Teleco's need to get serious about digitising customer journeys (part 1 – a quick fix)

This blog is triggered by a personal experience I recently had with a German telecommunications company. I will use my example to illustrate a common problem in the telecommunications (and service) industry and I will provide practical tips on how to fix it. The good news is that it can be fixed and that the benefits in terms of cost savings and customer experience are huge.

Briefly about my story. I signed up for DSL online at the end of September. Shortly after signing up I received an email with a pdf attached to it saying: “We need to know the number on your wall jack, please call our customer service team so installation can happen as scheduled”. Seriously? After signing up online (which was seamless and easy) I have to get in touch with the contact centre to give someone a 4 digit number over the phone. I understand that this number is important but sending a photo, texting or emailing, or filling in a form field during sign up is not an option? This is not just about customer experience or convenience. From a business perspective it doesn’t make sense to direct online customers to the most expensive service channel a Telco has to offer (around 8 euros per call). Anyway, when I called no one picked up the phone. I heard a voice message saying that the call volume is unexpectedly high and the average wait time is 45 minutes. Hmmm, unexpectedly…

To sum it all up…

  • I missed two phone calls from the provider as I was overseas.

  • I received two emails with installation dates. And I waited from 8am to 12pm without anyone showing up or cancelling before not showing up.

  • I called 6 times and I waited on average 45 minutes to talk to someone.

  • Whenever I had someone on the phone the experience was good. The call center agents were switched on, helpful and polite despite the fact that I was in a bad mood after listening to an endless loop of the same song.

  • There was one poorly timed up-sell attempt where a contact centre agent offered me a new mobile contract. No thanks, can we get my DSL sorted first?

  • Installation is now scheduled for mid December, 10 weeks after sign up, fingers crossed.

Having worked with leading Telco’s and network providers in New Zealand I know how complex and technically difficult it can be to ensure the right customer is connected to the right network interface unit at the right time. But, the problem here has nothing to do with technology. In fact the problem is not even complex and it can be solved using well-established service design tools.

The problem here is a lack of focus on the customer journey. And this is a common problem, not just in telecommunications but in many service organisations. When service providers started to digitise their service offering they often started with specific touch points. Sign-up is such a touch point and digitising this step in the customer journey is a great idea. Why? First, because many customers prefer online sign-up over going to a store or calling a contact centre. Secondly, online sign-up allows an organisation to scale quickly at low costs as customers self-serve. So, lot’s of benefits for the provider and for customers. However, if organisations don’t digitise the following steps in the customer journey and actively drive customers to channels that can’t handle the capacity, they create a bottleneck. The bottleneck creates unnecessary costs for the organisation and is frustrating for customers at the same time. A lose-lose situation.

There is a quick fix and a long term solution approach to this problem. If you’re interested in the quick fix keep on reading. The long-term solution approach focusing on cultural, structural and operational aspects will be covered in my next post. Here is a 5-step quick fix:

1. Conduct qualitative research to understand how customers are navigating through your service. Yes, you have to talk to actual customers there are no shortcuts.

2. Map those journeys on a big sheet of paper (low or high fidelity). Figure 1 shows how journey maps are typically structured.

Figure 1. Typical structure of a customer journey map.

Figure 1. Typical structure of a customer journey map.

3. Find out where the customer experience breaks, how many customers are affected, how many are dropping out and why.

4. Assess the financial impact on your business. How much does it cost us if we direct x % of our customers to the contact centre. How many days does it take from sign-up to installation? What is the financial impact (lost revenue) through a delayed installation? In my personal example the total costs and lost revenue would add up to around 100 euros. This is before any installation happened. Multiply that figure by the number of new customers per month...

5. Fix and improve the journey. Decide which channels you need to prioritise for each journey. I’ve written a blog post on how to do this.


Completing the steps above, and doing it properly for your key journeys, will take about 6 weeks. Journey mapping is an extremely valuable exercise for service organisations as it uncovers your customers’ needs, pain points, and opportunities for improvement.

Succeeding in creating world-class services requires a deep understanding of customer journeys, and designing and improving services around them. Service organisations need to actively drive customers to cost efficient channels that deliver a good customer experience. Omni-channel is a recent buzzword often used to justify massive investments into IT back-end technology to integrate and synchronise all available channels. The underlying assumption is that customers want to choose the channel they would like to interact with. From my experience customer don’t want excessive channel choice, they want to resolve their issue or get a task done as quickly and easy as possible. A small number of well-orchestrated channels do the job better than a complex mix of poorly integrated channels that don’t focus on customer needs. Get serious about digitising customer journeys, save costs, increase your revenue and improve the customer experience.

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Posted by Dr. Sebastian Vetter