Your Voice has Changed, Socially Speaking (Part 2) by Robert Lamb, Practice Director, Contact Center Consulting Services, AT&T

December 7, 2012

Best Practices for Interacting with Your Customers via Social Media

Social media provides a unique opportunity to gain insight into and influence public opinion in a changing climate.  Your current and prospective customers are likely talking about your products and services and those of your competitors on social media.

Gaining Insight & Knowledge…

Companies are realizing social media provides an opportunity to develop a competitive differentiator as social media provides insight into your customers’ and prospects’ perception of your company’s products and services.  You get the opportunity to listen into unfiltered opinions that are better than any focus group can provide.  This is due to the broader sample and insight from customers you want to influence at the time you want to influence them.

This gives you a great insight to identify symptoms of dissatisfaction or poor performance.  Then you can perform root cause analysis to improve product offerings and services, product bundling improvement or improve internal processes. Use social network mentions as an opportunity to mine an insight to your customer’s mindset.

Social media can be a rich source of knowledge for troubleshooting your own products and services and for generating new ideas.  Scrub this knowledge into trusted “single source” content before publishing it to your website and customer service organizations.

Companies are using their social networks to provide added services that have significantly improved their market share.   One financial institution has developed an online community to give financial advice not only from its employees but from other community members.  The excellence of this advice has become so noteworthy that it is credited as a key differentiator in the double digit market share growth the company has experienced since this initiative.

Social media also gives insight of the customer perception of your competitors too. This gives you opportunity to find competitive advantages for your products against your competition. It also provides an opportunity to identify weaknesses in your company’s offerings to better improve your competitive strategy.

Companies are also finding there’s a financial advantage to using social media and their customer contact strategy as well.  Companies are using social as a way to reduce expense.  They do this by providing proactive information (e.g., alerts to product or billing changes) or instructions (e.g., how do I begin using my new cell phone) that historically would have generated phone calls into the call center, the most expensive method of interaction, often by 20x.

How to Get Started…

What are the first changes a company should adopt?   The first and strongest is to plan before you execute. While every company has a unique combination of value proposition and customer demographics, there are good, universal best practices to incorporate in your social media strategy.  We’ve seen several companies either fail to address social media challenges to their brand or make a half-baked first step only to turn a small win opportunity into a PR failure.  Protect your brand by not ignoring social media’s impact.

Keep in mind that social media mentions are a window into conversation that is not yours, but that you are allowed to eavesdrop into.  Resist the temptation to engage to change perception or correct details.  Social network members prioritize freedom of thought first.  A strong response to a thread in a poorly received manner can deliver quite an undesired and negative reaction.

Pick the media that make sense for your business and prioritize your investments accordingly.  If your intent is to market your products or answer frequently asked questions before they are asked, the focus on “one to many” media such as YouTube or portals may be a good first step, for example.

Consistent Customer Experience…

Make sure your organization has the policies, technology, knowledge, process, and people in place to provide high-speed, high-quality customer service that is required by social media before jumping in. This is a good best practice in all things customer interaction related, but particularly with the visibility of social media in its “one to many” dynamic.

AT&T Consulting suggests as a good first practice to develop your listening skills first. By doing so, you’re able to gain a sense of the tone of the conversation and gather those valuable insights of what customers are saying about you and your competitors in this most open of focus groups. Once you gain a sense of where opportunities lie, you can then consider when to engage.

Once you’re ready to engage, the speed and quality of customer service responses need to be much higher in social media than in traditional channels. A delay in satisfactory responses to mentions in social media can begin to create a mob mentality. This can create many other mentions piling on to a perceived issue that may have been fostering.

The most effective way to ensure consistent service that breeds the desirable customer experience and to minimize risk of negative reaction is to unify social network support with traditional contact centers.  Unify social network support with traditional contact centers. A lack of this approach has created inconsistent and dissatisfying customer experiences and incomplete evaluation of the customer experience.

Brand-aware, customer-focused enterprises should be planning a unified approach to customer contact that includes social media. This allows contact center agents and online community managers to have a full view of traditional and social customer interactions, and customers don’t have to repeat information and recreate context as they go across social and traditional channels.

Ensure that you provide the right level of service across traditional and social channels—for example, a platinum customer should receive platinum service across traditional and social.  Customer loyalty is as important as ever in social media as it is in individual interactions. Be sure your valued customer feels valued.

To merge the traditional and the social together effectively and efficiently, AT&T recommends developing a holistic plan for customer contact using experienced resources, such as AT&T Consulting. Holistic strategies for customer contact should include social media to maximize opportunity while minimizing risk.

Read Robert’s official blog post at:

Robert Lamb will be speaking at Customer Experience Management in Telecoms Global Summit 2013.

View the Final Agenda for the conference.

If you would like to receive more information about the event, or secure your place, or if you have any questions, please write to us at and we will be happy to help.


Is WiFi going to win out over small cells as the best option for offloading?

September 26, 2012


Offloading to WiFi networks is expected to grow 16-fold between 2011 and 2016, according to market research consultancy iGR.  We all know that operators are desperately looking for ways to provide their customers with high-Small Cell & Wi-Fi Offloading Strategiesquality, reliable data whilst relieving congestion on their macro networks, and are looking at either WiFi or small cells to achieve this.


But, considering that WiFi offloading is predominantly driven by users manually choosing a WiFi connection rather than their mobile broadband connection, is this increase really likely to happen?  According to iGR, it will if a move is made to operator-driven offloading in which the mobile operator actively switches 3G or 4G traffic to a WiFi network.  But to make this work, operators need the right equipment in both the network and the handsets.


So how realistic is this 16-fold increase?  And will operators prefer to invest in WiFi rather than small cells?  These key questions are being addressed at the Small Cell and WiFi Offloading Strategies event in December.  Find out the pros and cons of using either small cells or WiFi as a sustainable offloading solution and how you can deploy it quickly and effectively without disrupting your network.


When it’s all about providing seamless connectivity and a great customer experience, where would you put your money: WiFi or small cells?

Small Cell & Wi-Fi Offloading Strategies: 3-5 December 2012.

View the updated Final agenda or request one at

Overcoming the challenges of Number Portability implementation

August 1, 2012

A lot has been made in the news lately of the success of Number Portability in Ghana. A recent report released by the NCA contains details the success of Number Portability in its first year (see below).

Over 370,000 numbers were successfully ported and Ghana is one of the few African nations to have successfully launched the service in the time that was first set out. It is only the second African country, after Kenya, to achieve this, although Nigeria, Egypt and South Africa have also been working on it for some time.
The overall performance and porting time in Ghana compares pretty favourably against other recent Mobile Number Portability implementations such as Kenya, where it could take 48 hours to port your number, and in India, where porting a mobile number could take up to 7 days.

But why is it so difficult for some countries to implement Number Portability in the time taken? Why do some seem to be able to have a smooth and efficient implementation while others don’t? What are the challenges posed by MNP implementation and why do some countries seem to struggle with these issues more than others?
Is it due to the infrastructure, technology and system upgrades that are needed? Is it more of a political issue? Some say that in countries where democracy is still a relatively new introduction, the introduction of Number Portability can often have political connotations. Some countries have a very involved NRA which really drives and steers the whole process, while others don’t.
What are your opinions and what do you think are the toughest challenges posing new countries that will implement Number Portability soon, such as Azerbaijan, Botswana and Costa Rica?

Number Portability Global Summit – 22-24 October 2012, London, UK. View the Full Agenda.

IPTV and super-fast broadband subscriptions boom in Eastern Europe

March 30, 2012

FTTx Summit Europe

As operators become more and more active in deploying fibre networks we are seeing exceptional growth in some key Eastern European markets, such as Russia, Poland and the Ukraine.

As Europe hit a record 10 million FTTH/B subscribers in the summer of 2011 of which Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan counted for 5.6 million subscribers between them, it’s clear that, for the most part, Eastern European countries are leading the way forward for super-fast fibre optic broadband.

Recent statistics also show that Lithuania leads Europe in terms of penetration of FTTH, measured as a percentage of population. Highlighting the growth in Eastern Europe even more, the two most recent entrants in the world FTTH ranking are Hungary and Ukraine.  Furthermore, of the top 20 on the present ranking, 11 are Eastern European countries.

Figures, prepared for the Broadband Forum by broadband industry analysts Point Topic, go on to detail the strongest ever quarter of growth in IPTV, today’s most demanding application for super-fast broadband.  IPTV’s best quarter ever saw net additions of 3.68 million to finish the year strong with more than 58.2 million IPTV subscribers worldwide.  Yet again, it’s Eastern Europe that continues to lead the way with Russia outperforming all other countries in both broadband and IPTV figures in 2011 as they report over 36% growth in broadband and a doubling of their IPTV subscribers from 495,500 to 1,145,000 in just one year.

However, as Eastern Europe’s booming broadband and IPTV market establishes the region as one of the most active in the field, telecoms operators are asking themselves the critical question – how do I get the network build right first time?

It’s clear that there are a number of key questions that operators are still struggling to answer, including:

– How do I justify the business case for fibre networks and successfully finance the roll-out?

– How do I build the best fibre network with such a tight budget?

– How do I successfully handle the scale and complexity of deploying a fibre network?

In order to remain some of the most active in the field and to further propel Eastern Europe forwards in world broadband rankings, it’s critical that operators get to grips with the above issues or risk stagnating and falling behind their Western counterparts.

Let us know what you think in the comment section below or on Twitter @TelecomsForum

Telecoms IQ’s FTTx Summit Eastern Europe takes place in Budapest from 18th-21st September 2012.  For more information, visit

George Osborne commits to investing more than £100 million into super-fast broadband across the UK in the 2012 budget

March 28, 2012
FTTx Report

Taken from the UK FTTx report at

Broadband service providers across the country waited with baited breath last week as George Osborne revealed his 2012 budget.  The big question on their minds; would they at last be getting the much needed investment they need to deliver super-fast broadband?

Luckily for them, the Chancellor did reveal that the government will be investing more than £100 million into improving broadband infrastructure throughout 10 cities in the UK.

Soon to be known as the ‘super-connected cities’ of the UK, Belfast, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, London, Manchester and Newcastle are all set to benefit from the Chancellor’s 2012 budget announcement last week.

However, key questions still remain as to whether the Chancellor’s announcement will be enough to move the UK up in the European rankings and whether funding from local authorities and private companies will match the government’s proposals to help accelerate broadband speeds.

Broadband providers must also be concerned that the government didn’t actually set out a clear plan to encourage broadband providers to adopt fibre to the building models in cities or invest in developing technology that is going to be compatible in legacy networks. 

Additionally, experts across the UK are asking why the Chancellor is so desperate to get speeds up to 100Mbps when this should be our minimum standard!  How are we expected to keep up with the rest of the world, and in particular Asia, if our biggest ambition is only aiming for their basic minimum speed?

Furthermore, whilst the Chancellor proudly announces which 10 large cities will benefit from super-fast broadband investment – the stand out question for me remains – what about the UK’s smaller cities? 

Yes there is a commitment to investing £50 million into ramping up broadband speeds in some of the UK’s smaller cities, but the budget didn’t specify which cities, how the £50 million will be divided between them, or exactly what speeds these cities could expect!

These questions aside though, the announcement last week, is definitely a positive step forward for Britain.  It is clear that the Chancellor, and the rest of the government, now recognise the importance of super-fast broadband to both residents and businesses across the UK.  I guess the biggest question is, will they deliver on what they promise, or in 2015 will the UK still be lagging behind in the world super-fast broadband rankings?

Let us know what you think in the comment section below or on Twitter @TelecomsForum

Telecoms IQ’s FTTx Summit Europe takes place from 23-26 April 2012.  For more information, visit

Broadband speeds boosted as UK’s service providers launch fierce competition

February 2, 2012

As competition between broadband service providers hots up across Britain, BT has announced that they will be extending their fibre optic broadband network to 350,000 London homes and business throughout 2012.

Earlier this week it was announced that BT customers will soon benefit from speeds of up to 40Mbps and will, according to the operator, be able to download a single track of music in just 2 seconds.  BT also claims that an entire album could soon take a mere 30 seconds to download!

Andrew Campling, General Manager,  BT said: “The arrival of super-fast broadband in these areas is a huge boost for local businesses and households.  These are economically challenging times and superfast broadband can transform their experience of the internet”.

While these speeds might sound like a huge leap forward for BT, the really top-end broadband speeds are still being delivered by rival company Virgin Media. 

Virgin Media customers are already benefitting from speeds of up to 100Mbps, over double what BT are about to begin offering.

Jon James, Virgin Media Executive Director of broadband, said: “More and more people are choosing fibre optic broadband and making the most of superfast speeds. Virgin Media continues to deliver the UK’s fastest broadband, and we’re about to boost the speeds of millions of homes yet again with our doubling upgrade and the introduction of 120Mb”.

FTTx Summit Europe

Speaking to V3 earlier this week, Ofcom’s Chief Executive, Ed Richards, welcomes these broadband speed increases across Britain and the competition that comes with it and “looks forward to further increases in UK broadband speeds over the next few years”.

As customer demand for superfast broadband continues to rise across Britain, it’s easy to forget that there is still a huge digital divide between rural communities and the more populous areas of the country.

With this in mind, the stage really is set for somebody to capitalise on this customer demand.  The question is, will other service providers be able to keep up and overtake in 2012, or will Virgin Media remain the UK’s fastest Broadband provider?

Deploying super-fast broadband across Europe is the main focus of Telecoms IQ’s FTTx Summit, taking place from 23rd-26th April in London. For more information, visit the event website.

How Finland is deploying high speed broadband

August 11, 2011

Introducing high speed broadband to rural areas and ensuring universal access can be a costly exercise and brings up a vast array of questions, with one of the key issues being: What is the business case for delivering high speed broadband to rural areas?

Finland is a vast, yet largely unpopulated country, with 3 inhabitants per km2. As a country with a large amount of people living in remote areas, it is essential that the country has good communication networks. For example, internet banking is paramount, because it could be as much as 10 km to the nearest bank.

Speaking at Telecoms IQ’s FTTx  Summit Europe in April, Eila Runmukainen, Vice President of TeliaSonera Finland, explained that there is disparity between the size of towns and cities in Finland which causes a great challenge when building fibre networks. However, the Finnish government still has an ambitious target of making sure that every home has a broadband speed of 100 mbps by 2015.

The targets for this national coverage will include enabling wireless network coverage over the whole country, making public organisations use intelligent systems in order support an ageing population and building all new homes and offices with the capability of using internet speeds of 1GBps. In fact, Finland in the only country in the world to declare that internet access is a birthright meaning that every home that can will be connected.

The key criteria for building a fast broadband network in Finland is to provide a speedy, reliable, and reasonably priced service for those who use it. This needs to be especially true for those who live in remote areas, for example in Lapland where the huge tourism industry requires high speed broadband to effectively provide the services that visitors to the region expect.

The tender process for the development of high speed broadband began in 2010 and has the sole intention of providing universal service of 1 mbps from July 2010 and 100 mbps by 2015. However, Runmukainen believes that this is slightly unrealistic with 2020 providing a better timeframe for connecting the country to high speed broadband.

In fact, it’s the countries in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe which are currently providing the fastest broadband speeds. Speaking ahead of Delivering High Speed Broadband in October Richard Jones, Partner at Ventura Team said:

“Scandinavia has historically done some amazing things, and it’s been a test bed. We’ve got our own operator there with 120,000 subscribers, and a lot of the advanced techniques, open access, etc, has been learned there, but if you want to look at the ultra-fast deployments, Eastern Europe’s doing it, even to the extent that in parts of Hungary you find three fibre operators with fibre to the home, essentially competing in the same area.”

To read or listen to the full interview with Richard Jones on what he believes to be the future of delivering high speed broadband across Europe, please visit the event website’s Media Centre.