Bring Employee Excitement Back With Telecom Innovations

The telecommunications industry is at an exciting time. Many providers are pushing to quickly deploy 5G and fiber, especially with expanded federal funding dedicated to broadband connectivity projects. But this excitement isn’t extending to potential workers. The industry struggles to attract the top talent it needs and keep the employees it has. Prospects see the industry as antiquated — not sexy and forward thinking like Apple, Amazon, and other technology companies. 

How can the industry raise the interest level? Cool, new products excite customers, and telecom innovations can also attract new talent. Accelerating digital transformation is another key. Providers can improve experiences with automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and analytics (known as A3) tools that remove mundane tasks and let employees focus on work they find rewarding. And better employee satisfaction leads to better customer satisfaction, as we’ll discuss below.

How the communications industry fell from grace

It wasn’t always this way for the telecommunications industry. There was a time when top prospects flocked to work with communications service providers. When plain, old telephone service transitioned to data transport, sophisticated switching and routing, and networking equipment, it drew data scientists and electrical engineers to network engineering and operations roles. Unions were also a major attraction for job security, pensions, and career progression.

But as innovations advanced, technology companies eclipsed telecoms. They offered more money, better perks, and modern tools that new workers were familiar with. Without tools to resolve customer issues, telecom workers spent the day listening to complaints. They were also expected to upsell and cross-sell to these unhappy customers. This led to employees quickly burning out, with no relief provided.

Despite huge 5G and fiber opportunities, the skilled labor shortage is limiting broadband deployments. The growing number of open positions has companies scrambling.

These three industry and economic trends underscore the urgency to solve the employment issue:

Labor shortage and retention struggles

Despite huge 5G and fiber opportunities, a labor shortage is limiting broadband deployments. The growing number of open positions has many companies scrambling.

And the issue extends beyond new construction. The top concern for wireless operators “is always the lack of skilled workers in areas such as cloud computing and networking,” wrote Sue Marek at Fierce Wireless. But the issue also applies to network engineers, technicians, sales and service agents, and more.

Retaining employees is also difficult. Sales and service teams get frustrated when they can’t help customers. Their lack of telecom innovations and digital tools to view relevant customer information and other issues makes their jobs harder. When they can’t get their problems resolved over the phone or online, customers end up at retail locations to try to get the help they need. But, they struggle through retail, too, as only 23% of customers say they receive efficient service.

Rising inflation costs push wage costs higher

Inflation effects often result in carriers passing on those higher costs to customers. This hurts customer retention and adds more stress to sales and retention teams with increased calls.  

The impact of inflation can also affect wage costs and is reigniting employee interest in unions. It has some unions renegotiating new deals that could push wages higher. It also has the potential to further divide the two sides if negotiations become tense.

The shift to a customer focus requires employee insights

Providers are shifting their focus to customer experience (CX) as they recognize changing needs and behaviors. This includes creating better products, driving personalized offers, and improving sales and support efforts. The goal is to provide new revenue streams for the providers and better value for customers — and employees are playing an increasingly important role.

The key to success is through data. Providers excel at capturing customer data, but it sits in siloed systems where they struggle to use it effectively. Telecom innovations, such as a customer data platform, can bring it all together in one source for employees to access.

For better success though, providers need to consider more than the voice of the customer. Ian Golding, founder of Customer Experience Consultancy, recommends including the voice of the employee and the voice of the process. Employees provide further insights that can verify customer feedback. Examining company processes helps to optimize its effects on both employees and customers. 

Positive customer experiences go hand in hand with positive employee experiences. Golding said many companies have better CX success by focusing on employees over customers. Here are some ways to get started: 

Get the right feedback. Employees are with customers every day, receiving their thoughts and addressing their pain points. Providers need to invest in collecting employee feedback to better understand customers and make employees feel like they’re helping shape the business. It starts with providing telecom innovations that help employees solve problems.

Put customer data to use. Again, customer data is the key to making this happen. Providers need to invest in modern tools to not only make data accessible, but searchable and useful. These include advanced analytics and AI to comb through large amounts of data and help put it to use.

Use advanced analytics and AI. Help providers better manage their network to prevent issues that cause outages, and identify changing behaviors (like working from home) that stress the network at different times. Advanced analytics and AI also allow for proactive network maintenance so fewer customers call to complain. Service agents can also get automated notifications before learning about an issue from customers, and get recommendations on how to best help customers address the problems.

For sales, AI-powered insights can recommend the next-best actions or offers based on usage data, making frontline employees more productive and successful in closing sales. Not to mention, satisfied customers are more receptive to hearing about relevant offers. 

Automate routine tasks. Automation, meanwhile, helps with billing and payment processing, customer service, number portability, document verification and SIM allotment process, data entry and management, and more. Taking away these manual tasks allows employees to focus on more meaningful work and deeper questions or issues. Automation can populate data into all applicable fields automatically to reduce order errors. Customers get their issues resolved and orders completed faster and easier.

Making the communications industry a sought-after employment destination will take a lot of work and telecom innovations. Modernizing work processes and tools so employees find their jobs more rewarding is a giant step forward. Happy employees don’t only make the customer experience better, they also recruit more and better new employees!

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