By Harshvardhan Kabra | Global Practice Head, BORN Group

It wasn’t that long ago that we got our mobile phone services from wireless providers (Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), and we got our cable television from cable companies. But now the landscape is a lot more muddled as the traditional boundaries are being erased: Wireless companies are leveraging their broadband networks by adding video and data services to their voice offerings, while cable companies are adding voice and data to their video offerings.

Consumers generally benefit in situations where competition increases, but competition means providers have to step up as they fight it out in the real world. Telecom companies that want to win this battle must increase their effort along every vector of the customer journey with two objectives in mind: attract new customers and deepen their relationship with existing ones.

We refer to this challenge as ARENA:  Acquire & Retain, Nurture & Amplify. We believe that a strategy driven by personalization – real-time, individualized, and contextualized customer experiences – can lead to much greater differentiation and all the benefits it generates: greater retention and deeper customer relationships.

These 1:1 on-point personalized experiences cut across all customer touchpoints and services, from acquisition marketing to onboarding and activation to ongoing customer support and lifecycle marketing. Doing this well requires recognizing the contextual intricacies of each interaction and understanding customer needs, desires, and situations to be able to deliver the right message at the right time on the right channel.

If you can do this at scale, the rewards are immense. You will provide excellent customer experiences – satisfying in form and content, keeping customers happy, and positioning you well for building deeper, more profitable relationships.

The Foundation for 1:1 On-point Personalization

Most telecoms companies understand that personalization is a powerful strategic tool, but surprisingly few do personalization at scale well. At a foundational level, the first step is to change your focus. Think less about quick tactical wins; think more (much more) about a long-term strategic plan where on-point personalization is the centerpiece.

What does this mean in real-world terms? Identify use cases before you acquire and build a highly sophisticated MarTech stack. Here at the BORN Group, we use a four-tier approach to deliver 1:1 on-point personalization at scale to significant effect in many industries, including telecoms:

Step 1: Create a Personalization Center of Excellence

For large-scale enterprises like telecoms, personalization is important enough that it deserves its own center of excellence (CoE) covering the entire enterprise with a mission to define and articulate your personalization-at-scale strategy, including prioritized use cases and to develop an enterprise-wide solution for implementation.

A personalization CoE focuses on enterprise-wide elements like reusability, a holistic approach, and scalability – ensuring optimized and efficient tools – and ensures that more tactical personalization efforts are on-brand, effective, and privacy-compliant. Telecoms companies deal with a lot of personally identifiable information (PII), and are already careful and vigilant about how customer data is captured, stored, processed, and leveraged to comply with Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and other mandates. Navigating the need for privacy and using personalization to compete effectively can be challenging – but it’s easier when you have a personalization CoE that has already thought through this balancing act.

Step 2: Identify and articulate data-driven challenges

Next, look at all your data to understand friction points, business problems, and existing challenges. You’ll want to analyze your data from real-time customer interactions, CRM and POS systems, and your contact center (including demographic and geo-specific data), plus second and third-party data from benchmarking your competitors and market research.

Here are some examples of how data can inform strategy and tactics:

  • Looking at your web analytics, you realize you’re experiencing a high bounce rate. This suggests you’re successfully attracting customers but not effectively converting them into customers. Build a hypothesis around the possible causes of the bounce rate, then use personalization use cases to validate your findings and overcome them.
  • You’re suffering from churn. The “Propensity to Churn” model, which most telecom companies already track, estimates the likelihood of losing individual consumers. The next step is to dive deep into this data and turn insights into personalized actions to help you retain “at-risk” customers.
  • Another helpful data point is the average revenue per user (ARPU). If it’s flat or declining, you can create tailored plans and offers to build loyalty and deliver a better customer experience through personal interactions across relevant touchpoints and channels. A better CX generally has a higher ARPU and can significantly improve the lifetime value of each customer.

Step 3: Define & Prioritize

By now you’ve identified challenges and friction points that your company is facing. There’s a strong temptation to try to solve everything at once, but a better approach is to convert your challenges into well-defined use cases and prioritize them, like short-, medium-, and long-term goals and objectives.

In a recent engagement with a top-tier mobile service provider, we conducted a series of workshops with different groups within the organization as part of Define and Prioritize process. While there was some overlap, each of them had different challenges and different priorities. But by looking at the business holistically, we were able to help them create a comprehensive personalization roadmap that reflected overall business goals and addressed many of the more granular needs. Together, we developed three high-level use cases that aligned to run, crawl, and walk phases for implementation of a short-, medium-, and long-term view of the roadmap. 

Step 4: Build Capabilities

By the time you’ve reached this fourth step, you’re really in a great position to design your marketing stack from a vantage point of strategic insights and prioritized goals. So what do you need in terms of people, processes, and technology to enable your business to begin delivering personalization at scale?

Take the example mentioned above of a telecom company whose ARPU was flat. The provider articulated the strategic goal this way:

“To increase ARPU, we will deliver personalized offers to our customer using an omnichannel strategy focused on cross-selling and upselling.”

To deliver on this strategic goal requires a mix of people, process, and technology:

  • People – the individuals and teams with the skills to deliver: In this case, that meant expertise with the customer data platform, probability modeling, email marketing, web personalization, and offer management.
  • Process – the flows that turn strategy and expertise into execution: Using personalization to increase ARPU, for example, required creating an entire content supply chain to engage customers with helpful content and generate demand for ancillary products and services.
  • Technology – the actual martech stack to enable the process: Sticking with our ARPU example, the tech stack involved a customer data platform with a decisioning engine that could identify the next “best offer” for a unique end-user in real-time. Note that personalization technologies must be scalable.

The Building Blocks for Delivering Successful Personalization

Regardless of where your company finds itself on your personalization journey, a foundational framework can make a huge difference in execution. At the BORN Group, we use a framework called STRIDE, a closed loop approach with four key components:

  • Systematic Tracking: You must think of your entire customer journey, and diligently track data and interactions from all touchpoints and channels during the journey from prospect to customer to customer for life – while being diligent about privacy and compliance!
  • Resolution of Identity: Remember the big goal: personalization. The key component of that word is person – the individual you’re trying to reach, the person who wants useful content and a great experience as a prospect and as a customer. To deliver on this necessity requires that you understand the identity of that person using a unified customer profile and obtaining a 360° view of that customer. Resolution of identity often uses probabilistic and deterministic matching as well as lookalike models.
  • Informed Decision Science: When you have assembled the data and identified the customer profile, you create actionable insights. Then use informed decision science to design the best combination of content, offer, and channel.
  • Effective Activation: Now you’re ready to activate your insights and execute your personalization strategy. Obviously, what you learn from effective activation flows back into the STRIDE framework – an ongoing closed-loop optimization effort.

Given the enormous progress of generative AI in the last year, you’ll want to consider AI in your personalization efforts – it can add value throughout the process. Marketers are already using generative AI to create new personalized content – text, images, and video – at scale, significantly improving time-to-market. But quality and uniqueness depend on user guidance, and there’s a real need for the ability to vet content for copyright issues, privacy concerns, and compliance with branding guidelines before content is deployed.

Generative AI is also playing an important role in gleaning insights from data and helping with decision-making. A good example is sentiment analysis, turning disparate data points into a valid perspective on customer satisfaction. AI and machine learning can also play key roles in determining the “next best experience” (NBX) at scale.

For telecom companies, and companies in many other sectors, the decision to use personalization is a matter of when – not if. The possibility of using data, analytics, and technology to deliver extremely granular and highly customized experiences to your clients and prospects may be the key source of competitive advantage in today’s marketing.

To learn more about how the BORN Group approaches personalization, contact us.