
  • Being able to quickly identify and proactively fix issues
  • Capturing, securing, and capitalising on data about assets
  • A changing focus from infrastructure to providing digital services
  • Intelligently managing networks, such as predictive maintenance
  • Being able to leverage emerging technologies (AI, blockchain,)

Asset-intensive industries have to find a balance between investing in a network that’s advanced and cost-effective enough to be profitable and investing in features that ensure more customers have a great experience.

What’s the best approach?

Given how unforgiving unhappy customers can be, it makes sense for providers that care about CX to take a far-sighted approach.

For instance, it’s not enough to merely monitor problems and improve the efficiency of repair and maintenance work. Regardless of how many systems you put in place to alert you, if you’ve a power outage at a site your customer is already impacted.

At the other end of the spectrum, rolling out the equipment, towers, and cells to support the most cutting-edge use cases also may not deliver the kind of fundamental improvements in service that customers actually crave—in fact this kind of investment can be disruptive to existing customers.

We see two key areas where telcos and utilities should focus their approach to network investment:

  1. Putting the systems and partnerships in place to be able to operate core networks that are available and reliable (a network that works sits at the heart of great CX).
  2. Investing in systems that allow you to use assets and data generated by assets in smart and novel ways to become more proactive (thus avoiding issues that negatively impact CX in the first place).

Making these a priority permits telcos and utilities to capture better data, use that data to make strides towards truly predictive maintenance, and more cleverly deploy existing infrastructure to save on power costs. In other words, to maximise the investment you’ve already made in a network of assets so you can better deliver on customer expectations.

How to tell when you’ve successfully influenced CX?

Measuring how people feel and behave is important if you want to quantify the impact of network investments designed to improve customer experience.

There are a number of ways you might gauge improvements including: your call centre metrics (Are there fewer calls about problems? Fewer complaints?), your customer churn rate, and measures of customer satisfaction such as surveys and social listening.

A case study from consulting firm Bain shows how implementing a customer experience strategy based on the Net Promoter Score® system helped one telco to understand benchmarks, establish feedback loops, and boost communication and change management. By doing so they were able to increase loyalty and reduce churn: their NPS increased by 50%.

Investing in customer experience is worthwhile

Customer experience is an important metric for organisations that manage assets. Being able to satisfy, delight, and retain customers over the long-term is closely tied to operational performance, driven by network investment.

While many factors and touch points influence CX, it’s fundamental for networks to perform as expected—when they’re needed—if you want happier customers.

If your challenge is to create a more robust network that enables you to be more responsive to customers’ needs, accesstel offers strategic guidance and a safe pair of hands when it comes to reliable and innovative asset management solutions.

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