The telco sector has an image problem. It is often viewed with a certain amount of skepticism by customers as it tries to improve customer experiences (CX). While its technology solutions are vital to peoples' lives and should represent real opportunities to forge ever deeper connections with customers, the sector often comes up short.
The reasons are many: An over-focus on customer acquisition, not retention; a lack of agility compared to digital-native companies; and a lack of digital touchpoints in this digital-first era (to name but a few).
The result? A high level of churn with fickle, digitally adept customers skeptical about telcos at best, and at worst, just plain distrustful.
Here's how WhatsApp Business can help change that negative perception through customer messaging.
How telcos are aiming to change negative customer perceptions
The good news is that the telco sector has realized there's a problem. According to Telecoms CEM 2020 Investment Trends, 60% of telco head honchos surveyed plan to spend over $500,000 to improve customer interactions via CX management solutions.
According to Shanna Pedersen, Head of CX Corporate at British Telecom, such a realignment in priorities has already had a profound impact on her company: “We now have a culture where 'closing the loop' is just as important as 'closing a sale,' with a recognition that they are inextricably linked."
Reach out to customers on a channel they trust
But where should those extra CX bucks actually be spent? According to Telecoms CEM 2020, 50% of respondents place digital customer experience as one of their top-three spend priorities — but selecting digital channels best suited to delivering great CX experiences is essential. A great place to start is with the world's most popular messaging platform, WhatsApp:
- 1.6 billion people in over 180 countries use the messaging app.
- People send more than 65 billion messages via WhatsApp every day.
- 80% of messages sent via WhatsApp are viewed within five minutes.
In an era where consumer attention is divided between so many digital channels, WhatsApp remains the consistent leader, relied on by its users to deliver a trusted service, day and night. Businesses are increasingly leveraging the WhatsApp Business API to reach customers on their preferred channel. In turn, this enriches CX programs, deepening consumer relations, and driving up retention rates and revenues.
How WhatsApp Business transforms customer experience
WhatsApp Business' core strength is its ability to create conversational CX, where telcos can interact with opted-in consumers on a one-to-one basis across the five key stages of the customer's journey. Well, that's the pitch, but how can telcos implement WhatsApp in the real world so the messaging platform delivers on its potential?
Stage #1: Awareness
To begin the roll out of WhatsApp, telcos should re-introduce themselves to digitally adept customers by providing them with multiple, mobile-friendly entry points to the platform. For instance:
- Paid awareness for mobile products/services on channels such as Facebook and Instagram ads that click straight through to WhatsApp.
- Organic awareness on offline channels; these can include product packaging, billboards, QR codes, and IVR deflection.
- Organic awareness on online channels including organic SERP (Search Engine Results Pages) listings for the Contact Us page, and campaigns with Google Ads.
- WhatsApp buttons on the company website that, once clicked, automatically opens the WhatsApp app; this will allow customers to immediately start chatting with a live agent/chatbot.
Stage #2: Consideration
WhatsApp is ideal for identifying leads and boosting customer acquisition rates, enabling telcos to:
- Respond more quickly to prospects who want to learn more about a particular mobile product, call plan or customer care plan such as device insurance.
- Elevate customer experience using rich-media messaging that can include, say, a map to a nearby store to view a potential mobile device purchase in person.
- Alternatively, share product or service links (with a purchase option) in seconds — once a prospect has expressed an interest — to help seal the deal.
Stage #3: Purchase
Telcos can personalize and streamline CX, growing user engagement by delivering critical purchase and account updates to customers. For instance:
- Reach opted-in clients with timely, important messages through templated notifications.
For example, if the client has just landed in a foreign country, send a notification reminding them they can purchase an overseas roaming bolt-on with a single click.
- Deploy rich media messages, including PDFs and images, of mobile devices or call plan payment options customers are interested in to make a greater impact.
Stage #4: Care
WhatsApp Business takes the burden off telcos' customer services, freeing up live agents to focus on servicing more complex care issues, which can reduce operational costs significantly. For instance:
- Automate and personalize responses to typical, often repetitive, customer queries by integrating chatbot functionality into the platform.
For example, WhatsApp responses can include updates on the status of payments, remaining mobile contract running times, and much more.
- Leave service agents to deal with scenarios where human intervention is required, such as clarification about a mobile phone billing issue, handling refund requests, or dealing with a report of device theft.
Stage #5: Retention
Once customers have opted in for the WhatsApp service, it opens up a myriad of upsell/cross-sell opportunities for telcos to leverage. For instance:
- Send out alerts to opted-in customers when their contract is about to end, for instance, offering a new personalized cellular and tariff bundle tailored to the customer's existing usage patterns (see below for more on this).
- Cross-sell related products/services during the purchase phase, such as essential mobile device accessories.
How WhatsApp aces backend integration
WhatsApp Business is designed to integrate with existing enterprise systems such as CRM. This ensures any interactions made via the messaging platform can be personalized based on the customer's previous history with the company.
As well as full CRM and ERP integration, other essential enterprise systems can be incorporated, including payment processing and customer care ticketing systems.
Combined, the WhatsApp Business API offers the flexibility that modern telcos need to serve customers efficiently, all on a platform that is fully GDPR-compliant and offers end-to-end encrypted customer messaging.
Time for telcos to embrace digital-first CX with WhatsApp Business
For a sector so closely associated with innovation and digital-first solutions, it is perhaps surprising telcos still struggle in the digital CX space. While all signs indicate that the sector is finally turning the corner and committing to offering digital-driven experiences for its customers, CX thought leaders remain hesitant.
As Ingrid Lindberg, CXO & Founder of Chief Customer, points out: “I'm slightly nervous because some telecoms people are still having conversations around what exactly CX [is]… Until we can get telecoms understanding that CX is your network, every product you offer, and the service you provide, there will still be a lot of growing to do."
However, by embracing digital-first customer CX platforms such as WhatsApp, the telco sector can demonstrate to customers its determination to change the narrative.
Crucially, the sector can begin unshackling itself from the skepticism and distrust that can dog its reputation — and in turn, boost retention rates and secure future revenue streams in one of the world's most fast-moving, competitive, and exciting industries.