The head of customer experience in the CX Innovations Lab at Optus, Charles Weiser, this morning admitted telcos operate in a “shrinking market”, but said it can work to their advantage when it comes to enhancing customer experience.
Speaking at the IAA Thought Leadership Forum this morning, Weiser said, “Telcos are legacy businesses in a shrinking market selling things people no longer want. Which is in some ways good news because we’re a burning platform. And the burning platform does serve the customer.”
The challenge, Weiser said, is how do Optus team members create the right experience for each customer – as well as working out what that experience is because there’s no one-size-fits-all journey.
“We’re flying the plane but changing the engine at the same time,” he said.
“For us the challenge is ensuring that we can have the right conversations and the right capabilities in place. Right now, we’re a lot of engineers, we’re a lot of technocrats, but we’re not really about customer service as yet but our hearts are in the right place.
“Digitisation can be a threat as well as an ally. So, we need to find the right motivations for people to take this on board.
“For us when we started this journey two to three years ago, we’ve spent $2-3 billion already on networks, another $7-800,000 on CRM systems and capability uplifting, so for us it’s about a five-year journey not a quick fix.”
Weiser said while Optus’ business has previously been to “sell stuff”, the job has now become all about creating “an ‘always on’ experience, 24/7”.
“You might not know it but you check your mobile phone on average 190 times a day,” he said.
“You might not know it but we actually have three times the growth in video streaming, and in fact we spend over a billion dollars a year in our network and we still can’t keep up with demand. It’s an arms race.
“So, for us the job to be done is moving from a journey of selling stuff to, how can we keep you ‘always on’? How can you watch or interact 24/7 anytime you want it, on any screen and in any way? And for us, this change is unprecedented because there’s no working structure for that, there’s actually no single customer journey.
“It’s about creating an environment where we are the trusted adviser in a digitally global world which is something we’ve not done before. And doing that at scale with 10 million customers is a challenge we’re just now coming into.”
Weiser said Optus – and all other products – can no longer compare themselves to their key competitors like Telstra or Vodafone, but rather must look at every single brand their customer engages with in addition to them.
“We don’t look at the experiences we provide versus our key competitors,” Weiser said.
“We compare ourselves to what our customers compare us to, people like Amazon and Netflix – highly personalised, always in the background, continually moving. That’s the gold standard.
“And we’re still figuring it out but that to us is our ideal of what we strive for.”
He also admitted that the telco hasn’t “planned right” for the user experience when a network is down.
“On the technology side where a lot of things are out of control, we need predictions when there’s mass service disruptions or when storms are going to happen like in Northern Queensland during the summer.
“Our challenge is to use our predictive analytics – and we’re doing something on AI around when storms are and the usage of our networks – to gear up to be proactive.
“The second thing is to find ways to hear more from the customer. Not just social teams to look at the problem but to build communities to ask customers to help solve problems. Because customers are actually invested in our brand, as are employees, so we want to have that collaborative network doing work for each other.”