Are you sick of hearing about “transformation?” Good, you should be.
It’s been used ad nauseam over the past several years, as operators across the globe have heard that they need to transform to meet the changing needs of their digitally savvy customers. At Comptel, we’ve certainly said our fair share about the topic, starting two years ago, with our first book “Operation Nexterday” and continuing with last year’s edition “Nexterday: Volume II.”
At this point, if you haven’t heard that you need to transform, you haven’t been paying close enough attention. Fortunately, it appears that plenty of service providers have heeded the advice.
In the past year, we’ve heard from several operators who have implemented new strategies aimed at increasing customer engagement, adding dynamic new services, improving market competitiveness and gaining new network and operational efficiencies.
Put simply, transformation isn’t on the horizon – it’s happening right now. If there is any advice you need to take seriously, it’s to stop overthinking the necessary change and start doing it. Most frequently, we have seen the most forward-thinking service providers embark on two separate journeys: the digital customer journey, and the digital service lifecycle management (DSLM) journey.
The digital customer journey means implementing new strategies, capabilities and models that will enable you to offer truly individualized customer engagement, provide living digital services that are created and sold at the right moment, and win the hearts and minds of digital customers.
The digital service lifecycle journey encapsulates the evolution of operator networks, technologies and service delivery models, which enables the flexibility and agility they need to compete with the Internet players (OTTs), manage service delivery costs and dream bigger from a service perspective.
As you evaluate your own business, are you on either journey right now? What do you need to change to get to that point?
Looking ahead to 2017, we believe more telcos will embark on a digital customer or digital service journey. There are new opportunities within both journeys that will make each one more appetizing to operators. Here’s a few.
#1: AI WILL HELP MARKETERS AND CUSTOMER SERVICE MANAGERS PURSUE SMARTER, FASTER AND INSTANT CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT
Every digital player is battling to get their message to a customer, and they have to do it at the right time and in the right context for it to make the biggest impact. Telcos are no exception, and in 2017, we expect them to move away from the pre-scheduled mass marketing campaigns toward a more sophisticated, personalized and contextual customer engagement approach.
AI is the difference-maker. Knowing what you know about your customers, their habits and their service consumption, you can add in a layer of intelligence to recommend, predict and automate your next-best-action. This capability can fuel upsell and cross-sell offers, nurture actions and marketing promotions, amongst other activities.
However, here´s a word of warning. Wrongly used, AI is a true weapon of mass marketing. It gives marketers powerful ways to spam, interrupt and disrespect customers’ valuable time and individual needs, which only leads to dissatisfied customers and churn.
At best, AI helps digital telcos to deliver on the promise of lovable customer engagement and individual care, which in turn will generate more revenue.
#2: OPERATORS WILL FINALLY INCREASE PARTNERSHIPS TO ADD LIVING SERVICE OPPORTUNITIES
2016 seemed to be the year of the digital telco partnership. All year long we heard from customers who were developing exciting new service offerings thanks to cooperative projects with their partners. Comptel also partnered with several industry leaders – including Telefonica, Orange, Salesforce and IBM – on various projects and proofs of concept around digital service delivery and sponsored data.
Partnerships are how big ideas come alive in the world of telco. Your peers are bringing new solutions and service strategies to market in part because they are bringing their own in-house competencies to the table in projects with IoT device manufacturers, streaming content providers, data providers and many more types of digital players.
In turn, many of the OTTs are starting to realise the value of telcos, as contextual data about customers’ mobile lives is a game-changing differentiator in these service partnerships. Services are starting to be more contextually shaped to match with every moment in the customer’s personal life. This is what enables “living services” instead of static services.
#3: THE BACK OFFICE EVOLVES UNDER THIRD NETWORK AND DSLM PRINCIPLES
In 2017 we will final witness the blurring of networks, network services and customer information (the digital front office). It’s a change that is long overdue, as these rigid and fixed silos have only been adding complexity to the telco business.
Telcos have the option of two different architectural approaches. One is a closed, massive and revolutionary vertical consolidation where telcos depend on one technology and service giant for everything in their seamless monolithic stack.
The second option involves a more open, light and evolutionary horizontal approach, where the three layers (networks, services and customers) are built to interact in a “conversational” way through SDKs, APIs and common user interfaces.
Pros and cons can be applied to either course, Comptel believes that a conversational and dynamic, multi-vendor approach is the winning proposition.
A virtualised and software controlled network (“The Third Network” as termed by the MEF Forum) is only gaining more relevancy as digital telcos explore ways to improve operational efficiency and enhance agility. In 2017, we expect operators to double down on efforts to reform their third network and back-office capabilities through new technologies (NFV/SDN) and models. Organisations and standards bodies are keen to drive collaboration and open interoperability as the only positive way forward to making the Third Network a reality.
We recently wrote that Operational Support Systems (OSS) are long overdue for a design overhaul of the type we’ve seen in customer-facing technologies. Specifically, the need to reduce time-to-profit, speed up service delivery and make service design and delivery easier for a higher proportion of non-technical staff, operators will seek modern capabilities from their service orchestration approaches.
That trend supports a complementary movement toward a more agile, NFV-driven network that will enable both operational savings and faster, more configurable service orchestration. New, dynamic models for service delivery are giving shape to the vision for NFV technology in the telco back office, and we expect to more telcos will want to explore and implement these models in 2017.
Transformation is still an important theme in digital telco – you won’t hear the word any less over the next few years. But, ideally, operators will start to view transformation less as a massive, vague vision statement and more as a series of immediate, actionable steps they can take to improve their business.
About The Author:
Ari Vänttinen oversees all marketing activity for Comptel. He previously held various marketing executive and management roles at McAfee and Stonesoft since 2010. Prior to that, he was a management consultant at Talent Partners from 2007 to 2010.