Companies that want to drive the best results from electronic self-service channels like web, mobile apps and kiosks should invest in the right tools to capture and analyse data about how customers are using these channels in real-life, says KEVIN MELTZER, Business Development Executive of EOH Consology.
Many organisations are relying on gut feel and traditional research methodologies such as focus groups to shape the user interfaces and functionality of their self-service channels.
Since user behaviour can be tracked on these channels through the data footprints people leave behind, organisations should instead be turning to analytics engines to understand how users are interacting with their channels in the real-world. They can gather accurate data at each electronic touch point to track customers’ activity and behaviour, and then use business intelligence tools to understand the underlying trends.
Such data can be used to see where users abandon self-service processes, how many clicks it has taken to finish a task, the paths they have taken through the channel and much more. This is all information that can be used to optimise self-service offerings to make them more convenient and easier to use. You can save a lot of work by looking at where you customers are and what they’re really doing before you build, change or enhance a self-service platform.
For example, one of the major challenges EOH Consology and its clients have encountered in implementation of web-based self-service solutions is supporting the wide range of Internet browsers on the market, including legacy browsers like Internet Explorer 7. Many companies are reluctant to implement cutting-edge features on their self-service Web properties because they are afraid of excluding end-users with older browsers.
The result is that companies can’t take advantage of enhancements – HTML5, CSS3 or Webkit, for example-supported by newer browsers. They end up creating web sites that are not as easy-to-maintain, appealing and interactive as they could be. But by gathering data about the browsers customers use to access their sites, companies can make an informed call on whether to support older browsers or not.
In many cases the numbers usually justify a decision to end support for old browsers so that all users can enjoy the optimisations and features newer browsers support. With the right support – placing a well-worded message advising users to upgrade to a standards-based browser like Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer 10 – such a transition can be managed reasonably smoothly. This is a perfect example of how stats and numbers should drive features and functionality of self-service channels.
Telcos want one face
The investments that telecommunications service providers are making in reshaping their online properties into customer-centric portals reflects the growing maturity of self-service and Internet uptake in the industry, says KEVIN MELTZER of Consology.
Many telcos around the world are overhauling their websites to offer customers more holistic portals that give them a single point of entry into the organisation.
They are doing so because they recognise that service will be a key point of differentiation for their businesses in a market that is becoming increasingly competitive. They have also realised that they have a major opportunity to shift customers away from expensive contact centres towards low-cost electronic channels.
In the past, most telecommunications operators ran multiple sites across multiple domains and subdomains. These web-based properties were built around the way that telcos structured their own businesses rather than around the needs of the customer. But we are now seeing the leading operators take a more user-centric approach to the way that they design their web and mobile sites.
This coincides with a change in the industry from slicing customers into numerous segments and then serving them across a range of functional and product areas. For example, many operators split customers into prepaid and postpaid segments or voice and data users, distinctions that are becoming less meaningful in a world of technology convergence. They now want to present a single face to the customer rather than servicing the subscriber through silos.
These changes are starting to percolate through to operators’ customer service and sales strategies. Telcos are starting to pull together disparate products and services that once resided across multiple sites into customer service portals.
These sites put a wide range of information at the subscriber’s fingertips, he adds. Increasingly, for example, subscribers can log directly into their accounts from the operator’s homepage and then access a wealth of services and information. This marks an evolution from the fractured and inconsistent customer experience of the past.
Leading operators are even thinking about how their Self-Service platforms should be integrated with social media strategies to allow customers to pay their electronic bills or top up airtime with a single click from within a social network.
Whereas Self-Service portals on telco sites were once purely about account management functions, they increasingly offer far richer functionality. In addition to allowing subscribers to pay their bills and check their account information, they are also increasingly becoming the first stop for service and commerce.
Operators have started to recognise that splintering their e-commerce, service and account management functions simply makes no sense. Customers want to be able to do everything through one interface rather than needing to visit two or three Web sites, or eventually possibly needing to phone a call centre or visit a store for certain transactions.
Integrated and easy to use online customer service channels will be central for telco operators who want to be competitive in the markets of tomorrow. They form an advantage in an industry where it will be customer relationships rather than cost or service that drive loyalty and purchasing decisions.
Talk for less with MWEB Talk
Today, MWEB announced its consumer VoIP package called MWEB Talk, which allows users to make free network calls and get discounted rates made to landlines and mobile phones.
MWEB, today launched its new Voice over IP (VoIP) offering to South African consumers. The service, MWEB Talk, will offer users’ free on network calls to fellow MWEB Talk users’ and cheap calls to landline and mobile phone numbers. This follows the success and demand of the ISP’s existing VoIP products in recent months.
‚”We have seen a noticeable transformation in users’ Internet behaviour with consumers wanting services that complement their ADSL connectivity solution. We have seen phenomenal growth and by the end of the year will deliver over 100 million minutes on our VoIP platform,‚” says Carolyn Holgate, General Manager of MWEB Connect, the ISP’s Consumer and Small Office/ Home Office Division.
MWEB has made significant investments in its infrastructure and VoIP has been prioritised on its network to ensure performance and stability of the MWEB Talk service for both businesses and consumers.
‚”In addition to the high quality of the service, MWEB Talk is also simple to set-up and users’ should experience a significant reduction in their telephone bills. By implementing a VoIP service consumers and small businesses can cut their monthly telecommunication bills by up to 55% to landline and mobile numbers,‚” says Holgate.
With no subscription fee, existing MWEB customers can log into their MWEB account, register for the service and download the application for PC and Mac as well as mobile applications that turn an iPhone, Android, and Nokia smartphone into a VoIP phone. Customers will also be able to purchase a Desktop VoIP Handset for R99 which will be HD voice ready and will support multi-extensions.
‚”We believe that VoIP is the future of telephony in South Africa and we are extremely excited to see the consumer market shift into the VoIP space,‚” concludes Holgate.