The telecommunications industry is in an interesting position. On one hand, companies operating in this space provide products and services that have become absolutely central to modern life as we know it — and these offerings are about to expand even more as 5G technology enters the picture.

On the other hand, telcos have faced ongoing struggles with persistent, higher-than-average customer churn — indicating there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

There’s no space for complacency in a near-saturated market filled with firms trying to one-up their adversaries at every turn. Here are three opportunities for telcos to differentiate from the competition by optimizing the customer experience and becoming leaders in the new 5G frontier.

Shift the Focus to Customer Retention

High customer churn rates have long been an albatross around the necks of telcos. One reason companies have traditionally struggled to retain customers is their inclination to focus on acquisition — investing more resources in trying to pull in new customers than trying to foster long-term relationships with them.

Case in point: Many of us have had our mailboxes papered with offers boasting low introductory rates for new customers, but then hear little from service providers after actually becoming a customer. It’s frustrating, to say the least.

Telcos need to be asking, “How can we keep customers?” just as fervently as they’re strategizing to attract new ones. This means going over the customer experience with a fine-tooth comb, seeking out opportunities to personalize communications and offer omnichannel engagement. It’s also important telcos figure out how to track churn after the fact and predict it beforehand to proactively address customer concerns while there’s still a chance to salvage the relationship.

A classic customer service trope is the exasperated customer on hold, wondering when the elevator music will end and they’ll finally be able to speak to a human. Knowing customers want expedient and flexible experiences, telcos can improve relations by facilitating self-service account management through a variety of channels.

Harness Data Analytics to Address Pain Points

Its clear telcos need to identify pain points and systematically address them if they want to hold onto — and grow — their customer bases. This is one area in which a provider’s approach to data analytics can make or break performance. Modern search- and AI-driven platforms empower a deeper understanding of customer behavior in order to make targeted improvements to performance and innovate.

Take billing, for instance. Many telecom customers have received at least one confusing or otherwise frustrating billing statement. Telcos should be looking at billing as an opportunity to connect with customers, answer their questions, and help them optimize their accounts.

British Telecom (BT) used billing as an opportunity to innovate by embedding communication analytics directly into over a million B2B customer portals. This allows customers to analyze their billing info directly, ask questions in straightforward natural language, and figure out which products will serve them best for the price.

The result? BT saw a 45 percent increase in net promoter score (NPS) — a metric used to measure customer loyalty — after introducing this analytics tool.

Invest in 5G Opportunities

Smoothing out customer pain points and offering stellar service is the foundation of telco performance. But it’s also important to have an eye on the future, namely 5G. Investing early in the infrastructure needed to eventually power this tech will help telcos stay relevant.

As one expert writes for The Next Web, here are the potential benefits of 5G for telecom operators:

  • Higher streaming and download speeds
  • Higher traffic capacity for lower costs per megabyte
  • The ability to offer different connectivity to customers within the same coverage area via “slicing”

Getting in on the ground floor of 5G means doing more than offering faster network speeds; it requires investment in infrastructure and revenue streams, like the Internet of Things (IoT). One example here is partnering with cities around America to install smart technology and enable automation.

Telcos are in competition with themselves and with other firms — so differentiating from the pack and improving customer service has never been more crucial to survival.

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