June 8, 2020

Customers and digital transformation: Telefonica’s journey in customer service

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There’s no doubt that digital transformation has been the main event in the last decade. Ever since 2008, traditional channels were moved to digital spaces, forever changing the way brands interact with consumers.

Veronica Puentes, Director of Digital Relationships and Channel Automation at Telefonica, was there to witness the corporate digital transformation.

Since 2010, she's led online service teams at Telefonica and Movistar Argentina. She was also a trailblazer in using artificial intelligence for channel automation and customer service management.

Because of her long time in the business, Aivo CEO Martin Frascaroli sat down with Veronica for the first episode of Aivo Next, our new video series, to delve into her knowledge and experience. Below are highlights from their conversation.

Towards innovation and digital transformation

Martin: How important is customer service at a company like Telefonica?

Veronica: It’s super important. You reach a point where products have such a high level of expertise that they all start to look alike. The only thing left in order to stand out is the quality of service for when customers need to get in touch.

Martin: How was your experience migrating from traditional to digital channels at such a large company?

Veronica: It wasn’t easy, but luckily at this company, transformation gets everyone on board.

What ends up happening is that digital channels add a higher level of efficiency. They provide 24/7 service and decrease errors. There's no doubt about what's gained. The results speak for themselves: today, Movistar has an app with more than 3.5 million users, and 65% of them communicate only on digital channels.

I think companies have to create opportunities for trial and error. I always say that on my team, we’re a permanent startup. If we only stick with the errors, that's where innovation ends. All of that is necessary to achieve digital transformation.

Martin: You were one of the pioneers in managing social media at such a massive company like Movistar. How do you design a 24/7, omnichannel experience?

Veronica: There wasn't anything written about this. At that time, it was all about listening, trial and error. If you don’t listen and you don’t see how that level of demand is changing, you're left behind.

Before, companies could define where customers would come from. Today, customers come from anywhere. That’s why when it comes to an omnichannel service, it’s not just about being in contact through many channels.

Related article: How AI and Chatbots Help Improve Customer Experience

Instead, it’s about each contact channel being able to follow the same transaction that was previously started, understanding what happened to the customer and what the resolution status was on each one of those channels.

That’s the hard part and it’s one of the things to keep in mind when designing the strategy. Who doesn’t get mad when they call and have to explain what’s happening for the tenth time?

Martin: You were talking about innovating and making mistakes. Telefonica was the first company to incorporate AI, they were leaders in the region. What's their automation strategy like, and how important is it within the company?

Veronica: For me, and based on Telefonica’s vision, automating processes is highly efficient.

But you have to be very careful not to make the mistake of automating tasks that even a human can’t solve. On my team, automation starts at the agent level, not the other way round. Giving an unresolved process to a bot leads directly to failure.

Martin: What do you use for learning? How fast do you learn what your customer wants and how do you act on it?

Veronica: Nothing can progress if it’s not measured. That’s why we use everything - satisfaction surveys, technology, artificial intelligence. You have to always listen, and today we have tons of digital tools that allow us to understand what customers are talking about.

The second step involves getting feedback from that information in order to improve products, processes, and service quality.

In general, it’s a working philosophy. The entire company has to understand that if something isn’t altered, it can’t be transformed. And if we’re not listening and going back to the community, it ends and goes unnoticed.

New strategies for new generations

Martin: Should strategies be created based on generations? People tend to think that kids go on Facebook Messenger and adults don’t use WhatsApp. Is that true or does everyone use all channels?

Veronica: There's some common ground. Customers evolve due to several factors. One is that different generations come with new ways of communicating.

But we shape those generations, and there’s something that has to do with technology that gives us information and connectivity. That bridges the generational gaps a little.

The difference is in the channel. While adults write on WhatsApp in one way, millennials easily write 80 messages. When you try to understand that channel, you have to understand that form of communication. So two factors come together: the generation and the channel's distinct characteristics. No matter how old you are, every channel is used differently.

Related article: WhatsApp in Customer Service: Advantages and Recommendations

In that sense, generations are the outcome, but evolution is constant.

Moving forward, we have segments that group generations together with other profiles. Segmenting your customers helps you understand communication, sales and service strategies. I like that way much better than relying only on the generation category.

Martin: What new behaviors do you observe in the younger generations?

Veronica: They have a sense of urgency, immediacy and simplicity. The younger ones are teaching us to simplify and rethink processes.

There's also more about channel choice, transparency and privacy. Don’t ask them for too much information. They also don’t want you to send them a message on any channel and at any time. They are always choosing how, when and where.

Are you providing the service your customers expect?

As Veronica Puentes says, the key to a good service experience is knowing your customers, listening to their needs and acting accordingly.

What do they want? What do they value about your service? Are you available on the channels and schedules they want? All these questions are guidelines to design a service strategy.

If you want more information about how automation solutions can help you provide the service your customers expect, contact one of our representatives by filling out this form.

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