Operators have to make the shift to digital


CloudSense chief executive Richard Britton says that operators must evolve their business models for the digital world 

Technology moves on, people move on and so does the recipe for success. The mobile industry is learning this to its cost. Its prosperity was built on the shift from fixed line to mobile, but now, the shift to digital means that it too is having to adapt and evolve to meet changing demands.

Mobile operators are left with a choice; either they cut costs and harvest a mature revenue stream or they rebuild for digital to enter new areas. But, choosing the latter means venturing into less well-defined markets – and, because the barriers to entry are low, competition in these can be fierce.

However, mobile operators do have many advantages; not least a large customer base and a well-known and trusted brand. Used wisely these could give them the edge over newer companies, especially if they are able to act quickly and change their focus from the technology itself to the marketing and packaging of different services, customer service and loyalty.

After all, these are areas where there has always been room for improvement. Last year, the Ombudsman revealed that the largest number of unresolved telecoms complaints (37%) was the quality of customer service, with a further 21% concerning billing. As bundles and packages become increasingly complex, this number is likely to rise.

Yet we are beyond ‘business as usual’. Nobody knows what will be the right mix of products and services in the future, so the agility to quickly and cost-effectively evolve will allow Mobile operators to shape their customers’ digital shift. This is the only alternative to a controlled decline with associated consolidation and cost-cutting.

Newer companies are able to break down the silos, integrate datasets and create a single source of data for each customer, but more established businesses are still on this journey. Traditional enterprise IT systems such as ERP solutions installed during the growth years are too cumbersome to keep pace with rapid changes in product, pricing and customer information – not to mention multi-channel customer interaction, via text for example, or social media.

But without this overall view, cross and up-selling are hit and miss at best and using ‘next best action’ marketing techniques, based on the history of an individual customer, is almost impossible. Consequently, customers become impatient with their provider’s lack of knowledge. Many of us have been on the receiving end ourselves in interactions with our mobile operators, where the right hand doesn’t appear to know what the left hand is doing. It’s frustrating and often the tipping point to moving on to where the customer service is perceived to be better.

It’s not just about the ability to make the sale by configuring, pricing and quoting (CPQ) – it needs full order lifecycle management and a full vision of the customer journey. Telecoms providers are beginning to deploy cloud-based solutions to create a lean, connected front office to enable this and ensure queries and complaints can be effectively logged and managed to resolution in a new joined-up service. But this take-up must be accelerated to help create happier customers without any cause to complain, as well as saving costs.

In such a breathtakingly uncertain environment it seems incongruous that the answer lies not only in the glamour of cutting-edge design but in establishing better processes and systems to ensure the flexibility and service needed. However, getting this right will lay a firm foundation for future evolution of the industry. Mobile operators have profited from its customers’ shift to new technology. Now the industry needs to make its own shift to digital.