LIVE FROM AMDOCS ASIA-PACIFIC BUSINESS SUMMIT, SINGAPORE: Singtel said its work to transform its customer service has been a daunting task given the number of systems involved and rapidly changing consumer behaviour and expectations.

The changing consumer needs is creating a big headache for service providers, admitted Yuen Kuan Moon, Singtel’s CEO for consumer, who delivered the keynote at the event today.

“It is no longer sufficient to just meet customers’ routine expectations. We need to move to meeting their aspirational expectations as peoples’ level of tolerance is falling.”

He joked that WiFi/mobile data and battery life should be added to the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

With users always on and expecting more from the networks and customer service, it puts increased pressure on operators and their support systems. He cited data showing that 91 per cent of people are checking their devices while doing other tasks and 87 per cent of TV viewers are also online at the same time.

This all means operators need to transform their engagement model and how they interact with customers. “When customers reach out to us, they expect us not only to offer an omni-channel but to be ‘omnipresent’.” And developing trust with the customer is becoming essential as it can tide a company through fluctuations in a customer’s expectations, he said.

Singtel has been working with back-office and billing vendor Amdocs to integrate all customer touch points – covering everything from social media and contact centres to retail shops and field engineers – to provide a seamless experience across all platforms.

Yuen said it has pieces working today and hopes it can pull off the ambitious task, noting there has been a lot of discussion about understanding the customer and offering true omni-channel support.

“I don’t think any service provider in our industry has achieved that yet. Everyone is trying to do it, but it’s so complex and there are so many elements. We’re trying to change the engine on a train while it’s moving, and that’s a challenge.”

The most difficult aspect, he said, is pulling things together on a real-time basis and being able to know the customer’s full history, such as “he was in our shop three hours ago and on our website an hour ago and didn’t complete a transaction. We don’t have that yet. But it is required so we can route calls to the right agent, who can pick up and be on the same page. That will mean we can deliver at the aspirational expectation level.”

Singtel is building the foundation to deliver on that vision, he said. “When we get all these elements in place, we will have an omni-channel offering – that is the end game where we can predict why a customer is calling and detect what type of problem he has.”

If an operator can do this, Yuen said, customer service reps won’t need to be cross training because it’s impossible for them to be an expert in everything.

One of the biggest problems it faces is having a flexible workforce to match demand at retail shops and call centres.

He acknowledged that it was impossible for contact centre reps to know about its more than 10,000 different price plans, which he wants to slash to a two-digit figure, but his team tells him it needs to be three figures.

As an example of the changing demands and less tolerance, customers typically will call after waiting 30 minutes for a technician to arrive when the original home or office appointment had a two-hour window. “We’ve been forced to cut that to 30 minutes. We have 600 to 700 appointments a day and aim to arrive within 30 minutes 99 per cent of the time.”