Murray Steyn
Murray Steyn Executive Head: Wholesale

They say the only constant is change and that certainly holds true for today’s telcos. Technology has led to upheavals in the telco industry and the struggle to adapt continues.

Different phones from different eras

Digital transformation within the business and throughout its offerings has become essential for established service providers to remain competitive. To achieve that, innovative thinking is necessary.

Increasingly broad and complex

Telecom companies have been finding that their businesses are becoming more broad and complex, and this is set to continue as the world of connected devices expands. Additionally, users have been growing accustomed to an on-demand service model, expecting greater immediacy and flexibility in their services. A shift towards greater customer-centricity is the key and for many operators, this will necessitate profound changes that go beyond the operational level and extend to corporate culture.

Avenues of transformation

Telcos should ideally aspire to become holistic service providers and omnichannel brands, capitalising on their positions in the market and their ability to offer the continuity of service afforded by monthly contracts and pay-as-you-go services.

However, this will involve a shift in thinking that will take them beyond the linear-minded utilities space and into the realm of customer-focused transformation to explore and develop new capabilities. Yet it’s apparent that failing to anticipate and deliver on customer demands will only invite OTT services to further cannibalise existing revenue streams.

There are a number of avenues for dynamic growth that telcos globally have been tapping into, such as cloud-based applications and mobile finance services. To know which avenue is likely to offer the best returns, or simply how to improve on current offerings, it’s important to understand how customer requirements and expectations are changing.

Market researchers have been mapping some of these shifting attitudes, such as US CX intelligence company, Inmoment. Its CX in the Telecom Industry Report from July 2017 states that telecoms have been working hard to increase the value of their products and services, but consumers generally don’t understand or acknowledge the complexities of the telecom delivery model. The report asserts that: “21st-century customers hold telecoms to the same standard as brands that, amidst much simpler business and delivery models, do a phenomenal job of providing above-and-beyond experiences”.

Inmoment concludes that greater attention to CX strategies and solutions, and the application of those insights to put the customer at the centre of all decision-making, is imperative. Service providers should try to hear directly from customers themselves whenever possible to shape truly innovative and competitively priced service offerings.

In line with that, some telcos have been experiencing success with digitally transformed support models that facilitate easy access to billing details, support and even self-service tools to diagnose and resolve common issues.

Getting innovation right

Telcos should aim to create an environment that nurtures innovation. This begins with a process of breaking down internal silos and extends to bringing on board external partners that can offer fresh ideas, cutting-edge technology and world-class customer experiences. A degree of trial and error is inherent in any innovation process, so telcos should aim to create an environment in which they can experiment and fail faster, and then quickly apply those lessons.

An industry example of a proactive innovation programme at scale can be seen with AT&T’s Emerging Devices Organisation (EDO), which was established as a startup in the larger organisation with the intention of quickly identifying and creating new business models. This culture of innovation allows for greater focus on the launch and assessment of new ventures and allows the brand to be more responsive to market changes and evolving customer expectations.

The need to embrace digital transformation is obvious and non-negotiable, but doing it successfully requires the application of technology and market intelligence to create a more customer-centric organisation that can quickly and effectively respond to consumer needs.

There is no single answer on how to go about digital transformation, but the models that demonstrate consistent success are characterised by user-centricity, unified service offerings and strategic partnerships. As a wholesale provider, it might be time to consider how you can expand your business by partnering with a telecommunication services provider.

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