Why companies should care about eCare

A European telecommunications company wanted to lower the cost of its customer-service operations, but worried about the potential loss of revenue from the upselling that its traditional call centers did so well. In investigating its options, the company learned that 70 percent of existing customer-service transactions could be delivered through digital solutions that were already proven in other industries. By migrating part of its customer-service operation to similar digital programs, the company lowered the unit’s costs by as much as 30 percent with no loss of revenue.

Already well established in banking and financial services, digital customer service—so-called eCare—is now making inroads across other industries. eCare involves the delivery of customer service via email, social networks, mobile phone, and the Internet rather than call centers or facilities open to the public such as retail stores or service counters. Such digital services are increasingly demanded by customers, who are already using digital platforms to research and review products, as well as to broadcast their service frustrations. And it makes sense from a financial perspective too: eCare has the potential to significantly lower the cost of customer-service operations while increasing customer satisfaction.

Companies with the most successful eCare rollouts have a single, cross-functional team reporting on it directly to the C-suite, perhaps even to the CEO.

Of course, it’s not simply a matter of adding digital options to traditional customer-service channels. In our experience, eCare must be approached as a one-to-two year multistage transformation undertaken with the same degree of planning and care as a major product launch or other strategic initiative, and with heavy initial C-suite support. In addition, careful thought must be given to the degree of digitization desired: eCare can be fully self-serve or involve a mix of live customer-service agents, not all options need to be available on every digital platform, and eCare should not be implemented as aggressively where there is significant potential for upselling. Yet we believe that the rewards of adopting eCare are worth the effort, and virtually every consumer-facing industry requiring extensive customer-relationship management—from cable operators and consumer electronics to healthcare and utilities—can benefit.

Getting from here to eCare

Digital customer service has become a significant factor in both purchase and service transactions: roughly 70 percent of telecom purchase journeys occur in part or in whole online, as do 90 percent of service journeys.1 When eCare interactions go well, customer satisfaction rises: our research shows that 76 percent of telecom customers are satisfied with a customer service journey that is fully digital, compared with 57 percent satisfaction for interactions through traditional channels.2 When you consider that migration to eCare can, in our experience, reduce call volumes and operating expenses by 25 to 30 percent, its benefits seem obvious.

Yet these statistics mask the fact that only a minority of purchase journeys or service interactions are currently handled entirely digitally: while 41 percent of service interactions with telecom companies begin on an eCare platform, just 15 percent are digital from start to finish.3 In addition, the rigorous analysis that accompanies traditional customer-service delivery is often absent from eCare. In one of our telecom industry surveys, we found that less than 40 percent of companies track key performance indicators (KPIs) related to customer experience for mobile channels and only 50 percent to 60 percent for online interactions.