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.


Smart Businesses Support Smartphone Customer Contact by Robert Lamb, Practice Director, Contact Center Consulting Services, AT&T

December 7, 2012

Best Practices for Developing a Contact Center Strategy

You’ve picked up one of the hot smartphones and loaded it with all the cool apps.  Now, you’re using one of those apps to book a hotel room.  You’ve authenticated with your preferred guest number, entered your trip destination and dates, and targeted a short list of fun properties. However, you can’t find the amenities list to decide which hotel best suits you.  So, you abandon the app and phone the call center.  Here’s the end result:

  • You’re now less satisfied as a customer because you’ve lost all of the authentication and contextual data as the process for booking the hotel starts over.
  • You taught yourself to use the most expensive method of contact (phone call to live agent) both for this time and in future.
  • Your image of the hotel chain is lessened by the poor experience from the cool smartphone app that you wanted to use but took you longer anyway.

Or worse – you decided to try a competitor hotel’s smartphone app to book your room. A 2011 Harris Interactive study found that 63% of all online adults surveyed said they would be less likely to buy from the same company via other purchase channels if they experienced a problem conducting a mobile transaction.

Soaring Smartphone Use Brings Customer Service Issues to Forefront

As consumers, more of us are using smartphones to handle tasks more efficiently—and the number of users continues to grow. Nielsen estimates that 44% of Americans use smartphones today (and over 50% in some other developed countries).

Business is driving smartphone adoption, especially in the retail space where mobile shopping is soaring. RSR Research found that 92% of B2C winners (retailers who outperform their peers in year-over-year sales growth) have decided that consumers are using mobile as part of their shopping experience and they need to be there.  Projecting that into the future, Tealeaf Technologies suggests that mobile devices will become the No. 1 medium for digital commerce by 2015. That’s why it is disturbing that so many adult smartphone users (84% in the U.S., according to a recent Harris study) reported problems with mobile transactions.

Apps to the Rescue – Customer Service within Smartphone Apps

A proactive and potentially more satisfying solution to this dilemma is to make customer service resources available within the smartphone app.  This function effectively links mobility to customer service in the channel the customer chose, increasing customer satisfaction. Remember, you chose to use that app as your preference for a reason, and making that interaction into a satisfying one honors your choice.

When you, as a customer, feel your desires are valued by the company you want to do business with, you get a stronger impression that your business is valued, which encourages customer loyalty.  And, since the cost-per-contact is lower in the app than for a call to the contact center, keeping the customer in the mobility channel also reduces customer service operating expenses.

Leading contact center technologies have developed and are enhancing capabilities that provide that link of mobility to customer service.  Functionally, ranges from opening a chat window in the app for customers to connect with a live contact center agent to enabling a voice conversation within the app that brings the context and customer data as a screen pop to the agent.

Options for Deployment – Start with Strategy

There are many choices for how businesses can deploy app-based customer service based on cost to procure and deploy, meeting the specific customer contact requirements of the business, and finding interaction with the best-suited contact center resources that are integrated both into the smartphone app and the host environment.

In our experience at AT&T Consulting, we find that the most actionable and accurate way for businesses to sort through these choices and find the solution that works best is with a comprehensive contact center strategy. A contact center strategy provides definitive and custom recommendations and a cost/benefit analysis that aligns with your business objectives and customer preferences.

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.

LTE continues to thrive across the world

September 17, 2012

LTE Strategies 2012Recent data from the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) shows that 68 operators across  countries have launched commercial LTE services in the last 12 months.

These operators are expected to have 152 commercial LTE services in 65 countries by the end of the year.  This is an expected growth of more than 50% in the next quarter alone!

The GSA report also shows that there are a further 55 operators in 11 countries in the initial stage of negotiation to launch LTE services.

The UK in particular is accelerating its LTE launches and according to EE (the new brand for Everything Everywhere), its new 4G network will cover a third of the UK population by the end of 2012.  Further towns, cities and rural areas, will follow rapidly with 2013 population coverage to reach 70%, with 98% covered by 2014.

It’s clear from this report that LTE has never been a hotter topic for discussion and, as 347 operators in 104 countries commit to commercial LTE network deployments, engage in trials, technology testing or studies, the momentum behind LTE looks set to explode.

LTE Strategies 2012 will focus on developing sustainable LTE business models and network migration strategies that generate revenue profit and growth. View the complimentary FINAL AGENDA for the conference.

An important discount deadline is coming up this Friday, 21 September 2012 (you could save up to €250).

You can book your attendance online or by sending a request to us at

EU to implement new roaming price caps from July 1st and increase competition

March 29, 2012

Telecoms operators will have to rethink their roaming strategies after the EU announced yesterday that it will implement new roaming pricing caps to ensure that customers are paying fair prices when abroad.

The new pricing structure, which comes into effect from July 1st 2012, sees calls capped at 24p a minute, 8p per text message and 70p per MB of data. The EU is also keen to increase competition within the market with virtual mobile network operators gaining the immediate right to access other operator networks at regulated wholesale prices in order to provide roaming services to their customers.

Neelie KroesNeelie Kroes, the European Commission’s vice president for the Digital Agenda, welcomed the announcement of these new roaming caps, saying: “Consumers are fed up with being ripped off by high roaming charges,” she said. “The new roaming deal gives us a long-term structural solution, with lower prices, more choice and a new smart approach for data and internet browsing.”

It is anticipated that the added competition within the market with aim to bring roaming prices down even further. In addition, as the use of smartphones abroad increases at an exponential rate, from 2014 it is expected that users will only have to pay 17p per MB of data used. Moreover, when customers travel outside of the EU they will now also get a warning if their data bills exceed £50. This is expected to eradicate ‘bill shock’ whereby background applications crunch through data while the user is abroad running up huge phone bills and is welcomed by operators, small businesses and leading consumer advice websites.

However, while operators are welcoming the news announced by the EU yesterday, they could be forgiven for secretly hoping that the addition of increased competition will see the end of pricing caps by 2014. Additionally, with customers allowed the choice of swapping their network while abroad, this will see a huge dent in revenues which the operator will rely on in lieu of higher roaming prices.

So what innovations will we see come to the forefront of the back of these caps as operators aim to drive profitability from roaming? 4G? Mobile Payments? M2M services? Let us know what you think below or on twitter @TelecomsForum.

These ideas, issues, solutions and more will be discussed at Telecoms IQ’s Roaming Strategies in June – just before the roaming caps come into effect. Hear from Europe’s operators, regulators and the European Commission on the impending caps and discuss and exchange innovative ideas in order to maximise profitability.

For more information on Roaming Strategies, visit

Roaming Strategies

Action urged from UK government over data roaming charges

February 20, 2012

A consortium which include Three, and Which? have today written an open letter to communications minister Ed Vaizey in order to urge the UK government to lobby the EU for lower data charges as it will end up hurting both businesses and customers.

The letter, which has been signed by Three CEO Dave Dyson, claims that while the current proposals will reduce data costs, this will only be for the short term as data usage grows exponentially every year, especially with the explosion in use of smartphones. The statistic raised is that if current proposals are kept, then businesses and individuals could be paying up to £400 for 1GB of data by 2014.

Additionally, it was stated that: ‘Data usage on mobile devices is exploding and the Commission’s proposals in their current form do not address the demand for data in 2012, never mind 2022. These pricing levels do not encourage competition and hence could put the brakes on growth and competition in the EU.’

Roaming Strategies

Vaizey will be meeting European communications minister at the end of the month in order to discuss the options to move forward with some kind of decision on data roaming. The consortium aims to encourage the UK minister to vote to bring the overall price down.

Talking to Aol Money, David Dyson, CEO of Three UK said that while consumers make the most of their smartphones, data roaming charges force them to limit their internet use the moment they leave the UK. “We believe that wholesale data charges should be capped at €30 per GB or less to make the mobile internet accessible wherever consumers want to use it. With average data use for our smartphone customers approaching 1GB a month this is a real consumer issue.”

A vote of MEPS on European wide roaming will take place on 28th February – what are your thoughts on what the European Commission has proposed so far? Are they out of touch or providing the best solutions?

Let us know below.

How can you design effective and actionable churn models?

November 2, 2011

As the mobile industry becomes more competitive, with bigger and faster services being offered to customers, it has become increasingly important that you design an effective churn model that will differentiate you from your competitors.

Predicting and tackling churn is one of the most important aspects of an operator’s customer relationship strategy as it costs considerably more to attract new customers than it does to keep them. It’s in the operator’s best interests to hold on to their high revenue customers – but how do you create an actionable churn model to prevent them taking their business elsewhere?

Customer Segmentation and Churn Mnagament

Designing your models to discover those who are likely to leave as early as possible is a key factor to incorporate in any attrition model. The customer may already be unhappy with the service received, or they may have already complained before and be attracted by the offers that your competitors are advertising. It’s important to get in contact with the disaffected as early as possible to ensure the customer that you not only value their custom, but are making active efforts to prioritise them.

Additionally, it will also be beneficial to expect and detect in your models any false positives that show customers are likely to churn when in reality they won’t. These customers could ultimately feel less favoured as a result of being identified as potential churners and most will have been customers for quite a while. It’s probably key here to introduce these customers to a loyalty scheme which will make them feel more valued.

What other aspects of your churn model should you tackle? Read the full article here.

How can operators build effective churn models? let us know your thoughts below.

Australian telcos told to improve customer service or else

September 9, 2011

Australian telcos have been given a short, sharp kick up the backside today as the Australian Communications and Media Authority announced that they all have just five months to improve customer service strategies or risk facing hefty fines.

Key areas which the regulator would like improving include bill shock, confusing contracts and slow resolution of complaints. Additionally, operators are being encouraged to interact with customers in more immediate formats such as text messaging and sending email when customers near their limits.

The ACMA announced the new strategy in order to get operators to focus on delivering a better customer experience after a 12 month investigation into the industry’s consumer code practice. The results showed that customers were frustrated over billing and a general lack of customer service.

If operators have not taken ACMA’s recommendations into consideration and started to improve aspects of customer experience then they are likely to be hit with fines of up to AUS$250,000.

So, how can Australian operators ensure that they are providing an adequate customer experience to their customers? Read our entry from July.

If you are interested in attending conferences which address the issue of improving customer experience and reducing churn, then we have two great conferences coming up:

Customer Experience Management in Telecoms
Customer Segmentation & Churn Management