Opinion: Telcos need to adopt a digital-first mindset

In our increasingly digital age, telecommunications companies need to keep up with widespread changes in technology and how it affects their markets — but research suggests they might not be doing so. The 2018 American Customer Satisfaction Index Telecommunications report showed that customers expressed higher satisfaction with video streaming services (scoring 75) than with subscription TV (scoring only 62). In fact, satisfaction with subscription TV has fallen 3.1 percent since last year.

Why are telecoms losing subscription TV satisfaction? In its earliest era, TV was based on appointment viewing, which meant content was shown only when the provider aired it — and if you missed it, you missed it. Technology began to change that, and now, as on-demand services, DVRs, and streaming video abound, it seems absurd to arrange one’s life around the broadcast schedule. Viewers want flexibility and control. To achieve that, telecoms will need to adopt a digital-first approach to their processes.

A Full Digital Makeover 

If telecoms are to remain competitive, they will need to undergo a transformation in many aspects of their operations, branding, and customer experience. The road forward might seem daunting, given both the technical complexity and the fact that, for many telecoms, expanding digital offerings is uncharted territory.

It can be helpful to have a few touchpoints to refer to, particularly in the early stages before the process has any meaningful momentum. That said, I present four ideas for you to keep in mind — and revisit — throughout the entire process of your digital transformation in the telecom industry:

1. Make the most of bundling, cross-promoting, and inbound marketing. 

A key component of your telecom digital transformation is engaging your user base in new and digital-first ways, including self-service portals and apps that make it easy for them to add new products and bundled services. For example, if a telecom has an unlimited voice and data plan, it could directly promote and sell that service in a bundle with a streaming video service — something Netflix can’t offer. 

Cross-promotion through social media and other channels is another important approach to completing a robust digital renewal. Studies have shown that 46 percent of consumer purchasing decisions are influenced by social media content. For that reason, it’s critical to maintain consistent and effective messaging in social media.

Although it might seem like a more traditional format, email is still one of the most powerful approaches to marketing, and it works particularly well as a strategy to cross-promote your offerings. It’s a cost-effective way to reach customers, and it works well not only with younger consumers, but also with older ones who tend to use email more often to inform purchasing decisions. Plus, if your email draws readers to both your website and social media posts, it acts as inbound marketing to increase page views and user engagement. 

2. Create flexibility for the consumer.

One of the driving forces of the digital revolution is the flexibility that it provides to users. Keeping that in mind, you should always look for ways to make your products and services more easily tailored to customers’ wants. Personalization is the name of the game, and you need to be ready to accommodate it.

For example, a longstanding mainstay of cable TV is the smorgasbord style of offering more than 100 channels of television in a package. Yet most people rarely watch more than a handful of favorite channels, so it’s no wonder that streaming video platforms that allow users to choose from a smaller batch of channels are increasingly popular. 

Diversity and flexibility in your digital offerings also should go hand-in-hand with the cross-promotional strategy mentioned above. After posting a programming recommendation to a customer’s account management portal, you can follow up with a tailored email containing more information about the content or suggestions for similar programs. These are excellent customer retention techniques, and they help to create a connection between your brand and the customer. 

3. Leverage artificial intelligence.

Consider how AI can play a role in your growth and renovation. For example, you might be able to leverage AI to offer customised messaging to your customer persona groups based on customers’ locations, service plans, past activity, and other factors. That communication could also include notifications about perks, upgrades, future content offerings, or other features that would enhance your consumers’ experience.

This is an area of intense research and what today might seem far-fetched will ultimately become a normal function of telecoms’ content analysis teams. In fact, companies that do not provide this type of service will eventually be seen as out of touch with the technological status quo, and, worse, ignoring the wishes of their user base.

4. Keep the human touch.

Even the most sophisticated AI will not eliminate the need for human curation and promotion of content; these systems work best when algorithms are used in conjunction with good personal judgment. Done right, it creates the best of both worlds: high-speed analysis and recommendation tempered with the human touch. 

For example, content curators at your telecom could be tasked with reviewing AI analysis results and composing a personalised email or message to a consumer recommending a cooking show because he has previously viewed other cooking shows. These kinds of small details can create a strong sense of trust in your brand among consumers and enhance the customer experience significantly. 

These algorithms can only get as good as the quality of the training data with which they tune themselves. For that reason, it’s important for you and your teams to spend time upfront identifying exactly how you intend to use the technology and ensuring you have a large, high-quality, clean data set to use to teach the algorithms what to do.

A Digital Transformation Is Coming — Will Your Telco Be Part of It? 

The good news is that these changes can be both incremental and modular, meaning that you do not have to overhaul your entire process in order to create real and effective change. If a certain initiative does not seem to be providing a return on the investment, it can be shelved or scrapped and new approaches can be tried in its place.

But whatever you do now to embrace a digital-first mindset will help you enjoy enhanced positioning as the digital transformation of the telecom industry continues to unfold. The world market represents an enormous frontier of new opportunities, and the digital infrastructure you begin creating now can serve you just as well in other countries and across languages if you are prepared for that process from the start.

(Photo by jesse orrico on Unsplash)

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