Customer Engagement and Experience Increasingly Play a Key Role in Companies’ Growth

In the rapidly evolving global economy, businesses must take advantage of technologies and marketing strategies that position the firms for growth. Companies should also keep customer engagement and customer experience at the forefront of their operations.

In recent decades, this recognition of customers’ needs has driven companies to increasingly seek a seamless purchase or service experience. The COVID-19 pandemic played an integral role in this progression. Today, telecommunications industry leaders benefit from their collective history while imagining ways to further elevate customer experiences.

The Customer Experience Concept

The term “customer experience” has two distinct meanings. First, a customer experience refers to each exchange a customer has with a retail store, online retailer, restaurant, or other business. Taking a bigger-picture perspective, a customer experience is the total of every interaction a specific customer has with an organization.

How the Customer Experience Focus Took Shape

Companies’ current emphasis on customer experiences didn’t happen overnight. Instead, it evolved from several decades of businesses’ increasing focus on building long-lasting customer relationships. The customer’s satisfaction with a product or service was the springboard for this new trend.

When customers purchase a product, they buy into the “experience” they perceive that the product will deliver. When an individual purchases a pickup truck, for example, they aren’t buying a vehicle that can haul lumber and garden mulch. They are purchasing the freedom and exploration they feel the truck will offer.

Similarly, someone who purchases coconut-scented body care products isn’t just trying to soften their skin. Instead, they are perhaps imagining the experience of relaxing on an exclusive Caribbean island.

Customer Expectations Continue to Evolve

Customers increasingly expect brands to deliver experiences rather than products. But, at the same time, the customers want companies to offer seamless services on demand.

Already underway, these higher expectations accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Online shoppers frequently received their merchandise within mere days, leading them to expect all services at lightning-fast speed.

Different Channels for Each Stage

Today, customers interact with brands on multiple communication channels. Customers may choose a different channel for each stage of their journey.

Perhaps the customer discovers the brand on social media, researches the product online, and purchases it via the company’s website. Afterward, they use the company’s customer and tech support live chat functions to address service issues.

Not surprisingly, these consumers expect the same glitch-free outcomes in every medium. An omnichannel communication framework is designed to support each customer’s individual brand journey.

Three Telecommunications Leaders Offer Customer Experience Insights

The telecommunications industry’s different sectors each have their own customer experience lens. Here, three recognized industry leaders share insights on their company’s customer experience evolution.

Mitto: Omnichannel Messaging Enhances the Customer Experience

Switzerland-based Mitto has become a significant player in the business telecommunications industry. Specifically, Mitto has been recognized for its leadership in the omnichannel messaging arena.

For perspective, an omnichannel communication framework enables customers to speak with a company using several communication channels. Voice, SMS/text, chatbots, and social media are examples of often-used channels. An omnichannel framework enables seamless two-way communication and a consistent customer experience.

Mitto’s COO Details the Evolution of the Company’s Services

Ilja Gorelik, Mitto’s Chief Operating Officer, said the company has experienced a remarkable evolution during the past decade. “At Mitto, we’re on a mission to deliver reliable, high-quality communications between businesses and their customers every time.

“Our company was founded in 2013 with the specific aim of building a state-of-the-art Application-to-Person (A2P) SMS messaging platform, unrivaled in reliability, that could support the requirements of a new wave of A2P services. As the demand grew for the enablement of omnichannel communications capabilities, we expanded our portfolio beyond SMS.

“[We] now include voice, chatbots, all major chat apps (WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook Messenger, etc.), Google Business Messaging, RCS, myriad CRM and marketing platform integrations and, most recently, pre-built tools for bulk campaigns and conversational support chats…Simply put, we make communication happen,” he summarized.

The Digital Shift Requires a New Customer Experience Paradigm

Ilja Gorelik remarked that the large-scale shift from physical stores to digital marketplaces has impacted customers in a significant way. Without the physical store’s sights, sounds, and perhaps even smells, a customer may find it difficult to separate one brand from another.

“As the co-founder of a company that provides omnichannel messaging services, I’ve seen firsthand that in a world where physical stores have given way to digital storefronts, differentiating between two similar brands on a screen can be difficult, if not impossible,” Ilja Gorelik said.

Why Brands Should Prioritize Customer Engagement and Experience

With the shift to mostly digital operations, Ilja Gorelik said brands must decide whether to attempt to re-create the in-store shopping experience or design a brand-new one for the digital world.

“No matter the path, brand CX [customer experience] and engagement matters a lot…Gone are the days of lowest-cost-reigns-supreme. If they’re able to, consumers want to have an experience that comes with both personalization and convenience.

“Brands and C-suites should view this as an opportunity, not a challenge, to deliver the high levels of CX and engagement today’s digital-savvy customers clearly want,” Ilja Gorelik emphasized.

How COVID-19 Impacted the Customer Experience

Not surprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic’s onset turned communications networks upside down. Shortly after the pandemic’s early-2020 arrival, Mitto conducted an extensive online survey to learn how consumers felt about their favorite brands’ communications during the period. Ilja Gorelik summarized the survey results.

“Managing that perfectly was nearly impossible, though Mitto surveyed 7,000 consumers in seven countries last May, near the start of the pandemic, about how they felt brands handled communicating during those early days.

“Overall, they were quite impressed: 77 percent said that the messages they received from brands over the past few weeks have made them feel like brands care about their well-being, and 30 percent said that brands made them feel less anxious about the global coronavirus pandemic.

“But over 40 percent also indicated they were ready to hear from brands about topics unrelated to COVID-19, rather than next week, next month, or later this year. To their credit, brands pivoted towards their standard-fare communications after the initial wave of COVID-related communications and have effectively been doing so since,” he remarked.

Vodafone Business: B2B Telecommunications Providers Must Adapt to Real-World Business Needs

Many telecommunications companies now provide business customers with data analytics, market research, and other customer-focused information. Although this data may be helpful, providers risk overwhelming business owners. The pandemic’s rapid growth of digitalization magnified the issue.

Katy Pearce, Vodafone Business’ Head of Customer Experience, said it’s time for telecommunications providers to reassess their customer experience focus. “It [the pandemic] has provided the impetus to think about things differently. The pandemic has undoubtedly accelerated the consumerization of the B2B space. It now has to be digital first.

“But it needs to be digital-first in a way that the basic stuff is seamless; the basics must work. Then you use human interactions to really augment the overall experience.

“One focus for Vodafone Business has been to assist SMEs [or subject matter experts], many of which had to pivot significantly when the pandemic hit, to become digital-only operators when routes to traditional market were closed. Some did not have a website; others had only a limited online presence. As a result, COVID shifted this sector dramatically and boosted its dependence on telecom services.

“Remember, smaller businesses don’t have a whole IT department. They don’t have separate people that understand security, cloud services, or connectivity. They are just trying to run their businesses. It’s, therefore, about helping these businesses use technology in the best way possible,” emphasized Katy Pearce.

Interactions Corporation: What Drives the Customer Experience Evolution

Michael Iacobucci, Interactions Corporation’s Chief Executive Officer, affirmed that delivering better customer experiences enables a brand to separate itself from its competitors. “Exceptional customer service is not optional for today’s businesses. In order to succeed, CX must be a top priority,” he emphasized.

A technology industry veteran, Michael Iacobucci, noted that today’s technological advancements (including AI) are not always applied in customer-centric ways. “Companies are drawn to these options because they promise fast deployment and ease of use, but there’s a lot more that goes into fostering excellent CX than throwing technology at the problem, including design and customization,” he said.

Time for a New Paradigm, Not Incremental Improvements

Finally, Michael Iacobucci believes the time for incremental customer experience improvement is over. Instead, he visualized an omnichannel communications strategy that indeed resolves customers’ problems.

“I’m excited for the reality I see right around the corner. A reality where businesses are implementing an omnichannel strategy to provide customers with the best channel for that moment in time and for the task at hand, so they can get their problems resolved quickly and painlessly. No repetition, no getting bounced around to multiple agents, no choosing from a restrictive dial menu — just fast, easy resolution to questions and concerns,” he summarized.