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Jan 24, 2018 | 4 minute read

How Ecommerce can become Carriers' 'Secret Weapon' to Unified Customer Experiences

written by Harry Chemko

Today’s post originally ran on Wireless Week.

Against the technical backdrop of increasing expectations for always-on internet and mobile services, many carriers are struggling on the frontend with customer experience. All the interactions — in-store, chatbot, email, phone, text, website, app, messenger service, Facebook — must be unified and personalized. Nearly seven out of 10 carriers believe this will be the single most important factor in customer loyalty, according to the CMO Council and the Open Roads Community.

unified customer experiences and interactions

Fragmented Customer Experiences

Carriers have traditionally grown through acquisition, so they run on legacy systems focused on a particular set of products. They might have a system for a customer's cell service account, another one for their internet account, and yet another for their TV service. These de-facto silos also mean there could be three “versions” of the same customer in three different systems.

It gets even more complicated when customer interaction systems are siloed by sales channel in addition to product line. Existing and potential customers might receive different offers for the same products across different channels. In-store customer service reps might not have access to all of the products a customer has with the company. Customers don’t understand why they receive two bills from the same company.

Customers get confused and frustrated from dealing with all these inconsistent experiences.
frustrated customer with inconsistent experience

Systems Stifle Innovation and Agility

It is not just customers who get frustrated.

One of the largest cable and TV companies in Europe was centralizing IT operations in the European market to leverage quad-plays. Their multiple business support systems (BSS) and operation support systems (OSS) were in various states of upgrade and age. This presented a considerable challenge because a lot of the backend BSS systems were impossible to replace, but were never designed to provide a digital customer experience.

Many carriers find themselves in the same position.

The CMO Council Report found that just 9 percent of telco marketers felt their organizations were highly advanced and rapidly evolving to be more data-driven, customer-responsive and digitally adaptive. Another 47 percent admitted that while they were evolving, far more effort was required.

Only 4 percent indicated their organizations were delivering consistent customer experiences that were personalized and contextually relevant across all traditional and digital channels.

backend and siloed systems were not designed to provide digital customer experiences

Telco marketers are severely hamstrung by backend and siloed systems.

It is technically very difficult to modify any portion, let alone tie them together to enable quad-play bundles. As a result, new campaigns might take months to get to customers. At the European cable and TV company, the typical time to market for a new campaign running across separate businesses and products within those businesses was three to six months. Not very agile.

Not only do legacy systems slow marketing down considerably, but they may also make it impossible to create new offers beyond those in the business support system (BSS). For example, how can marketing bundle a free Netflix account with a certain mobile data plan when the underlying business support system doesn’t even know the Netflix account exists?

secret weapon is API-based ecommerce technology

How are Leading Carriers Closing the Gap?

Without a single view of the customer’s interactions with your organization, personalization is clunky at best, and impossible at worst. How do you get all those disparate systems to talk to each other without expensive, custom and increasingly risky integrations?

Leading carriers have found a way.

They close the gap between customer expectation and restrictive legacy system capabilities by incorporating what Gartner refers to as “API-based e-commerce software” which helps to facilitate consistent, personalized customer experiences across product lines and touchpoints.

Modern, API-based commerce technology “understands” the complex business rules in multiple BSS’s and injects transactional capabilities into all customer experiences. Carriers can now take advantage of legacy systems and power consistent pricing, product and promotional experiences across any touchpoint including in-store.secret weapon is API-based ecommerce technology

The Secret Weapon in Modern e-Commerce

One of the top three carriers in the United States knew customers were tired of complicated plans, data limits, global roaming fees and lockdown contracts. They introduced a single, unlimited plan for everyone. Their market share skyrocketed.

But even this company struggled to close the gap between customer expectations and their actual customer experience. They recognized that the different touchpoint experiences they had either acquired or built over the years focused on the wrong problem. They did not need a complete solution for each touchpoint; they needed a way to tie existing backend systems to any frontend.

They found the secret weapon: by taking advantage of API-based e-commerce technology, they were able to orchestrate the business logic housed in multiple legacy systems and apply that to any frontend device or experience.

The legacy systems still do their job.

Are your legacy systems struggling to deliver the experiences your customers expect? Contact us to find out how our agile, API-first commerce platform can give you the ability to get ahead of customer demands, while continuing to take advantage of investments you’ve made in your legacy platforms. Learn about Elastic Path Commerce.