By Matt Hooper, Senior Vice President, IMImobile
The telecommunications industry has played a central role in the digitisation of a range of industries and in creating the smartphone society.
This has paved the way for companies to reimagine new and more compelling ways to capture the hearts of consumers.
However, as of today, the industry still finds itself in the early stages of its own journey to bring customers the benefit of the digital revolution.
Achieving this goal is essential for telcos to remain competitive given the fluidity of the customer lifecycle.
Digitisation is not only necessary for operators to provide their customers with the best user experience, but also to allow them to respond adequately to changing market dynamics.
This includes emerging trends like the move to multi-play, the imminent rollout of 5G networks and the increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI) in customer processes.
According to research by Gartner, AI will represent 85 percent of all customer interactions by 2020.
In order to succeed, it is not enough for mobile operators to simply offer some digital elements to their customers.
Instead, they must integrate their entire offering to ensure that they connect with customers in a proactive way across all channels – online, through mobile device channels and in their stores – in other words, omnichannel.
After all, this is the standard that consumers have come to expect nowadays, having grown accustomed to being able to interact with brands on multiple channels of their choice and at a time of their convenience.
Operators that are unable to offer this level of personalisation and convenience will increasingly compete on price versus service and will be left behind.
This year, in the UK alone, consumers are forecast to spend £67.38 billion online according to the Centre for Retail Research.
From this amount, £27.02 billion will be conducted on mobile devices.
So, what do telcos need to do in order to stay relevant to their consumers?
The key to successfully adapting to the digital revolution is revolving greatly around their ability to deliver an orchestrated customer experience throughout the customers lifecycle, based on increasing levels of customer base segmentation.
As they build this out, telcos must focus on achieving four key objectives: customer or persona recognition, orchestration, continuous adaptation, and protection of the customer.
Developing a full omnichannel capability takes time, yet speed to this capability is critical.
To accelerate development, telcos can seek out cloud-based platforms that can be rapidly configured to fit within an existing O/BSS and infrastructure estate.
Those already making substantial progress in this regard will find a much faster uptake in the consumption of new digital services, as they come to be trusted by consumers and businesses alike.
As this happens, telcos also need to ramp up their ability to innovate continuously to create or co-create new digital services that will attract and retain customers.
According to IDC, in 2019 the demand for digital related services will account for over 70 percent of all external services growth and 40 percent of total worldwide services spending.
An effective omnichannel capability enables customers to find, configure, and subscribe to relevant services that meet their specific needs, such as a mobile app.
It therefore provides an essential foundation for the creation and delivery of new digital applications and establishes a platform to help ensure customers will stay and not succumb to one of the key competitive battlegrounds, churn.
Delivering an orchestrated customer experience and catching the wave of the digital revolution does not come without its challenges though. Firstly, CIOs are facing considerable organisational pressure posed by digital transformation, making innovation and faster service delivery more important than ever.
Rising expectations from senior management means that IT departments need to successfully adopt a holistic approach that combines the right people, processes and technologies to reach a long-term solution.
Secondly, the use of new tool sets and APIs are a vital component of joining old and new IT platforms.
These are able to harness the increasing amounts of real-time data and enable the integration of diverse IT systems, building more collaborative and self-serviced environments for line of business operations.
But new tool sets also require telcos to evolve and adapt accordingly.
And herein lies another set of challenges, which are the rigid legacy processes and systems that are impacting the ability of telcos to close the loop in terms of improving customer experience and engagement through digitization.
Lastly, telcos need to identify and address capability gaps in their organisational competence and technology platforms if they are to maintain optimal relationships with their customers into the future.
Where these gaps exist, they can speed the mobilisation of the organisation through controlled shadow IT who can work hand-in-hand under the stewardship of IT teams to build the solutions needed.
With all these challenges, there is no doubt that telcos face increasingly difficult times as digitisation reshapes the industry landscape.
But there remains a massive opportunity to make the step and utilise cloud technology stacks and create an organisation that can innovate and deliver at the pace demanded by the business and consumers.
More companies are realising this and the latest forecast by IDC suggests that by 2019, expenditure on digital transformation technologies will surpass $2 trillion.
The road to digital transformation may not be an easy one, but it is a journey that cannot be ignored.