In early 2021 the number of active social platform users exceeded 4.2 billion (54% of the earth’s population), with average users logging more than two hours and 25 minutes every day. Is your organization taking full advantage of social media platforms and their unparalleled reach?
Leveraging social platforms beyond marketing
Year after year, companies and marketers have become more proficient in using social media to increase brand awareness and address targeted audiences. Organizations are no longer satisfied with a simple branded Facebook page; many have become skilled at creating buzz with smart and inspired campaigns that use advanced targeting functions to reach specific pools of customers and prospects.
But beyond advertising, social networks and messaging platforms have also seen a surge of customer-care activities in recent years. Indeed, with the growing interest in creating omnichannel customer experiences and rising customer expectations, companies have started building up their social customer-care capabilities using independent digital platforms. Some brands have also experimented with using external digital touchpoints as distribution channels, running both pre-sales and sales activities directly on WhatsApp, generating and converting leads in Instagram, distributing products using Facebook Messenger, etc.
However, many companies in all industries, including telecommunications, have yet to tap into the full potential offered by social media and messaging platforms and to seize the revenue development and cost savings opportunities they bring.
Social platforms can bring various benefits to telecom operators
We’ve identified five primary motives that drive companies, including telcos, to go a step further than digital marketing in their use of external digital channels:
Taking advantage of their vast and specific reach. Digital platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, or TikTok count their users in billions and often cater to specific elusive demographics.
Leveraging their capacity for advanced targeting. Behind the popular platforms are data-powered companies that have made their users’ data the core of their business.
Creating conversational experiences. Investing a social media or messaging platform allows companies to offer their customers more than the one-sided experience of browsing a website. They create the possibility of an actual interaction and conversation between the brand and the customer.
Being able to automate activities. These channels make it possible to recreate in a digital setting the type of interactions that were previously limited to stores and phone calls, and to do it in an automated way, using artificial intelligence through the development of bots.
Improving brand image and customer satisfaction. By being present and offering practical services to customers on these digital channels, brands contribute to building a modern, customer-centric image and to triggering recommendation.
As a consequence, how can telcos concretely leverage social platforms?
Considering these benefits, we have identified four key paths for telco operators to consider in an effort to leverage external digital platforms:
Find the best model for customer care through messaging.
Brands are increasingly incorporating messaging channels into their customer care resources. Offering customer care on social media and messaging platforms, supported by human-to-human conversations or chatbots, has become common practice for many organizations. It brings a mutual gain for both customers and companies, as on the one hand, customers have a more convenient, familiar, easily accessible and available 24/7 channel to engage with brands, and on the other hand, brands have the opportunity to reduce cost of contacts and gain efficiency: thus, a European telecom operator experienced up to 30% call deflection over a messenger such as WhatsApp.
- With messaging comes the opportunity to automate responses to simple queries avoiding costly calls or visits to customer care centers, conversations can also occur asynchronously giving companies the opportunity to adjust response time depending on the availability of customer care representatives or the complexity of the query, and the history of customer interaction is retained enabling seamless hand-offs between representatives for an improved customer experience and a full 360° customer view.
The benefits of using digital external touchpoints as care channels are, in this context, evident: they operate on the two key dimensions of customer care, lowering cost of contacts – through call deflection, asynchronous messaging, and automation – and increasing customer satisfaction – by reinforcing innovative and responsive brand perception.
However, to leverage messaging platforms for care in the most effective and secure way possible, organizations need to support agent skilling, secure high volume of automation, manage dependency to third-party policy changes, and determine the appropriate level of authentication and verification by type of query.
Joining the live stream commerce trend as it progressively takes off worldwide.
Social Live commerce – using live stream video broadcasts to sell products and services to viewers in real time – is taking root in the retail industry and, as it shows significant potential, all industries are taking a close look and starting to dip their toes in the livestreaming ecommerce pool.
Forrester predicts that live stream commerce will reach USD100 billion by 2023 in China, where this trend first emerged. And, as the global population has largely been forced to stay home by the pandemic, livestream shopping adoption rose all over the world, fueled by growing customer interest in an experience marring the convenience of digital and the interactive aspect of physical retail. Now, the trend is here to stay and has become far more than a way to make a purchase during a pandemic.
Beyond beauty, live streaming has expanded into complex and expensive products (luxury, automotive, etc.) bringing product demonstration and interaction possibilities.
In telecoms, Chinese operators are leading the way and already run livestreaming sales.
Live commerce is now spreading across western countries and, large electronics retailers, such as Fnac in France, are running Live commerce sessions for products such as cameras or game consoles, with audiences of up to one million viewers
For western telco players, social livestream commerce presents an opportunity to reach new and younger audiences on social channels and to demonstrate and stage a complex range of products and services while maintaining a social element through the interaction between viewers and host. It could also be an effective way of introducing and promoting new flagship devices (handsets, smart home devices, etc.) in partnership with manufacturers to present the technological objects with its associated communication services.
By exploring social live commerce, the telco industry could therefore generate additional revenues from real-time sales as well as bring forth indirect sales: live stream commerce delivered on social media platforms being a good tool to support brand and product discoverability and to boost brand image. It is also a smart way to break through promising channels, such as Instagram, which are successfully pivoting towards e-commerce. Finally, by tapping into influencer marketing, the initial investment to start testing the live commerce possibilities could be limited, making experimentation easy.
In markets not yet accustomed to this kind of sales though, one shall expect success to be progressive and development to follow improved customer education and habits.
Fully engage in automated conversational selling.
Conversational selling is about opening a direct dialogue with customers and prospects, to engage with them and focus the sales pitch around the most relevant arguments for each individual. (So instead of talking about the merits of, say, a particular phone plan, a salesperson might ask about the customer’s phone habits.) It’s a customer-centric method most relevant for complex products such as fiber or smart home offerings.
Conversational selling is therefore a particularly interesting path for telco players which can take advantage of social media targeting capabilities to find, reach and start conversing with prospects eligible to and most likely to need their services. For increased convenience, these conversations can take place on the channels where customers and prospects are most comfortable interacting, moving from social media to social messaging platforms. And, as the idea is to take the time to know one’s prospective buyer’s interest and to introduce and explain all the benefits of one’s products, the more cost-effective approach is to support conversational selling initiatives with a chatbot. By investing in messaging platforms, telco companies can also leverage their interface and functionalities: geolocation pins for eligibility checks, multimedia carousels for offer discovery, pre-filled customer info based on social media account data, etc.
With the articulation of social media and messaging apps, establishing a true connection and nurturing long-term relationships is no longer the preserve of corner shops. Automated conversational selling can be an efficient lead-generation channel for telco operators as it leverages both messaging apps’ vast base of active users and social media’s proven advanced targeting algorithms. Two-way interactive conversations make for an engaging channel and thus better conversion, especially given that the benefits are centered on the idea of nurturing the leads generated. Even if the prospect isn’t interested in the product they initially reached out about, the window is opened to retarget them, guide them toward another offer, assess their satisfaction, etc.
In the Philippines, a leading Broadband operator experienced a x3 increase in lead generation through a geo-located Facebook ad combined with a call to action inviting prospects to chat through messenger. Users could then discover the broadband offer further and confirm their eligibility.
With these clear benefits, telco companies need to start building the technical prerequisite to invest the field of automated conversational selling on messaging platforms. And, in the meantime, they must begin with initiatives that will facilitate service discovery and improve the purchasing experience even if still short of full scope use case deployment. In particular, linking social media and CRM data is an important challenge to be tackled to mine for prospect data, retarget and effectively explore A/B testing.
Embrace messaging platforms top-up for pre-paid business.
Social messaging platforms can also support revenue development in emerging markets where prepaid remains the norm and customers often shift between the various SIMs they own.
Allowing mobile phone users to top up their prepaid phone cards on their favorite messaging platform brings about a new level of convenience for customers, as the freedom and control that come with prepaid phone plans also come with the hurdle of having to top up often by visiting a store or memorizing a dedicated phone number.
But top-up acts can now be as easy as initiating a chat on WhatsApp with one’s mobile provider. Informed about his low credit on his usual social messaging platform, a customer can provide a bot with an amount to top up and select his e-wallet or another payment method, before receiving confirmation of their transaction. Moreover, these same bots can be used to check or be notified of one’s balance on a channel that is not only more convenient but also more engaging. This is the direction followed by a leading African mobile operator that has created a fully automated top-up journey supported by WhatsApp end to end.
Of course, security stakes remain, requiring platforms and telcos to secure transactions using tools ranging from conversation encryption to well-defined partnership contracts to implement the appropriate level of authentication to safeguard customers from frauds while maintaining convenience.
The potential of social and messaging platforms for telecommunication companies is vast. Looking ahead, investing these platforms will help in creating improved service and offer discovery experiences as well as stronger long-term relationships between brand and customer. Companies that wish to get ahead cannot afford to overlook the opportunity digital external touchpoints bring.
TelcoInsights is a series of posts about the latest trends and opportunities in the telecommunications industry – powered by a community of global industry experts and thought leaders.
Philippe BLANC, Vice-President, Telecom Media Technology at Capgemini Invent
Kenza Terrab, Managing Consultant, Telecom Media Technology at Capgemini Invent
Nathalie Bes, Director, Telecom Media Technology at Capgemini Invent