So far our Appropriate Marketing series with Celebrus Technology has examined the difference between various sectors concerning their approach to digital marketing agility to enhance customer engagement and how the three Cs (Customers, Complexity and Culture) are affecting the routes taken by different industries and organisations. In this final instalment we look at the options available to the telecommunications sector. This article is copyright 2014 The Best Customer Guide.

The telecoms (telco) environment includes online, high street stores and call centres for purchases, as well as customer services related activity. Customers are faced with a myriad of smartphone handsets, price plans and tariffs. This can make it incredibly difficult for consumers to make the right choice, and so even more important for telcos to use the right channels to engage their customers to positively help them through the buying process.

The ability of telcos to influence customer conversations and deliver them through the right channels for each individual to complete the buying process without disrupting their journey, will depend on the 3 Cs of appropriate marketing.

Customer
Telcos often approach channels from a technology rather than customer perspective. Customers can start their journey online only to become stuck when faced with too many options. When they then turn to a call centre or store, their journey often starts again, right at the beginning. While customer expectations are high, telcos have so far found it difficult to integrate multiple channels to create an omnichannel sales approach and make the customer journey a much more straightforward and pleasant one.

The length of the customer journey and lifecycle will determine how and when telco brands engage their customers. For young people, or millennials, technology plays a huge role in their lives and they are more likely to appreciate frequent, but appropriately timed, brand interactions about the latest handsets, tariffs or add-ons that can make their lives even better connected. They move quickly and will not hesitate to upgrade their phone, or move to a competitor, when their contract comes to an end.

Compare this with an older user who has perhaps had his phone for a number of years and possibly uses less of the advanced functionality and apps, and it is clear that the level and type of engagement or interaction frequency will vary.

Complexity
An omnichannel sales approach will further enable telcos to drive customers through the sales funnel using the right channels at the right time for each individual customer. Online should be better aligned with in-store activity so the question is how can telcos interrupt conversations in a positive way to drive people from online to in-store or the call centre if that is the most appropriate channel for them?

This of course depends on the type of purchase or service: if a customer merely wants to change his mobile phone plan, then this is probably easiest done online. However, if the customer is uncertain about what is right for him and abandons his search, there is a huge gap to fill. A prompt follow-up call from the call centre could turn the abandoned online shopping basket into a profitable sale. Online is then working hand in glove with the in-store or call centre environment to create a joined-up approach that delivers added value to customers and an enhanced experience.

Culture
Despite customer demand for personalisation and individually tailored packages, telcos have fallen behind retailers in the area of upselling. This is particularly true with online upselling, in part due to concerns over the buying process or technological knowledge limitations of the customer By definition, telcos have an excellent free communication channel at their disposal, but they have yet to maximise its full potential and have not stayed at the forefront of communications with other channels such as email.

Rather than focussing entirely on maintaining an expensive e-commerce website, opportunities are available for telcos to use their own free mobile channel, not only for add-ons such as additional data bundles but for phone accessories and even smartphone upgrades as well.

Despite it not being easy to change these internal and external barriers, the telco sector has the right skill set to make it happen. This is especially the case when looking at analytics: telcos have strong analytical skills in other parts of the business which could be transferred into marketing to develop truly sophisticated omnichannel customer analytics.

Via better channel integration, an improved use of analytics and the adoption of new media and personalisation technology, telcos can create an agile, omnichannel marketing approach to engage and interact with the customer at the right time and with the right offer. They just need to make some good marketing, resourcing and technology calls to get there.