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What customers really want

Customer centricity is more than a buzzword: it is a philosophy centered around the customer's individual needs. It must be incorporated in the corporate strategy and should permeate the entire organization. Developing this in-depth customer understanding is crucial in keeping a competitive edge in the telecom industry.

Status quo:
Telecom operators are facing huge challenges. In saturated and highly competitive markets, their services are quickly becoming a commodity. At the same time, margins are shrinking. Many operators are launching "customer-first" or "customer-centric" initiatives. But often they are not able to deliver the goods. Players from adjacent online industries such as Apple, Google or eBay are leveraging their customer knowledge much better and are defining the benchmark for customer understanding and experience.

Telecom operators have very complex and non-harmonized data structures that result from legacy systems and incoherent processes. Drawing valuable knowledge from such data today still involves a lot of manual work. Against this backdrop, customer centricity based on true customer knowledge remains a very elusive concept.

This study presents a roadmap on how telecom operators can become customer-centric organizations. Senior management has to initiate a change in philosophy and develop the business strategy around customer needs. The basic requirement for success is reliable data management. In this study, we set out to illustrate how the data strategy can help support the customer strategy at each step of the way. Our framework helps set up the business case, redesign the relevant processes and adapt the IT landscape to the new requirements.

This study is based on interviews with European telecom managers. It also draws on extensive Roland Berger project experience in strategic marketing, sales, service, business intelligence and CRM. We illustrate our findings with project examples and best practices from inside and outside of the telecom industry. We intentionally exaggerate at times, knowing that the picture is not only black and white but has a lot of gray. We are also aware that operators are improving the situation and taking on the challenge. The challenge is huge and the way is long – we therefore want to encourage them to go the distance. We trust that this study can contribute some valuable insights for the journey.

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