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Picture this: you’re out for dinner with a group of friends, and you get into a debate over who won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1992. Your friend says it was Forrest Gump, but you tell her that Forrest Gump didn’t come out until 1995, and the winner in 1992 was actually Silence of the Lambs. (Good for you — you really know your early/mid 90s film history.)
Thirty years ago, your group of friends likely would have ended your dinner without knowing the answer (well, you would have, but they wouldn’t). Today, that’s not the case.
Instead of going to the library to look it up the next day, you can simply turn to a seemingly magical device you carry with you at all times — one that gives you access to the sum of human knowledge with a few simple keystrokes.
Think about it. How many times during a typical dinner — let alone a full day, week, or even year — do you check your phone? If you’re like me, you don’t know the answer; you just know that it’s a lot. Don’t worry, though: I’m not here to tell you you’re using your phone too much.
Rather, I want to illustrate the point that most consumers both in the United States and around the world have come not only to rely on their phones, but also to be really, really good at telling when something goes wrong. When a video doesn’t load correctly, when your wifi goes out, or when the video meeting you’re streaming from the golf course suddenly goes fuzzy, you get frustrated. I know I do.
That can create both unique challenges and unique opportunities for telecommunications brands. In this blog, we’re going to explore just a few of those challenges and opportunities.
Consumers’ heavy dependence on their communications service provider (CSP) shifts the sort of market education that the brands must provide. Consider, as a point of contrast, brands in the financial services or insurance industries. These brands have to start at square one: making sure customers understand the service they’re providing — and sometimes that’s more complicated than it seems.
For example, AFLAC has been advertising on television for decades. It’s a household name. You might even know the tagline they used to end their commercials for years: “Ask about it at work!”
But do you actually know what AFLAC does? If so, you’re probably in the minority — and the marketing team knows it. In 2020, they aired a series of commercials whose main purpose was simply to tell consumers what they do. The fresh, new tagline for those commercials? “Get to know us.”
Telecommunications companies typically don’t have the same issue; they don’t need to educate consumers on such a basic level because (almost) everyone knows what internet and television services are. Of course, providers still have to let consumers know about brand-specific packages, and that’s part of why annual marketing budgets in this industry are often so high. This makes market education in telecommunications different from other industries. There’s no need to convince the public they need a telecommunications provider; the big challenge is differentiation.
And it’s tough to differentiate in such a knowledgeable market, but the world’s best CSPs use advanced customer engagement strategies, in addition to their television spots and paid ads, to help. If you’re interested in seeing how the best telecom brands in the world do it, check out how the Khoros platform has helped the industry over the years.
Market education strategy isn’t the only thing affected by a knowledgeable consumer base. Brands can also turn (relative) expertise among consumers into new content, ideas, and innovations. This is exactly what AT&T has done with their AT&T Foundry initiative. Since the Foundry began in 2011, AT&T has used it to connect on a deeper level with customers, getting ideas for new products and innovations from them.
The Foundry has produced hundreds of fresh ideas, some of which have even turned into new offerings that help AT&T set itself apart from competitors. This helped them stay on the cutting edge of IoT (internet of things) technology, improve lives for farmers in Mexico City, level up 5G technology rollout, and much more.
The question for most brands in this difficult-to-differentiate industry isn’t whether they should source content and ideas from customers, but how. More and more are turning to online brand communities. These communities, unlike social media channels, are completely brand-owned and moderated; they can be customized to fit any goals the brand might have. One of the most important benefits here is that they allow customers to answer questions for one another, reducing strain on contact and customer service centers.
Canadian telecom brand Telus achieved a 98% customer satisfaction rating in 2020 by combining a modern, digital-first care strategy with their online community.
But another benefit is that popular community discussions, positive reviews, or great customer stories can be turned into valuable content for the marketing team. It’s called user-generated content, or UGC. A community allows and encourages users to generate this content without marketing teams having to request it, saving valuable time and energy in the content creation process. This is especially valuable for CSPs, who can reallocate large marketing budgets to their industry-specific market education projects or even customer support.
Of course, marketing content is just the beginning. Just as AT&T’s Foundry has led to product innovations, brands can use their communities as idea boards — places for customers to give constructive feedback and share valuable new ideas. As we’ve seen with AT&T, these ideas can turn into valuable new products and features. This doesn’t just make customers feel empowered; it can also help CSP brands stay on the cutting edge in an industry where innovation happens so rapidly. When brands follow through on these ideas, it makes consumers feel empowered; this is especially important in markets where consumers don’t have other CSPs to choose from.
Not sure how to generate these sorts of interactions with your customers? Fear not. The Khoros platform is designed to facilitate customer engagement across every channel you use, whether in your digital contact center, marketing department, or brand-owned community.