This year’s Asian Carriers Conference will focus on the growing importance of customer experience as telcos hurtle headlong into the Digital Era. In this Q&A with Disruptive.Asia, ACCI chairman Katrina “Kat” Luna-Abelarde explains why the customer experience matters more than ever, and advises telcos to find the right balance between digital and human interaction with their customers.
Disruptive.Asia: This year’s business theme at ACC is “Reinventing Customer Experience in the Digital Age” – what trends are you seeing that inspired you to select this theme for ACC2017?
Kat Luna-Abelarde: The telco industry, by far and large, has been experiencing disruption in the past years, across multiple fronts. This is driven by the rapid advancements in technology, but more importantly, made pervasive and contextual by the manner in which people interact with it. In a nutshell, this is what we face – the challenge for us telcos to continuously reinvent ourselves and stay relevant to our customers.
The good side is that we have started to see a pattern where service providers who are able to provide an immersive experience to their customers regardless of the space they operate – “click or mortar” – remain at the top of their game. At this year’s ACC, we intend to drive these conversations and unearth insights on how to navigate the journey towards customer centricity.
How are human experiences being designed and defined in the context of technology?
Data is increasingly becoming a key differentiator. It connects the dots like never before – enabling us to better understand consumer patterns, predict behaviors and adjust our products and services, or the delivery of these, in real time, to ensure that our customers consistently receive the experience they deserve. It allows us to better appreciate consumer pains and market opportunities, and we leverage such insights to develop solutions that are intuitive, customized, accessible, and most importantly, address the specific needs of various markets.
This year’s conference aims to address the need to strike a balance between rapid advancement of technology and market demand for real human experiences – does that mean we’re going to see a backlash from customers who don’t want to talk to a chatbot, for example?
There’s no denying that numbers and big data visualizations help us identify patterns and trends that help us serve our customers better. But these will never replace the kind of insights you get from ethnographic research – simply having a conversation with your customer, and seeing his life from his point of view and walking a mile in his or her shoes.
Our challenge today is to optimize technology, but always as an enhancer of humanity. Our CX discussions at ACC2017 do not presuppose that digital is the only way. A finer examination of the customer lifecycle will reveal that owning the total experience requires a fine balance, or a yin and yang between digital and tactile experiences – this is the balance we much achieve. If the customer is best served by a face-to-face conversation with a front-liner, or a flyer, or an old-fashioned scratch card, then we will steer in that direction, because at the end of the day our guiding light is the consumer and their unique needs. Deep customer understanding will be the foundation of truly innovative technology.
What current and future tools can telcos use to strike that balance and create new or enhance existing customer experiences?
Big data in the context of business analytics and consumer research will play a key role along with CLM and content delivery platforms. Technologies such as artificial intelligence will also make great contributions in CX and operational efficiencies moving forward. But the most important part of the mix will continue to be the people. Invest in the right people – skilled and experienced yet agile enough to adapt to the ever-changing landscape, with a data driven mindset and an entrepreneurial attitude.
As well as chairing ACCI, Kat Luna-Abelarde is first vice president and head of PLDT Group’s International & Carrier Business, and president and chief executive officer of PLDT Global Corporation.