“Serve the customer where it is the most convenient for them”

Telenor Subjective account from Zsuzsanna Varga-Hering, Digital Channels and Sales Director of Telenor

The coronavirus pandemic has given great momentum to digitisation and increased the value of online services. But what about our digital maturity? Can people let the experience of offline shopping go, pay their bills or order a new phone while sitting on their couch? Zsuzsanna Varga-Hering, Digital Channels and Sales Director of Telenor, gave a subjective account of the changing rules of the game in the online world.

“The lockdown was announced two months ago. Although they’ve been eased up since, we still feel their impact and will continue to do so also in the future. Our customers have stepped on a digital springboard and learnt something that they are likely to hold on to. When the lockdown was announced, people realized that the ways of running daily basic errands do not work anymore or have limited availability. Many of them entered the path of using online services which was nothing new but had somehow slipped their attention in the past.

Many people using our online channels have a high level of digital maturity. For them, the transition from personal services to online services wasn’t much of challenge. But we also have a brand-new group of users: those with limited or no digital experience. They are new to the online world or were only consumers of content in the past, that is, they used Facebook or the internet for entertainment, but preferred to run errands and do shopping in the physical world.

In a sense, this second group of users is even more valuable than the first one because those people would have been very difficult to reach for an online expert. This group has emerged not only at Telenor but also at other online retailers and now you have to make it a top priority to support and retain them. You shouldn’t make a distinction between digital and offline customers. You only have customers who need to be served where and how it is the most convenient for them. To achieve that, you need to provide an online experience and sense of success that offers them an alternative in the long run.

In March, we had to prepare for the eventuality of fully closing our shops. It soon became clear that this would prevent us from serving a part of our customer base. This was the case with many companies, so we had to act fast and win our management’s support. Through rapid development sprints, we made some shop-based transaction types not yet present in the online space digitally available. In a few weeks’ time, we redesigned user processes and the online experience. We have simplified a lot.

Although in recent years, we were more successful in helping our customers go digital than the market average, even I didn’t expect the volume of online activities we’ve seen in Telenor’s online channels since the middle of March. Digitisation took a great momentum. It was as if we’ve leapt years ahead. The impact of this momentum will persist for a long time to come.

Our webstore sales, for example, has tripled over the past two months that is a huge surge compared to our typical annual average growth rate of 30 to 40%. Our most popular online customer platform is the smartphone-based MyTelenor app used by more people than the web-based browser interface. This trend has further intensified since the middle of March. This shows a clear customer need and in order to enhance the customer experience we do our best to personalize MyTelenor’s in-app content.

I believe that these hard times gave us the benefit of enabling a lot of Hungarians to overcome their general fear of online services and card payment. People are likely to be so uncertain about the online space because there have been no large-scale online education initiatives in the market among potential online users yet. We have our own role to play in this and now we have the opportunity to help our customers become confident users of online services, support and assist them and provide them with safe and simple processes and guidelines.

Similarly to other online service providers and retailers with a large customer base, it is also a highly complex exercise for Telenor to reach and relevantly support its 3 million customers at different levels of online maturity. To overcome this challenge, we didn’t create demographics-based target groups but developed our education materials and trained customer service staff for different levels of digital maturity and transaction types.

In the post COVID era, we’ll have to succeed in a very different environment and respond to new types of customer needs. We have to make our processes as simple and user-friendly as possible even if it is sometimes at odds with our own business interests. A strong content strategy will be even more essential than before. The huge value of customers diverted to the online space by the lockdown is an important lesson this unexpected period has taught to all online providers and online retailers. Our next task is to work hard to retain and support them.”

by Zsuzsanna Varga-Hering, Digital Channels and Sales Director of Telenor.