‘Digital Transformation’ in telecoms: for both consumer and enterprise

Most customer experience tech initiatives have focused on the B2C market. Although this desperately needs to shift to a more hybrid model that incorporates B2B requirements, it’s essential to acknowledge that priorities have changed over time, and that new approaches are required. 

In the early days from the 2000s onwards, focussing on the consumer made a lot of sense for the tech industry. Since what we could do with devices such as phones and computers was very limited, creating technology that was accessible to all quickly became the industry’s primary focus – and rightly so. Developing new ways to make the customer experience quicker, easier, and more fun both from a hardware perspective and when considering network speeds and coverage meant investment poured in for innovation in the B2C sector.

However, as technology has become more advanced and its uses create evergreen opportunities for consumers and businesses alike, it’s time to flip the narrative on digital transformation. A term once used to denote the coming of the digital age, ‘digital transformation’ has come to represent a continuous process of innovation. The advancement of massive networks of IoT devices, automation of laborious manual processes, and seamless business interactions continue to put the customer at the centre of our digital endeavours. Only now, the new horizon for telco customer experience is in the B2B market. This is resulting in a hybrid B2B/B2C experience – a shift that will necessitate an influx of additional investment.

Healthy business, happy customer

Industries such as the retail sector have been particularly successful in utilising data insights to serve customers better, introducing more tailored services, personalised ads, AI-powered chatbots, and automated feedback generators that help customers feel better looked after. 

Getting into the behind-the-scenes of how telcos run and differ from these more IT-savvy businesses can tell us much about the role of digital transformation in furthering the digital agenda. With smooth and efficient internal processes, customers can experience better service and delays when they’re looking to purchase a new product or service, update their billing information, or ask a question about their contracts. With customer retention more critical than ever, it’s easy to see this hybrid B2B/B2C trend emerging, with telcos needing to transform their business models and service offerings.

The good news for telcos is that many B2B burdens that previously caused headaches can now be automated – from lead engagement and sales to billing and service management. Tools such as self-service apps, digital assistants and “quasi-AI” systems, in turn, produce more and more data points which can be analysed to gain new customer insights and feedback into process improvements. Ultimately, this gives telcos a new competitive advantage previously unavailable to them with separate digital transformation strategies for B2B and B2C.

Therefore, the right analytics strategy is needed to match the capabilities of new technologies and ensure that telcos can collect, structure and use data in a meaningful way, taking action when necessary and engaging proactively with customers. Using machine learning, telcos can understand what “the norm” is for each customer or segment – their spending, usage, and engagement, and identify any deviations from this behavioural baseline. The addition of AI can anticipate customer problems and identify when certain “emotional tipping points” have been reached in their lifecycle. 

All this is necessary because customer experience is just as important an investment for telcos as their services and infrastructure. And with many betting on the enterprise market for their future 5G revenue streams, it is high time that the B2B customer experience is given the attention and investment it needs.

Navigating competitive markets 

Simplification and automation are key for telcos to be competitive in this landscape. The playing field has changed dramatically over the last two decades, and the hyperscaler likes of Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are changing what customers expect in terms of service and delivery in every area of their lives. Telcos no longer have to compete with each other but have to compete with any business with happy customers since they set the benchmarks.

What customers have come to expect as standard practice in some areas, such as retail, are becoming baseline expectations for everything from negotiating phone tariffs to renewing subscriptions and even paying our taxes. Digital transformation is about embracing this standardising of the customer experience since failure to keep up can prove to be detrimental to business. Telcos need to learn from those that get it right and successfully partner their unmatched, in-depth, highly technical knowledge with a powerful human-centric customer service strategy.

Making internal operations run more smoothly frees up staff to focus on problem areas, and 

MNOs need to get to a place where they can pivot their service offerings at speed and offer more diverse, differentiated, and value-added services. To get there, automation is key. The digitisation of the customer journey is meeting a boost with eSIM adoption since it provides instant service and cost reductions with no need for stock management and distribution costs. Combining process automation with advancements such as these and taking full advantage of new cloud and hybrid environments creates unparalleled flexibility. The stomping ground for telecoms is growing, and the increasing collaboration happening across the tech sector is a testament to this. Making space for innovation is going to be critical, and MNOs seek to keep their finger on the pulse when it comes to finding new ways to make their customers’ lives easier.

Mo Firouzabadian

Mo Firouzabadian is Chief Executive Officer of Lifecycle Software. Mo is an innovative leader with deep experience, spanning 20 years, in the telecom and enterprise software industries. Prior to joining Lifecycle, Mo served as SVP for Developed Markets at Evolving Systems, an industry leader in Customer Value Management and Loyalty. Mo joined Evolving as a result of the acquisition of Lumata where he was the co-CEO, responsible for revenue, client relationships and finance. Mo has led iconic strategic projects with key clients across retail, media, telecommunications and device manufacturers.

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