Intent HQ’s CEO Jonathan Lakin sat down with Scott Appleton, TMT Strategy Manager at Cartesian to discuss how true personalisation can help telcos to increase their relevance with consumers and improve customer retention.

“As with any business story, the central character is always the customer and success is determined by how well the customer perceives the product,” Scott notes. 

“Customers are tired of the noise of mass marketing”, observes Jonathan. However, most operators still operate in a “mass-market mode.” The need to send out campaigns to millions of customers is key but by doing this telcos risk losing their relevance and connection with the customer. “The only way to rise above the noise is to be relevant.” 
Personalisation is nothing new, many telcos were working on it as early as 2010, however it looks very different nowadays. “What some of the big tech behemoths have achieved with personalisation and being relevant to a customer is on a different level in terms of investment,” said Jonathan. “I think that sets a benchmark around customer experience that is lacking in many of the telcos. So, that creates a gap, and we see that as the personalisation gap.” 

 Improving customer retention
“What are some concrete examples of telcos trying to address the personalisation gap?” Scott asks. Jonathan believes that getting to know the customer better is becoming a strategic priority because “in a mature consumer market, you’re fighting for market share, and it’s not a market of acquisition anymore rather one of retention.” 
This can be broken down into three key focus areas: targeting, operations and the treatment of messages.
“Take targeting first, you’ll see customers who actually buy from mass campaigns are very different from the people who are written up in the campaign brief,” observes Jonathan. “As an example, you would see people targeted who are 55 plus… and the people actually buying are millennials. So, you realise, if you were to be relevant, maybe you would have to send a third of the emails to get to that point.”
Looking next at the impact of personalisation on operations, Jonathan shares the example of a client who were able to better understand which payment mechanisms were most important to their customers and through doing so was able to deliver a huge shift in their business.
Third is message treatment; the difference in how different customers interpret messaging. “Consumers listen to and hear the language that they’re familiar with,” comments Jonathan. “If you want to reach someone, you need to talk to them in their language and not your language.” 
What is true personalisation?
True personalisation leverages AI to achieve its goals. “The world is learning how to implement AI in the right way, which means many people go in with a big bang idea…but the reality is that there are a series of blockers. Usually, those blockers are to do with how the customer operates, because they’re set up not to operate in a world of AI,” says Jonathan.
To improve churn rates, you firstly need to understand who is churning and you need to find a privacy-safe way to use data to resolve this. Jonathan adds, “if you can find the solutions to those challenges, you can start to address some of the fundamental trust issues and that allows you to identify someone who might churn a month or two earlier than you otherwise would. So instead of being reactive at the point of churn, you can start to take someone on a customer journey to figure out what is the optimal point that will prevent churn.”
“With something like churn, it only takes a very small movement of the needle to have a large financial impact,” confirms Scott. 
Curation of data sets
Intent HQ’s primary focus is on behavioural data that monitors a customer’s actions. This covers anything from interaction with apps and websites to a customer’s mobile web log. However, when working with sensitive data, privacy becomes an issue. 
In response, Intent HQ has developed “the notion of a marketing twin that separates that personal data using anonymised data to create a twin. It looks like you but is not you and hasn’t used your personal data unless you’ve specifically opted in,” Jonathan shares. 
To achieve this, you must go through an intense amount of data curation. For some customers this can encompass trillions of rows of data. “It’s very noisy but it’s the richest possible data that you can get because it covers those customer’s actions,” states Jonathan. The result is that Intent HQ can create pattern maps which display predictive patterns across customers. 
The challenge? Data curation takes a lot of time, effort, and expertise. Furthermore, GDPR and other forms of governance have strong measures in pace around sensitive data. 
However, by stripping out the sensitive data using AI, organisations can safely leverage crucial customer data whilst also improving their privacy standing and building consumer trust.
How does customer behaviour impact business results?
Intent HQ has come to realise that the key to success is to demonstrate how behaviours impact key business results such as lifetime value, profit, and data usage. It’s here that you come to the nuance of how the different data sets interact, says Jonathan. “You either need to deal with that in a programmatic way where you feed the machine…or you’re making decisions. In decision-making, you want to look at that data and understand the impact of it. That’s what leads to much better personalisation. You start to get an intuitive feel around the data and not just a black box.”
Scott goes on to ask whether there are there other barriers which are holding telcos back and what Intent HQ can offer that telco’s internal teams cannot.
According to Jonathan, it’s “time to market. How quickly can you deliver something and be generating revenue or impact?”. For many internal projects, that can often be a year-long project but for a company like Intent HQ, who has already invested approx. £40 million into the work they do, the lead time is much shorter. 
But it’s not just an investment issue, it’s resourcing too. Personalisation is incredibly complex meaning that “you must pick and choose where you are going to play,” says Jonathan. “You need to play in the area that you can really deliver value. Ultimately you need to rely on people like Cartesian and Intent to provide a set of services which help them accomplish their goals.”
It also requires a change in mindset, adds Jonathan. “It’s an attitude of partnering rather than an attitude of ‘vendoring’”. 
Why personalisation makes a difference
 “The idea of relevance is profound on another level. Does that just mean I make a telco more money?” asks Jonathan. “The answer is so far from that because what we’re doing is allowing people to have space for the things that are more important in their life by not filling it with spam and noise.” 
But the benefits don’t end with the individual consumer. When you start sending fewer marketing messages, companies can also reduce their carbon output. “Personalisation is no longer a nice to have to improve your bottom line, it’s about a meaning in consumers and about being a corporate who has a power to make a difference and a change for the positive,” Jonathan concludes.