Understanding customers is really a two way street…

Organizations are racing to understand customers for a variety of reasons, but the most prevalent is that their markets are increasingly saturated, and they need to protect their base.  Concurrently, there is a big push to go “steal” customers from their competitors, but let’s not focus on that for the moment…let’s talk about understanding customers.

As an organization that provides both services and products, a typical telecom operator has really keyed in on “understanding their customers” and “customer experience management” as buzz words and phrases that have led to initiatives that include developing 360 degree views of those customers.  This has created focus on things like demographics, segmentation, billing history, purchase history, contact history, service usage analysis, etc.  These are certainly important factors, and they do help paint a picture of that customer to the operator.  But the perspective is often skewed, in that the operator is looking at the customer from the operator’s point of view.  Instead, to better understand the customer and their experience, the operator needs to adapt their approach to the customer’s point of view.

While this customer point of view strikes many as common sense, it still remains an elusive paradigm.  Quite simply put, the operator needs to understand how the customer perceives the operator has treated them.  How has the network quality been for that customer?  How many unfavorable events has that customer had to experience (dropped calls, failed downloads, etc.)?  On top of the number of times the customer has contacted, how many times did they contact before an issue was resolved (not to mention hold times in the queue with each episode)?  These and other factors contribute to truly understanding how the operator has treated the customer, which then helps better explain why a customer may be considered a promoter or detractor.

Why is understanding customers a two-way street?  It is because two components make up that understanding:  The behavior of the customer, and the behavior of the service provider.  Two points of view that often result in entirely different outcomes than predicted by looking through a single lens.

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