We’re all after better experiences. Experiences that make the necessary feel delightful, unobtrusive and seamless. Experiences that align intention with result, and make us feel accomplished in whatever we put our hand to. Customer experience design (CXD) is essential as it not only shapes the customer’s experience, but also their brand perception. How your audience feels about using your product correlates to how they feel about you as a provider. Frustration creates frustration, and leads to rejection, while intuitive experiences create positive associations, and lead to appreciation and repetition. Telecoms have traditionally fallen behind in CXD but now, for many, it is their greatest avenue for market differentiation.
What exactly is customer experience design
CXD is the process of designing products and services that prioritise the customer and user experience. It is customer-focused design; when a decision is made, it is made for and behalf of the user. The underlying intention of CXD is to match products and services with the requirements of users, and ensure experience aligns with expectation. A notable proponent of CXD was, unsurprisingly, Steve Jobs: “You’ve got the start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology, not the other way round.”
So rather than designing and then shoehorning a product into the marketplace, CXD is more intentional. You find what your audience is searching for, and the product or service is designed accordingly. Interestingly, 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience.
Telecoms and customer experience design: a new differentiator
Telecom companies have found themselves behind the curve; a lack of awareness in the importance of CXD has led to its underinvestment. According to Kantar’s CX+ 2020, consumers have relatively low expectations for telecom CX, and often find their provider still falls short of those expectations. Just 14% of network service provider customers were delighted with their last interaction. This stems in part from the general perception that quality of service – coverage, speed, performance – should be prioritised over the service’s delivery. If the customer’s experience is the bridge between them and your product – or, indeed, your brand – then the quality of the experience is the sturdiness of the bridge, and the pleasure of traversing it.
The underappreciation of CXD is also due to an inherited misconception: that customers won’t change their provider, or have a lack of choice. In the past, phone companies held the keys, and too little competition ensured the concentration of power. It’s for this reason that telecom companies have been slow to embrace, let alone begin, digital transformation. But now the market is much more dynamic, and much more competitive. MVNOs have accelerated the transition to digital solutions, and sought to differentiate themselves through improved customer experiences.
Why it matters
New generations have grown accustomed to excess; their options of any service are typically bountiful and, consequently, make decisions based on the experience of a service – essentially, how it feels – more than the end-result of that service (we discuss more about Millennials and their needs towards mobile network providers in this article). That’s not to suggest the ultimate result isn’t important. It is, but it’s not enough to have a great, reliable service that’s frustrating to acquire, integrate or use. Customer experience is certainly impacted by the reliability of the service, but, for telecom companies, this knowledge is a given: broader differentiation comes from refining the customer experience in other ways, not least in the control customers wield, the information they have access to, and how they’re able to interact with their service provider through apps, portals or customer service.
The consequences of poor customer experience are never felt in isolation. A customer dissatisfied with one product or service becomes, in time, dissatisfied with the brand. Additionally, only 1 in 26 unhappy customers actually complain. The rest, they just leave. Poor customer experience design risks residual impact on the portfolio of products. And just as negative brand perception is never isolated to one product, the same is true for positive brand perception. In reality, however, negative experiences stay with us far longer than positive.
Everything is now about the customer because the customer has the power. They’re in control of their choice, and there is no shortage of options to choose from. If the experience of using your product or service, or interacting with your business, does not match or satisfy their expectations, they are not encumbered by lack of alternatives.
The quality of your product is important. But it’s not all that’s important – and oftentimes, isn’t even the most important. Appearances matter, and how an experience makes us feel determines whether we’ll repeat it. We’re emotional creatures, and our emotional brains are quicker than our rational (assuming the experience is rationally better, which isn’t always the case: bad experiences frustrate and waste time).
How to begin improving CXD
Design cannot only target customers; it must revolve around them. Truly customer-centric telecoms experiences can significantly boost customer loyalty. Empathy is required, and a dose of common sense: if you don’t like the experience of using your product or service over market rivals, neither will they. They’re not beholden to loyalty, or to stay with a solution that they grow dissatisfied with.
- Engage customers. Find out what they’re looking for, what they appreciate and, conversely, what they do not. Customer requirements are always evolving, but common-sense assumptions can be made: a clear and uncluttered purchase funnel, reliable connection, easy access to key information and data, and smooth and responsive integration with devices. Still, no strategy should be based on guesswork. All assumptions should be validated by research and engagement. Continual feedback is necessary to keep pace with continual changes in expectations.
- Recognise where you’re going wrong, and work rapidly to resolve it. Identifying problems is only the first step. Some may be solved through incremental updates, and others may require a head-to-toe reimagining of the product. Remember, your customers’ problems are more important than your problems; it is their story, and their needs come first. Your service must cater to behaviours and expectations, not insist upon their modification.
- Keep it simple, keep it clean. Determine the information customers need access to, and don’t clutter their journeys with superfluous prompts or repetition. Your app, product or service should feel nice to be a part of – and, like a modern home, minimalist, purposeful and satisfying.
In summary, CXD has more benefits than it has disadvantages. We discuss them in more detail in one of our previous blog posts Telecom Digital Transformation – Business Benefits of Having the Right Digital CX in Place. We are also committed to helping telecom companies in designing best customer experience via our M-Connect software platform. Contact us to find out more about it.
By Hamish White
Hamish White is the Founder and CEO of Mobilise and is an international Mobile telecommunications expert with 20 years experience covering 4 continents, with a speciality in managing greenfield or transformation projects.