CRM in the Netherlands: Brains, Not Brawn, Are the Key to Customer Retention in the Telecom Market

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As technology becomes a commodity and customers readily abandon companies, services providers who rely only on these as differentiators face diminishing profit margins and increasing churn.

Recently, cable company Ziggo and telecom company Vodafone announced a merger in the Netherlands to better compete against giants like KPN, T-Mobile and Tele2. Mergers like this are indicative of the demanding customer environment in the Netherlands.

Truth be told, we Dutch consumers are a tough bunch. We have very high expectations for technology, requiring 4G and exceptional levels of reliability and bandwidth. We demand customer service targeted to our specific needs. And we expect all of this for a low price. Dutch consumers have no compunction about switching to a different service provider who doesn’t meet their needs, leading to high churn rates.

The trouble is that competing on technology and pricing “brawn” is a race to the bottom. As technology becomes a commodity and customers readily abandon companies, services providers who rely only on these as differentiators face diminishing profit margins and increasing churn. In my experience working with service providers in the Benelux countries (Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg), it’s become obvious that these companies need to pay much greater attention to the quality of the customer experience in order to attract and, most importantly, retain customers. The best way to do this is to bridge the two silos that plague many service providers:


  1. Operational silos based on a product-centric view of the customer

  2. Channel silos based on treating each channel as an isolated means of communication

Operational Silos: Who Are You Again?

Ironically, product convergence in the telecom industry has not been matched by convergence within the company. Service providers continue to organize their business around each product, creating operational silos that negatively impact the customer experience. Recently, a friend of mine contacted his provider with a mobile phone issue and then wanted additional information about his broadband service. He had to wait to be transferred from the mobile group to the broadband group and then had to start all over with his name, address and repeating his question. It was an “inside out” experience in which my friend was forced to adapt to the internal, product-centric view of the relationship.

Channel Silos: Can You Repeat Your Question Please?

The multiplicity of channels has actually reinforced negative customer experiences. Matching the rest of the world, the Dutch have rapidly adopted using multiple channels. A single engagement can easily span several channels, perhaps starting on social media, switching to text messaging and ending with a phone call. To the customer, this is a single interaction with the expectation that the conversation will continue across channels without interruption. Unfortunately, many service providers treat each channel in isolation, requiring the customer to start the conversation over when changing the channel.

How to Bridge the Silos

There are two key ways to bridge these operational and channel silos:

  • Know your customer. Knowing your customer requires abandoning the product-centric view of the relationship. It means collecting intelligence about each customer and what has taken place in each engagement across product lines and channels. This comprehensive customer awareness can be used to inform every subsequent interaction, both reactive and proactive. It can be combined with analytics and real-time decisioning technologies to deliver actions and offers that are specifically tailored to the customer, the customer’s intent and the current situation.

  • Offer an omni-channel experience. A key part of knowing your customer means knowing them across channels. An omni-channel experience is not the same as a multi-channel experience. While multi-channel means that the customer has multiple ways of communicating with the business, omni-channel means the multiple channels are seamlessly integrated, ensuring that an engagement is always treated as a single interaction with context maintained across every channel involved.

The mantra today is that service providers must become more customer-centric. Actually delivering customer centricity means enabling knowledge of the customer and using the Pega “brain” that intelligently guides each engagement, regardless of the product, service or channel. On the 26th of May, Pega is hosting a CRM Evolved conference at the Corpus Congress Centre in Leiden, Netherlands, which offers visitors an unique opportunity to make a journey through the human body ending up in the brain. I hope you can join us to learn how Pega customers are focusing their “brainpower” on delivering outstanding customer experiences that drive up customer satisfaction, retention and profitability.