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The next-gen tools telcos need to win over digital-first customers

Group of people with their mobile phones out around a table

Like most industries, telecommunications has experienced major disruptions at the hands of the digital revolution. Companies in this sector have faced a number of challenges trying to keep pace, primarily thanks to a large and expensive infrastructure. However, the wheels have been set in motion and change is well underway with the help from technologies such as cloud computing and software-driven applications.

As the digital revolution continues, telecoms (AKA telcos) are increasingly embracing next-generation digital technologies and tools like robotic process automation (RPA), big data and advanced analytics, conversational bots and enhanced user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) to meet the ever-heightening expectations of their customers.

Telcos positioned as leaders in digital adoption and transformation see both their top and bottom lines improve. According to a Bain & Company analysis of more than 150 companies in 12 markets, “…those in the top 20% of our sample had an average Net Promoter Score (a measurement of satisfaction and loyalty) that was 35 percentage points higher than the digital laggards - those in the bottom 20%.”

This is due to the successful integration of next-gen technologies to achieve process improvements, cost containment, increased personalization and an improved customer experience, which in turn is driving 1.3% higher annual revenue growth and 10.4% higher margin growth than the laggards. Here’s a look at some of the best ways for telcos to incorporate and leverage digital services, and how leading companies are capitalizing on them.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

For legacy telecoms, infrastructure costs remain stubbornly high, making solutions like RPA a great option to help retain sustainable profit margins in the short-term, and help fund leapfrog-type innovation into 5G in the long-term. RPA, or the use of AI-powered software to replicate high-volume tasks, isn’t just a tool for eliminating monotonous work; the AI and advanced analytics powering these systems can actually make the whole telco infrastructure “smarter.”

Amit Dhingra, Nokia’s vice-president of global service delivery, told management consulting firm McKinsey in a 2018 interview that, “… an example of long-term step change is automation and analytics working together in this evolution from a descriptive to a prescriptive/cognitive approach, to the point where networks gain the ability to heal by themselves.”

Across industries, more and more companies are demonstrating the benefits of RPA. An example from TELUS International’s own client set: A telecom, cable and satellite provider was running multiple business critical systems, each with hundreds of associated services. With limited resources available for monitoring, their IT support was losing critical inputs whenever a system experienced a disruption. Using RPA, TELUS International deployed “virtual workers” to monitor system health 24-7, auto-creating support tickets for manual IT support follow-up. The benefits were significant; accuracy increased by 35%, and efficiency increased by nearly 10% — a huge gain in an industry with such tight profit margins.

Conversational bots

Telcos, like many of their B2C counterparts who are challenged to consistently achieve high NPS scores, see a lot of potential in AI-powered chatbots. By assigning bots to handle certain tasks such as common customer issues, upgrades, account info and plan changes, telcos are cost-effectively able to fill in customer experience gaps, reduce customer effort and increase up time.

Canadian telco, Koodo, offers a strong example of using automated chatbot technology to power an intelligent help section. The ‘Koodo Assist’ tool, available on their website, has customers engage with the self-service digital rep as a first step. The robust AI system offers a simple and friendly chat interface that assists users to get quick, customized answers to queries around billing, data usage and so on, but will escalate the query to a live agent if needed.

Big data and advanced analytics

As consumers use more cellular data, they also create more data that’s ripe for harvesting and utilization in a number of ways. “There is ‘hidden intelligence’ within this data, which can be used to increase operational efficiencies, build new revenue models and diversification opportunities and build more personalized user experiences,” says Nokia’s Dhingra in the McKinsey interview about telco automation and analytics. “It can also reduce R&D effort for network technology creation, differentiation, innovation and improved products.”

Similar to the RPA example, advanced analytics can help optimize the allocation of technicians to maintain the highest levels of network performance and up time. In customer operations, analytics can track the customer life cycle and identify opportunities to offer new and continued services, as well as help accelerate problem-solving.

Advanced UX and UI

Telecommunications is currently ranked as one of the worst-performing industries for UX, underscoring a great opportunity for brands in the space to differentiate themselves in this regard.

Usability and app “stickiness” is an important tool to keeping telco customers satisfied. This is why more and more providers are investing in UX and UI design. One example is Verizon, which recently purchased design firm, Moment, to create sought-after personalized digital experiences within its My Verizon app. After all, next-gen technology, infrastructure and innovation can only make an impact if customers have the desire and ability to use it.

It’s still relatively early days for telcos adopting next-gen digital strategies and technologies. But, as the market evolves and the industry becomes more competitive, the telcos that will come out on top will be those who embrace innovation.

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