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How can telcos keep their price promises during the cost-of-living crisis?

Cerillion Help Cost Of Living Small

Following a recent government summit, UK telco bosses have made commitments to help customers with the rising cost of living. Implementing these promises will increase Customer Lifetime Value and make telcos more competitive. In this article, Musaddik Ahmed looks at how Cerillion can help keep the cost of telecom services down.

Even if you’ve been living under a rock, it’s difficult not to notice that the world’s been going through a rough patch.

With post-covid supply chain issues, the war in Ukraine and a looming recession – inflation has skyrocketed with the Consumer-Price-Index having reached double digits. Such staggering inflation has led to increased costs for telcos, and this is being passed on to end customers through higher bills.

However, telco price increases are coupled with even more severe price increases for electricity, groceries, and heating. All of which means that for many households, utility expenses are becoming unbearable. To help, the government has worked with a suite of telco bosses to secure pledges that fairer pricing will be introduced for those that are struggling.

Government assistance
In June, the heads of UK telcos, including representatives from BT, HyperOptic and Shell Energy, met with the new Cost of Living Business Tsar. The telco bosses agreed to the following commitments to ensure that people struggling with bills can stay online:

  • Specific “social tariffs” for those on benefits
  • Manageable payment plans for those struggling with bills
  • Allowing customers to move to cheaper packages without penalty
  • Enhancement of existing low cost offers
  • Raising awareness of social tariffs, low cost offers and willingness to help with bills

Whilst there are sufficient ethical reasons for implementing the above pledges, there are also significant prudential reasons for following through with these commitments. Predominantly, boosting customer lifetime value and keeping up with the competition.
Customer Lifetime Value
Through psychological studies using marshmallows, there has been an unequivocal precedence placed on the principle of delayed gratification, which applies to successful telco operations as much as it applies to life in general.

Good businesses focus on customer lifetime value. Short term revenues will always be insignificant when compared with the accrued revenue an operator can expect over the many years a customer will be with them.

Over time, retention of customers through affordable packages and fair payment plans will pay itself back in multiples through future up-sell opportunities, and of course not needing the hidden cost of recovering churned customers or winning new ones.

Once inflation subsides and the market returns to its perpetual upward trajectory; these same customers will be keen on upgraded services like fibre, 5G and IoT connectivity. This is a particularly important consideration for multi-service operators, such as those providing mobile, energy and fuel, who open significant avenues for cross-selling by retaining their customers. And the imperative to be proactive in preventing churn is underscored by the inevitable initiatives the rest of the market is adopting to cater for vulnerable customer segments.
What’s everyone else doing?
Whilst pledges secured by politicians are often as weighty as a hot air balloon, the help with cost-of-living plans certainly seem more grounded. The social tariffs – lower rates for those on benefits – are supported by government assistance, and there has already been a threefold increase in companies voluntarily offering them. This recent summit will have raised awareness of social tariffs, and many more telcos will be quick to leverage these government deals to aid in customer retention.

More importantly, the government has amended the Communications Act, so Ofcom will be able to act on a telco’s shortcomings in failing to implement these pledges. Whilst these government carrot and sticks might eventually stir action, the smartest telcos will recognise that rising consumer costs present an opportunity: those that are the fastest to help their customers will be able to retain them best. For some, launching low cost offers and transitioning customers between payment plans quickly may be too heavy an operational burden. But a best-of-suite BSS/OSS can bring the speed.
How Cerillion can help
Whilst there are many software systems that might promise to streamline the launch of support initiatives, since this is a Cerillion blog, it seems only right that we speak about how Cerillion helps.

Product Catalogue
The first piece of the puzzle is Cerillion’s Enterprise Product Catalogue. With an intuitive drag and drop interface, new packages can be built effortlessly and published to multiple target systems with in-built validation. With the ability to define Product Action Groups, bulk updates can be made to all relevant packages, including the introduction of special eligibility discounts.

Cerillion supports seamless moves between tariff plans, with CRM Plus designed to supercharge CSR productivity – inbound calls can automatically bring up relevant account details giving CSRs quick access to eligible offers, payments, usage, collection management, credit scoring, contracts, etc.

In addition, customers don’t need to self-identify as needing help. Cerillion’s analytics engine uses machine learning to establish a baseline of “normal” for customers; this allows for AI algorithms to identify customers that might be in trouble based on their usage, spend, and payment profiles. These customers can then be automatically referred to an internal team, or even allow the automation to take control and handle the debt management automatically yet sympathetically.

Through staff actions, at the customer’s request, or through algorithmic insights, collection plans can be adjusted to account for special circumstances; facilitating the suspension of payments and part payment plans whilst ensuring that the debt remains wholly tracked for accurate accounting over the lifetime of a customer.

Contract Management
Cerillion also offers comprehensive contract management capabilities, which include options for contract fee waiving – allowing for customers to switch their plans without penalty. Furthermore, Cerillion’s Self Service and Mobile App let customers raise issues, modify their services and request bill adjustments with a few clicks or taps. By launching fair price plans, and letting customers easily switch, operators can retain struggling customers.

Customer Communications
But if customers don’t know about these offers, then they won’t do much good. Thus, Cerillion has dedicated communication tools that can be used to notify customers of new offers and deals. Notifications can be triggered automatically in-line with system events; for example, where a customer misses a payment, a message can be sent informing them of the help the operator has available.

Furthermore, Cerillion’s Notification System can also be used to communicate with external systems. This will be critical for setting up verification queries to check that customers qualify for government supported packages. Records of these customers, and the delivery of special tariff packages, can be tracked for settlement with government agencies using Revenue Manager, complete with tailored collection plans and comprehensive debt management.

Operators might also want the flexibility to launch targeted brands; either to address specific markets or to pivot away from a market segment not supported so well in the past. This is already being done by the likes of Vodafone, who are launching mobile social tariffs through Voxi.

Using Cerillion’s multi-tenancy features, customers can be segregated into different business units and targeted measures can be implemented. Each unit can have its own catalogues, its own workflows and its own customised branding; thus, creating completely segregated operations for different market segments whilst retaining unified control. These rebranding initiatives can bring a business’ image in line with these new commitments and spearhead an era of customer loyalty.
A pre-integrated out-of-the-box solution
As times get tough, telcos need to make sure that people can keep making calls, sending texts and accessing the internet. The pledges made in June are a strong first step, but operators need to go further. The government is willing to help, and those that move quickest will be able to prevent customers jumping to new service providers.

Whilst introducing new tariffs, dealing with complex billing arrangements, and provisioning government supported contracts can seem a herculean task; Cerillion has been designed to simplify telco operations whilst boosting customer loyalty.

All of the features discussed, and many more besides, are available out of the box, allowing for the instant implementation of schemes that will prevent churn and showcase an operator’s commitment to its customers. Telco bosses should keep their promises, and Cerillion can help.

About the author

Musaddik Ahmed

Pre-Sales Consultant, Cerillion

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