Keeping a pulse on what customers want

The digital revolution is rapidly transforming the business environment and raising customers’ demands. We ask Consumer Singapore CEO Yuen Kuan Moon and Optus CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin to share how Singtel and Optus are keeping pace and reinventing the customer experience.

How have consumer needs been evolving and how have Singtel and Optus responded to these changes?

Moon: Today’s consumers have become much savvier and more discerning, looking beyond price to engage with companies that understand their needs, particularly their digital lifestyles. Whether it’s running daily errands or leisure pursuits, consumers are seeking experiences that are simpler, more effortless and customised to their needs. Our digital services and benefits are evolving to appeal to all customer segments. Last year, we introduced a wellness platform, StepUp, which has been an overwhelming success with customers young and old. In the six months since its launch, over 300,000 have signed up to earn free mobile data and enjoy lifestyle products and services rewards. Having created this positive digital engagement, we intend to build on this momentum to deliver more of such services on My Singtel and GOMO mobile apps.

As competition ramps up, we believe it is more important than ever to stay ahead by focusing on delivering the best value, exceptional service and a high-quality network for our customers.

Kelly: Customers, more than ever, expect seamless experiences and want choice and transparency. These expectations are increasingly raised by best-in-class digital providers across multiple industries.

We have been responding by simplifying our experiences, digitalising as many interactions as possible, and introducing new plans that provide options for customers to choose their own features and price points. We have also rolled out a ‘signature’ concierge service for our customers moving to Optus NBN in their homes, transforming a challenging process into one that is positive, reliable and has increased customer satisfaction.

Singtel and Optus have spoken about going big on digital. How has the progress been?

Moon: We have made big strides in shifting customer engagement to our digital platforms. Over 70% of our customers prefer the immediacy of interacting with us through our self-help channels such as our 24/7 web and WhatsApp digital chats. We will continue to make further investments, not just in more digital channels, but also in technology such as analytics, AI and machine learning. This will help us understand our customers better so we can provide more intuitive and personalised interactions.

We’ve also harnessed digital to capture more of the millennial market. Our all-digital mobile product GOMO has seen more than 80,000 customer sign-ups and registered an exceptional Net Promoter Score, which measures customer advocacy, in just one year. GOMO’s success has been repeated in Indonesia with our regional associate Telkomsel’s launch of sister brand, by.U.

Kelly: We continually develop the My Optus app to ensure most of what our customers need can be accessed on the spot, including sending us messages if help is required. The app is rated 4.6 stars in the App Store and our aspiration is to drive it even higher. We are also using automation to deliver a more personalised, satisfying service. Our Robotics Operations Centre drives excellence across our automation initiatives, operating more than 100 bots that make up our ‘digital workforce’. They help us with routine queries, allowing our employees to provide swifter service for more complicated customer requests. AI and automation are also helping us optimise our network design, improve our supply chain, find the best new talent and decrease the time it takes for new customers to join the Optus network.

Now that the 5G era has arrived, tell us what customers can look forward to and how you see your business transforming.

Moon: Singapore is in an ideal position to roll out 5G with robust infrastructure and backhaul fibre connectivity to support the deployment of coverage. We are pleased to be awarded with a 5G licence from IMDA that will see the rollout of nationwide 5G coverage in Singapore by 2025.

I have seen first-hand, the transitions from 2G to 3G to 4G during my time at Singtel and each change has been a catalyst for innovation. I’m excited that Singtel has the opportunity to take the lead in unlocking exciting experiences that will bring 5G to life, in areas such as learning, entertainment, gaming and healthcare.

We are already exploring and co-developing use cases to identify new 5G consumer innovations that can enhance customers’ experiences and deliver new and exciting products and services. For instance, we are working with IMDA and Razer on a trial to optimise 5G connectivity for graphics-intense mobile gaming on the go.

Kelly: 5G will transform the way we live, learn, consume entertainment, communicate and conduct business. We are bringing this to life for our customers today through our 5G home product which is available to 220,000 Australian households. Customers using this 5G service as an alternative to fixed home internet are experiencing fantastic speeds. We also offer 5G Mobile and a wide range of 5G phones.

We are creating a 5G virtualised network that detects and adapts to how it is being used, and we will be working to tailor features for our customers to choose, delivering the ultimate, curated experience for customers, businesses and whole communities.

What impact has the COVID-19 pandemic had on Singtel and Optus?

Moon: We empathise with our customers, businesses and the community and recognise the challenges they are facing during this trying period. Even amid a time of social distancing, our frontline staff and those in critical functions are still on the ground ensuring that our customers are well supported with robust connectivity.

We also put together a care package to hopefully bring some cheer and relief to the community. This includes free access to entertainment for everyone in Singapore and free COVID-19 insurance coverage for our prepaid customers. We also supported disadvantaged students, sponsoring SIMs and WiFi dongles to assist in home-based learning. As a tech company, it’s our duty to ensure no one gets left behind in the digital era.

This period has triggered a change in consumer behaviour, driving digitalisation across all ages and groups. Customers are relying more on digital technologies to keep in touch, and we’ve seen a growth in broadband and mobile usage and network traffic. Our digitalisation efforts and investments have helped us respond to increased digital adoption and manage the surge in data traffic, putting us in good stead for a post-COVID world where these trends continue.

Kelly: Our hearts go out to all the people, businesses and communities that have been affected. The entire Optus team is dedicated to ensuring our network is strong, so we keep all our customers connected. We have introduced a number of initiatives including offering bonus data to our customers, providing support for customers facing challenging times, waiving postpaid mobile access fees for three months to thank healthcare workers on the front lines, offering hibernation of accounts for affected small businesses, and access to our Loop Live collaboration solutions for our business customers. We are also playing our role to keep people positive with a campaign encouraging our communities to reach out daily to friends, relatives, older people and ask how they’re doing and share some optimism.

Optus and our charity partners also launched ‘Donate Your Data’ which empowers customers to support young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who may not have access to connectivity. In the five months since the launch, more than 200,000 customers have donated 5 million GB of mobile data.

Financially, there will be implications as the economic conditions and global lockdowns affect our customers and people, but we are stepping up to the challenge and managing the business to do the right thing for the long haul.

What are your priorities for the year ahead?

Moon: With the pandemic accelerating digital adoption, our key priority is to focus on delivering new services and experiences in anticipation of customers’ evolved expectations and demands. At the same time, we continue to invest in our networks so it can handle the huge volume of video and data traffic that customers are increasingly consuming.

We will deepen our digitalisation efforts in product and service innovation, process optimisation, as well as expand on our range of digital services. With the success of our StepUp wellness platform, we are embarking on more strategic partnerships with lifestyle players to bring fresh experiences that will enhance our customers’ digital lifestyles.

Retail innovations have proven just as popular with our customers. Our 24/7 unmanned pop-up store, UNBOXED, performed very well in the one year since its launch. It has attracted more than 50,000 customers to date, delivering a customer experience score of 96%. With the greater need for social distancing, the contactless shopping experience offered by UNBOXED is especially relevant, and we are looking to expand this concept in the coming year.

Kelly: Our priorities are clear — keep Australia connected and ensure our teams and our network, are strong and operating at the highest possible level. We have launched a new strategy to help us become Australia’s most loved everyday brand with lasting customer relationships, which will require our teams to work together to ensure we focus on reimagining our customer journeys, digitalising and simplifying our processes and continuing to invest in our capabilities. For example, we’ve launched our new Choice Plans offering customers the ability to tailor plans to their needs and budgets, and our My Optus app remains the leading rated telco app in the App Store.

It will be a challenging year. However, we have strong business fundamentals in place and provide our customers and communities with an essential service that is more important now than ever.