Vodafone taps into data analytics to improve the customer journey

The customer experience is not a discrete set of activities, so how can analytics and automation help?

Customers are less interested in hearing you talk than in you talking to them, according to Vodafone marketing and communications general manager, Nilanjan Sarkar.

Speaking at the SAS conference in Sydney, Sarkar said it’s only when we start to look at the customer experience as journeys that we start listening and truly responding.

“That [point-based experience] is a mindset we need to get out of,” he told attendees. “When you get out of that mindset and look at the customer experience as journeys, you stop talking at customers and start listening and responding.

“When you listen and respond, you talk less, but you also respond faster. You need to talk to customers in the context of the environment that they’re interacting with you, and at times, you have to talk to influencers within the customer base, to deliver a certain customer experience.”

Vodafone recently undertook the longest customer enhancement projects undertaken in the company’s history over the last few years, using data and analytics to demonstrate to organisations that the customer experience is in fact a journey and not a set of discrete activities.

“We have organised our customer experiences across these journeys, so that we are not pushing discrete activities in customers’ lives,” Sarkar explained. “When you look at these experiences, they may come across as discrete or disjointed, whereas if you look at them as horizontals, not verticals, their experience is far more consistent, and you also get a better commercial outcome as a result.”

Different experiences could include those of the post-paid contract customer, or the traveller calling up a call centre to activate roaming, Sarkar said. Or it could be a customer wanting clarification on why their bill looks different from the plan they believed they signed up for.

“Each of these experiences has been across a large scale of customers, so you need to be able to handle irregularity because every customer is going through a different experience,” Sarkar continued. “Now, that’s a complex set of interactions. The way we organise it, at its highest level, is through different segments across the customer group.”

Addressing different stages of the customer lifecycle

As an example of these different stages, Sarkar pointed to when a customer signs up for a new service. Then there is the consolidation stage, which is an opportunity to consolidate the relationship with the customer and grow the business he said.

There is also the risk stage and various respective triggers that Vodafone continually tracks, as well as a loyalty stage, where the customer spends some time which needs to be recognised.

“These look linear, but actually they’re not, because customers base their experience on their day-to-day basis, and they jump from one segment to another,” Sarkar said. “What we do is score every customer on a daily basis, and repopulate every customer’s data on a daily basis.

“We have a variety of models that actually predict your usage patterns, look at your usage pattern, predict whether you are on the right plan, whether you are getting an experience that you were not expecting when you signed up for the plan, or whether you have a good or a bad interaction at the call centre. When you collect this data, and the data grows over time, you are able to train your models, to predict a certain experience based on a certain event. You can use those scores to predict your customer’s happiness and unhappiness.”

According to Sarkar, it is not enough to just figure out what data to track and monitor. You also need to be able to make data insights simple across the organisation and for the people working front-of-house, so they can interact appropriately with the customer.

At Vodafone, the results are all placed in a real-time positioning engine, which uses certain groups to generate appropriate responses for that customer in Vodafone’s front-facing CRM systems.

“The rest is just down and dirty regular monitoring and training of our staff,” Sarkar said. “The best programs will not work if there is inadequate call centre or retail service. We are continually training our people to have the right conversations and project the right activity for that customer, because there is a lot of back-end information already that helps us predict what the customer might be interested in at that point of time.”

Predictive capabilities and responsive engagement

Vodafone then uses its next best activity capability to predict the types of communication to present to customers using a real-time decision engine. This enables a far more agile campaign engine that places the right communication in front of the customer at the right time and when they need it, Sarkar said.

“So it is very contextual,” he said. “By tracking customer experience over time, we are able to act on them contextually in real time and more importantly, we are able to organise ourselves into proactive and reactive teams. We are then able to take that information that is based on a prediction of what the customer will go through in terms of experience and act on them in a very agile fashion.”

SAS underpins every part of the customer lifecycle for Vodafone. “The SAS engines are used right from profiling the customer, to segmenting them, to scoring their experiences, right to delivering what appropriate communication or responding to the appropriate communication, at the frontline,” Sarkar concluded.

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