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SingTel CCO Michael Smith: Telcos give poor customer service due to inadequate use of data

SingTel chief commercial officer Michael Smith at the APPIES

SingTel chief commercial officer Michael Smith at the APPIES

If telco firms provide bad service it is because they are not using data in the right way to better understand their customers, the commercial chief of SingTel said today.

Talking at the APPIES today, Michael Smith, the company’s chief commercial officer for the Group Digital Life division, said that SingTel is starting to use data to make educated guesses about what customers “will do next” for better targeting and customer service.

He admitted that SingTel does not “deliver the level of customers service that we should”, but he later qualified the comment, saying that telcos in general do not provide good service.

“Services levels are not where they could be. And a lot of that is to do with an inability to mesh data perfectly together,” he said.

“The opportunity for marketers is to reconnect the dots and understand the consumer again; how he exists in all media,” Smith said.

“We’re not listening to your phone calls or reading your text messages, but we know where you go,” Smith said, referring to how SingTel is increasingly using location data to better target customers.

“We’re starting to make guesses about what customers are going to do next. Of the customers we work with, the casinos, for instance, would love to better understand Chinese businessmen who are staying in Singapore for more than three days.”

The internet of things will give marketers the ability to pre-empt problems before they happen, Smith said. “We should be able to know something is wrong before a customer knows there’s something wrong.”

However, Smith conceded that using data in this way is “marginally close to an invasion of privacy” and the company had not yet started to fully use data to target its customers more closely.

SingTel uses aggregated data to track where groups of its customers are, but does not yet track data on an individual level.

He would not give a timeframe on when SingTel would begin to do this, and admitted that privacy could be an issue.

“Telcos would love to have their customers love them, but few could claim to be loved. But most people trust telcos. We could do it [use customer data on a larger scale for tracking purposes] today, but we’re not. We’re not ready to jump there yet,” he said.

Smith moved to Singapore and his current role at the start of last year, relocating from Sydney where he ran consumer marketing for SingTel’s Australian subsidiary Optus.

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