CRM Gets the Call: Hosting, Performance Evaluation Solutions, and a Creative Call Center Layout Help Telecoms Improve Their Customer Relationship Efforts

Article excerpt

Telecommunication companies have longer histories with more detail about their customers than companies in many other industries, according to David Pramer, global manager and partner of CRM for high-tech businesses at Accenture. But the information for customers of traditional services, which has been recorded for several years, is now being leveraged to sell new, value-added products and services, which is helping improve retention, upsells of services, and helping the expansions of young telecom providers.

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The sales of new services are important to new and older telecom companies for a couple of different reasons, according to Pramer. These services are more profitable for telecom companies. Traditional services are expensive to provide, and the pricing and revenues for such services are continuing to decline. Additionally, consumers and businesses alike are willing to pay premium prices for the newer services.

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According to Jay Fausch, senior director for broadband access for Alcatel, telecom service providers offering traditional voice services can earn $50 to $60 per month. By adding high-speed Internet access that figure doubles. By including video services, the revenue figure reaches $179 a month.

But the old and new services are sometimes handled by different billing and customer management systems, so much of the focus among telecom companies in employing CRM today is to obtain complete customer information, Pramer says. "Telecom companies are trying to leverage their customer insight so that they know what services customers have, what they [don't have,] and how they can improve customer retention. They're trying to pull together all of the customer information under a single account structure." A growing practice that an increasing number of telecom companies are using to retain customers is bundling services for a discount. The idea is that the more services a customer has from a single provider, the less likely he is to go to another provider.

Many telecom and cable providers have bundled together telephone (analog or VoIP), video (cable or satellite TV), and broadband Internet (cable or digital subscriber line) services for the past year or so, and are starting to expand from primary into secondary markets. Some are also adding a fourth service--wireless telecom--as the industry moves from the triple play to the grand slam in service offerings. This and other customer retention efforts require top-notch customer relationship practices. Read on for coverage of how three telecom companies are improving their people, process, and technology efforts.

AIDING VoIP GROWTH

Voice over Internet Protocol is one of the fastest growing areas of telecommunications sales, but the increasing sales have also brought increasing competition, so CRM is critical for companies wanting to maintain a competitive edge. Covad Communications Group, a provider of high-speed Internet access, was enjoying good growth in selling its IP PBX and other VoIP products, but sales support was a cumbersome process, according to Gay Thorne, Covad's director of sales, support, and engineering.

The paperwork for the orders, including the order itself, requisition forms, and credit checks--collectively called a booking package--was going to one of four different company support centers, depending on the field customer service representative handling the transaction. But there was no way to track the progress of the orders to see if they were moving on schedule, or to determine if the field personnel were collecting all of the necessary paperwork and following up on items on time.

So the company decided to centralize those processes earlier this year, with all of the order booking information going into Covad's Herndon, VA, office. Covad hired three people to handle the orders, and took those responsibilities away from the field representative so that they could have more customer "face time," Thorne says. …

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