Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Sajan Joy Thomas, Vice President – Product Office at Tecnotree, reviews the many ways operators can innovate to boost their bottom line.
Communications Service Providers (CSPs) have been accused of being averse to change and there’s a common and prevailing perception that innovation isn’t typically at the forefront of telecom Providers’ minds. However, the COVID-19 pandemic is currently showcasing how network capabilities are enabling millions of businesses to sustain communications services and productivity. Service Providers were largely well equipped to meet the 30% to 40% increase in bandwidth demand on their networks as millions of employees and students became home-bound. But how can CSPs continue to evolve and quickly deliver the communication services that enterprises expect while also increasing revenue?
Making Digital Self Onboarding a reality
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about the increased need to become fully Digital. A key service, to help maintain and even increase market share, is to provide Digital Self Onboarding. This marks a significant shift from the traditional way of onboarding customers.
In order to identify the gaps that should be addressed both technologically and behaviourally in an efficient and effective manner, Providers need to start mapping their current business processes in order to realise the vision of Digital Self Onboarding. Technological capabilities will need to be built or enhanced in the Operator’s ecosystem. The complexity associated with monolithic BSS/OSS systems with siloed product catalogues and complex purchase processes needs to be broken down to microservices based architecture, where each service will have a specific domain area to be addressed, in order to deliver an end to end Business Journey.
Operators will also have to embrace an Agile methodology in their operational processes and accordingly define priorities of the Business Journey that they would want to address one by one. As part of the prioritisation process, each Business Journey has to consider how it will make an impact to the customer’s life with improved customer experience and customer lifetime value and accordingly look at a way to evolve this with least disruption to the services offered including its technological impact.
Chatbots adding value and not frustration
Consumers have traditionally been resistant to Chatbots but there is an increasing openness from customers to this technology as long as it enhances the overall experience. Chatbots traditionally checked balances and purchased add-on services. For true customer acceptance it’s essential that bots evolve into the central channel for all customer engagements and interactions – replacing more than 90% of the need to call a contact centre.
But for this to work bots need to become more intuitive and include all the lifestyle applications that the customer is looking for, show personalised features and offer recommendations along with proactive notifications to address any potential issues or escalations that the customer may have.
Chatbots can be used to continuously collect data from customers and accordingly build intelligence using Machine Learning models to process the customer data that is collected through these interactions as well as various other sources.
Though Chatbots may not be able to completely eliminate the need for human interactions, with added intelligence to the application, they can handle most of the service and support queries, perform accounting and purchase transactions and detect the mood of the customer which it can then handover to a human resource if needed. By using Chatbots, operators can provide 24/7 support to its customers in a cost-efficient manner and proactively engage with the customer.
Streamlining billing and payments for your customers
Billing systems are typically designed to generate invoices for customers at the end of the billing cycle, which include an accumulation of amounts such as one-time charges, subscription fees and credit adjustments.
By automating many of the manual activities associated with the bill-run which are time and resource consuming – the billing process can be streamlined. However, there must be a mechanism to provide complete visibility of all transactions generated for the customer on a daily basis to enable thorough understanding of spends and take appropriate measures to manage account balances.
This will allow customers to make advance payments if necessary and keep certain specific type of services continuously active without any disruption. The operator can also set-up a Digital Wallet within their ecosystem to aggregate all forms of currencies and units available across different sources for the customer and use that as a form of payment method in order to pay for all types of services or bills.
Combining traditional and cloud services into one convergent bill
Another key challenge that both customers and operators are facing is to produce a convergent bill for all the services subscribed to by the customer.
It’s extremely difficult to keep track of multiple bills based on multiple bill cycles for multiple products subscribed from the same Provider or Provider’s Partner products. Producing a convergent bill, from a consumer perspective, makes life easier by having only one billing cycle, with all charges consolidated in a single bill thus allowing the customer to have a single view of all services and payments either based on the complete outstanding or on the services that the customer would want to continue to use.
Bundling services to facilitate partnerships
Operators traditional revenue streams have declined or remained stagnant. They must find other sources for increasing revenues by engaging with complementing partners with whom they can share revenues and help increase both customer base and ARPU.
Acquiring other companies, or making strategic alliances, offers another way to provide added value. Taking a customer-focused transformation, alongside strategic development (or acquisition) of new capabilities, CSPs can adapt and meet the demands of their customers.
Is 5G the solution?
Staying digitally connected has never been more important. There is an increasing demand to provide dedicated bandwidth for specific enterprise needs that requires higher Quality of Service (QoS).
This in turn calls for a need to have higher bandwidth and higher capabilities on the network, including network slicing in order to provide the right QoS. While the 5G network is expected to support large data and address the limitations from earlier generation networks, it’s for the operator to perform continuous monitoring of service assurance for latency and availability on the entire network. Enterprises subscribing to these 5G services would be highly dependent on the network capabilities in order to execute their services to users and many of the critical services envisioned to be provided along with 5G will need critical proactive monitoring of capacity and seamless availability.
It is important for operators to deliver the communication services that matter for enterprises, increase revenues and improve customer experience.
Ultimately, it’s a focus on customer experience that will determine whether or not CSPs can stay relevant. Developing more personalised and holistic experiences with data-led tech will help. This way, they’re improving the delivery of customer service – and how those customers feel about it. CSPs need to transform to thrive. The key differentiator is customer experience. Those Providers who are able to build new services around the customer, unlocking data to provide seamless, personalised experiences, will find themselves best positioned for success while increasing revenue.
Sajan has over 19 years of expertise in business and digital transformation, as well as experience in solution architecture & design, delivery management and operations. He has developed and implemented a variety of business application solutions using industry standard practices across various sectors. Sajan has spent 16 years in the OSS/BSS domain of the telecoms landscape including in wireless, wireline, TV, broadband and multi play.