How telecom and utilities can prevent churn by forfeiting the ‘lowest price’ war

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Cost-cutting has long been the core marketing mainstay of companies offering a service many take for granted. From cheaper broadband plans for greater bandwidth to energy contracts that manage their own efficiency, customers seem to want as little ‘people’ interaction as possible from their utilities and telecom providers. 

But some service providers are so occupied with looking outwards to create a digital renaissance through customer acquisition and predicting behavior, that there’s something missing. How can telcos and utility services look to the resources they have at their fingertips to create additional spheres of value that connect with their existing customers? How do they get beyond competing purely on price? 

How can they convert disconnected contract-holders into delighted brand advocates? 

The rising tide of clumsy targeting 

Telecoms and utilities providers sit at a critical juncture in offering value to existing customers by reaching them in the right way. Customers have had enough of irrelevant incentives and poorly timed offers that only yield frustration. Companies lose eyeballs to ad-blockers, and turn potential repeat customers into churners when the time comes to renew their contract. 

Of course, timing is everything when it comes to engaging, keeping and upgrading the contract value of customers. Understanding whether they’re displaying tell-tale signs of switching to a competing service doesn’t stem from drawing your own conclusions via their interactions with remote digital channels, or inferring whether they’re in a family-of-three or a single homeowner. This only helps to inform context.

Understanding whether customers are at this pivotal moment stems from knowing — based on the information your customer willingly gives to you — when their contract is expiring or when they may be unhappy. Rather than waiting until it’s too late, it's important to proactively offer the self-service facilities these customers need, or the offer they can’t refuse — before the opportunity is lost. 

Rewarding your existing customers

Value-added services are fast becoming a key global strategy factor for telcos, and the introduction of additional services offers both a new revenue stream and a new differentiator in a crowded market. So how can you apply this simple principle of rewards-based value to your retention strategy? 

As is the case with many of life’s most burning questions, the answer is simple and already right in front of you. Customer data — or first-party data — is the key to knowing the difference between your most cherished contract holders, those who are about to switch, and those who are on the verge of becoming customers. It’s the foundation of your customer engagement strategy — a way to establish an ongoing conversation through direct points of interaction, from service inquiries and contract history to logged complaints.

It means using these data points to fuel rewards-based interactions. Has a loyal customer stuck with you through thick and thin? Make them feel special with an extended product trial just for them or a gift on their birthday to show you appreciate them. A just-for-them service package can be the difference between churn and keeping that valuable customer with you for the foreseeable future.

Adding self-service through smarter use of the right data

It doesn’t stop there. Your customers can compare offers, products, delivery options and costs in a click — so make sure they can serve themselves sufficiently and efficiently. 

Findings suggest that 70% of customers expect a company’s website to include a self-service application, and half think it’s crucial to be able to solve service issues themselves. This doesn’t mean removing the human touch from utility-based service strategies, though. Instead, it means adding an intelligent, intuitive digital service offering through smarter use of the data that forms the basis for your customer relationships. Besides offering greater convenience, this strategy also creates a sense of shared value between you and your customer. In other words, it gives them a reason to stay rather than stray to your competitor.

In a world based around mapping peoples’ digital footprints, there’s a lot to be said for getting out there and asking your customer one-to-one what it is they want. Unfortunately, if you have more than three million customers like energy provider Nuon, this isn't very scalable. And so, mirroring these one-to-one interactions based on the information your customers give you, via technology, is the next best thing. This also gives you a baseline for scale: quality breeds quality, and rather than starting straight from nebulous big data derived from someone else’s audience, this means you can build from the ground up using conversation points with clear origins. 

Customer data should (and can) be used as the basis for your customer conversations — and conversions, time and time again.

This is when leaders in utilities marketing evolve from purveyors of an ongoing price war, to create a more nuanced understanding of how to pitch true value to each customer: through reaching them smarter and building a stronger, long-lasting relationship at every interaction. 

Insights Hub: Building loyalty through customer data

Customer satisfaction ladders up to customer retention, loyalty, and advocacy — and it all starts with better personalization through customer data. Get the best new strategies and insights in our insights hub

Our telecoms and utilities customers are winning the data-driven marketing game by competing on customer experience from day one. Here is a collection of our best learnings for making advocates out of bystanders: