Telecommunications companies have been gathering customer data for decades, but the recent interest in Big Data continues to draw considerable attention to customer data collection processes. Not only are customers concerned about the 'how'-the ways in which such information is gathered-but also, the 'what'-which data points are being tracked and for what purpose.
No matter the industry, data security weighs heavily on both the company and the customer, as breaches remain one of the biggest threats to consumer safety and satisfaction. Thus, it's important to maintain transparent data collection strategies in order to retain trust and loyalty. Customers are well aware that telecom brands collect information for billing purposes, but as such methods become more granular, all such companies must offer clear privacy policies and opt-out capabilities for those consumers who wish to control their personal data independently.
On average, says Ryan Pellet, chief strategy officer at Nexidia, telecommunications companies collect four general types of data:
- Data about the customer-For existing customers, two-thirds of this information comes directly from the given company, while one-third comes from third-party data organizations that gather insights, such as credit ratings and household demographics. Prospect data, however, comes from third-party sources entirely. Brands have also started to embrace social media data in an effort to understand consumer interests and behaviors and develop well-rounded, targeted profiles.
- Data about the customer's usage-Tracked via telemetry, usage data focuses on the who, what, where, and how behind consumer behaviors. Companies gather insights into the duration of usage activities, how often this set of behaviors occurred, and if a company's interactions with a customer based on this information worked. Unfortunately, however, much of this usage information gets tossed aside, while the crucial data points are used to calculate billing costs. Unused data, conversely, offers insight into potential improvements.
- Data that ties usage to rating and billing-Generated by the product and marketing teams, this information determines how much consumers should be charged for making calls or using data. Because consumers are increasingly quick to switch providers, companies must constantly look for new ways to differentiate their services, retain current customers, and recognize their values. Thus, companies must employ competitive intelligence to curb churn and maintain appeal.
- Data about customer interactions with the company-Customer interaction information comes from any and all brand interactions consumers have had with the organization throughout their journeys. From phone calls, to email or social media conversations, this data is also the largest non-monetized data asset for most telecom companies. Brands must listen to this feedback by creating listening posts that will enable them to assess what's right or wrong and the competitive landscape.
"The voice of the customer has been around for many years, yet most companies with VoC programs have not listened to the literal voice of the customer," Pellet adds. "Interaction data is, by far, the largest non-monetized data asset in existence in the communications industry. Leaders are turning every interaction into data, and then identifying patterns that chart better, deeper, and more profitable relationships. The customer will tell you exactly why they buy or leave, what they like or don't, and if the service is valuable or empty."
Before diving into this incoming data, of course, telecom companies must determine which points will be most valuable for strategic business planning and development. Rebecca Sendel, senior director, product management at TM Forum, says that, to determine which relevant data points should be collected and analyzed, telecom companies must begin with the end goal in mind. Brands must consider the problems they are trying to solve and what they're trying to improve by collecting data. Such thinking must be at the core of data collection, as data just for the sake of data serves no purpose. This data should also help to expose areas for improvement, monitor success, and establish priorities to ensure the most valuable consumers are receiving optimal service no matter their interaction channel. External data, specifically, can reveal what kind of services customers would like to have so the company may better target or alter their marketing practices to define and personalize upsell offers according to customer behavior.
"To provide real-time, personalized, and appropriate offers to improve customer engagement, telecom operators require a holistic, contextual understanding of their individual subscribers' usage patterns, behaviors, and circumstances, such as location and influencer circles, in order to fully maximize their business opportunities," says Mikko Jarva, CTO, Intelligent Data at Comptel. "Technologies and practices of extracting real-time insights from the data streams through analysis provide means for telecom operators to react more quickly, become more informed, and react in more targeted ways to changes, opportunities, and threats to their business, enhancing customer relationships and driving continued loyalty."
Because the amount of data being stored and analyzed continues to expand, companies now have ample opportunity to deepen customer relationships. For instance, proactive services, such as rectifying issues before the customer knows something's wrong or making data plan offers that better fit usage patterns, not only strengthen loyalty and satisfaction, but such actions also increase consumers' willingness to share their personal data. Now, companies can drive actionable recommendations based on these patterns.
One leading telecom company, for example, now leverages usage data to track the general daily usage of its products and services at the individual customer level. The brand can detect when individual daily usage isn't in alignment with the given customer's overall usage patterns, as this may signal service issues that need to be rectified promptly. Through proactive investigation, the company can often reveal and remedy issues before the customer ever becomes aware of the problem. Employees will then notify the customer of the issue and its resolution, calling their actions to attention and requiring the customer to confirm their flawless service. Ultimately, this strategy switches the dynamic, as the company takes responsibility for monitoring service instead of depending upon the customer to discover and report any issues. The brand can get ahead of major issues that may impact long-term customer satisfaction and retention, thereby delivering uninterrupted, consistent service that differentiates the customer experience.
With so much data to collect and analyze, it's often difficult for companies to bring everything to action simultaneously. Thus, telecoms must establish end goals in order to gather and analyze data efficiently and effectively so they may extract true value from this wealth of information.