As nimble Internet and consumer electronics competitors take over chunks of the communications industry value chain, telecom operators need new ways to remain relevant and profitable. One way is to step into the role as their customers’ “digital enabler,” by integrating – and providing technical support services for – connected devices and Internet services.
In fact, recent Accenture (News - Alert) research reveals that many telecommunications operators are evaluating how to offer technical support services in ways that will attract and serve their customers, and 75 percent of operators currently offer technical support services or plan to within the next two years.
New entrants to the technical support services market will compete with a crowded field of competitors that include not only telecommunications operators, but Internet service providers, software companies, manufacturers, retailers, and other technology-centric companies as well, all of which would vie for the right to devise and provide technical support services for digital consumers.
Yet when you think about it, the telecom industry is reasonably well-positioned to connect with today’s digital consumer and deliver these services; few other industries have so many time-honored customer touch points that include call centers, retail stores, websites, in-home service calls, direct mail, and others.
Providing superior customer service is the key here. Rather than focusing investments solely on network coverage and technology, operators must also invest in the overall customer experience to reduce customers’ willingness to shop around for good sales and service. With their mobile phones and touch-screen tablet computers, consumers have unprecedented computing power in their hands. As a result, they want deeper, more enriching relationships with companies from which they buy goods and services. To connect with digital consumers, telecom companies must step up their understanding of their customers’ buying styles and recognize and address the remarkable changes that connected devices have made on consumers.
Faced with waning revenues for voice calls and a new breed of free messaging apps, telecom operators will need to combat these challenges in various ways, such as revising pricing models by packaging IP multimedia services like group chat, content-sharing or high definition voice and video calls – with a focus on keeping themselves relevant and top of mind for customers’ technology needs.
The proliferation of connected devices has spawned a greater need for technical support and a golden opportunity for providers to deliver it from soup to nuts – as long as they recognize that customers will probably want to pick from a menu that could include services to optimize PC performance, upgrade operating systems, remove viruses and malware, or get help using a mobile phone.
But, before taking action, providers must also fully understand and consider customers’ delivery preferences. Do they want remote support for their home and mobile devices? Do they want a technician to come to their home office? Or would they rather visit the provider's retail store for help with a laptop or mobile phone? To address their customers’ expectations, providers must match preference and demand, along with the right price points. There is reason to believe the time to do so is now. In fact, related Accenture research shows that most consumers want support to reduce the likelihood of serious computer problems that could put data at risk or cost a lot of money to repair.
What’s next? Managing a critical mass of home and mobile device users requires innovative thinking about the best way to create a compelling customer experience that keeps them coming back. That includes the right mix of support scope and the right pricing. An equally daunting challenge for providers is to redefine how they connect with the consumer and take command of the digital ecosystem. That’s no small task.
Montgomery (Monte) Hong is Accenture’s Global Communications Industry Practice Lead.
Edited by Carrie Schmelkin