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Five ways 5G will impact the customer experience

Posted August 11, 2020

The new generation of wireless technology, 5G, promises to change how people use the internet through lightning-fast connection speeds, lower latency and an ability to connect one million devices per square kilometer.

This increased reliability, performance and efficiency will be a massive boon — and challenge — to brands and businesses having to meet even higher customer expectations. Deeper entrenchment of technology in our day-to-day lives could mean the proliferation of other technologies, including Internet of Things (IoT), augmented and virtual reality, big data and cloud computing.

The question is, how will companies use 5G to not only drive value for their shareholders, but also to genuinely augment the customer experience (CX)?

The technical elements of 5G

Before we get to how 5G will influence customer experiences, let’s take a quick look at what 5G is, exactly. 5G is the next iteration of the wireless network for connected devices, that goes beyond phones and computers, to drones, vehicles, smart-home devices and other internet-enabled devices.

There are three families of use cases underpinning 5G:

  • First, there is Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), which is the part of 5G that supercharges connectivity, especially for today’s smartphones, giving consumers access to extremely fast network speeds and bolstered capacity.
  • Next is mMTC (massive Machine Type Communications) which allows for one million connected smart devices and sensors per square kilometer without overloading the network.
  • And finally, there’s uRLCC, (Ultra-reliable and Low Latency Communications), which drastically improves the speed of communication for things like autonomous vehicles, reducing the error rate by a factor of one thousand.

Disclosure: Our parent company, TELUS, is Canadas fastest-growing communications company, and has been strategically expanding its 5G network. You can learn more here. But back to CX…

1. Heightened consumer expectations

Currently, consumers cite reliability as their biggest gripe with 4G. More than four out of 10 (43%) consumers say the internet on their mobile device “cuts in and out sometimes/ is not always strong,” according to PwC’s survey, The Promise of 5G: Consumers Are Intrigued, But Will They Pay? Overall, those surveyed prioritized reliability above speed, cost and amount of data.

With that in mind, 5G has the potential to rewrite consumer expectations. Reliability and speed may be less of a problem. Lower cost per bit will help make unlimited mobile data less expensive. Seamless mobile transactions will be a default. Consumers will develop new expectations of their brand interactions, and companies will need to be prepared to understand those needs, interpret that feedback and respond in real-time.

2. Widespread access to video support

With low latency and faster network speeds, 5G will usher in a new era of mobile video.

Video usage is anticipated to account for 70% of mobile network traffic in 2022, a major spike from 47% in 2015, according to IHS Markit’s 5G Is Here: Early Insights From Our Experts report. “The 5G standard will also be critical to promoting the consumption of general live video,” the report’s authors note.

For consumer-facing companies, live video support will open the door to more efficient customer service, a critical part of the overall CX. A 5,000-person survey done by Oracle found 75% of respondents recognize the value and efficiency of voice and video chat. They also prize one-call resolutions.

Powered by 5G, CX reps will be able to troubleshoot highly technical challenges through screen-sharing and video chat. This could potentially help reduce the number of product returns or in-home technician visits, an important factor given the restrictions and changes stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Video options go beyond live support, too. Agents will be able to record a quick video to describe the solution without the need to send step-by-step emails, and companies can create intelligent troubleshooting guides featuring video walk-throughs for common problems.

All this adds up to more personal experiences, expedited customer support and deeper engagement.

3. More smart devices (IoT) and increased ability to troubleshoot via self-service

The IoT and smart device market is already growing, but the introduction of 5G will supercharge that growth. The GSM Association — an industry organization representing mobile network operators around the world — says the number of IoT connections worldwide will double between 2019 and 2025, to more than 25 billion.

From a customer support perspective, 5G growth of IoT could improve at-home troubleshooting. In some cases, a device could independently detect an issue or need for maintenance and alert its user before the device experiences an issue. For example, a sensor in a smart refrigerator could identify low freon levels, allowing the company to schedule and send a service person before the customer loses a freezer full of frozen foods.

These smart sensors could also help take self-service support to the next level. Sensors in appliances could guide consumers through simple troubleshooting like replacing a filter or adjusting certain fluid levels, raising the bar on the overall CX.

4. Greater proliferation of AR/VR capabilities

The promise of 5G’s ultra-low latency is that virtual and augmented reality can make good on the promises to “revolutionize” tech. With 5G’s high speed, processing power could be moved to the cloud, allowing for more widespread use of VR/AR technology in the public domain.

Wider adoption of these tools could help boost interest in emerging concepts like virtual stores or using AR to see how products might look in your house in real-time. According to Nielsen’s 2019 study Augmented Retail: The New Consumer Reality, many people are willing to use VR/AR to check out products.

That said, true VR/AR growth from 5G is difficult to predict, since it also depends on the pace of customer and brand adoption. Nevertheless, its use in customer experiences will be interesting to watch in the coming years.

5. Better big data processing power

AI and big data analytics are currently being used to identify customer patterns and personalize CX, and 5G’s capabilities could raise the bar on the volume of data companies collect and the pace at which AI can process it — all without needing a tethered connection. As use cases for 5G continue to develop, we will likely see growth of in-store personalization based on greater convergence of IoT and customer data profiles.

While none of these technologies are brand-new, their potential has not yet been maximized due to constraints in connectivity. The next generation of wireless will change that. Now live in more than two dozen markets globally, 5G is expected to account for 20% of connections worldwide by 2025. Getting the infrastructure in place is just the start. From there, the CX journey, backed by 5G tech, can realize its potential.

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