TelecomForum Asia Live in Singapore kicked off today with questions of digitization at the front of mind. These are being tackled from various perspectives; customer centricity, innovative services and agility among them.
Perhaps disappointingly given that it’s a refrain we’ve heard so often before in the telco community, the instinctive tendency of carriers towards “build it and they will come” remains ever present in both conversations and presentations. Thus digitization, it is clear, represents an opportunity but capitalizing on it is another story. To that end, its benefits are easy to highlight but the challenges to overcome in reaping those benefits haven’t changed much since the last round of business model innovation.
Words like “siloes” and the need to overcome them are still-ever present.
In an early session, Sri Lankan operator Dialog Axiata dug into the obvious but perhaps overlooked question of what digitization means. Turns out that it’s about the customer, not the telco itself. Digitization, Axiata suggests, is about delivering the connectivity, means of self-expression and desire for exploration that the modern customer wants. But complicating delivering on this vision is that customer desires are no longer easily categorized when it comes to telecoms services; different segments have different preferences and priorities meaning telcos have to shift from a multi-channel to an omni-channel environment and invest far more in understanding the communities they serve.
With this in mind, the telcos goal should be to create a segment-specific experience across different lines of business (high value, enterprise, etc.) Digitization, coupled with enhanced analytics, is simply the means to make it easier to deliver this reality rather than a destination in itself. Look at the evolution of telco from this perspective; the industry has gone from Mass marketing to segmentation to niche marketing to, with digital, the “segment of one.” How can this reality be supported and enabled is the question. New concepts like creating “Customer Frustration Indexes” may be part of the answer! Which, of course, lies in accessing and using data.
MyRepublic, a fast fibre broadband provider in SE Asia and Australasia offered an interesting framework for prioritizing the realization of digital services, suggesting both actions and investments be prioritized along the axes of “potential to delight” and “potential to anger” the customer. Seeing things this way yields four action categories. First, “fundamentals.” This includes things like investments in billing, where accuracy has little potential to delight (customers, after all, expect their bills to be correct) but high potential to anger (if they’re wrong.) Second, outliers, third “good to have” actions and fourth, “cost saving” investments are the other categories. An example of the latter would be e-billing which outside of providing obvious benefits to the telco is likely to have comparatively little impact on the customer experience. Data issues are central to actions in all four groups.
Celcom Malaysia underlined the need for telcos to move away from their traditional, supply-centric mentality or, as they put it, “get out from behind the counter.” Colorfully, their presentation suggested that digitization involved “cremating traditional processes and replacing them with new, customer-centric ones.” Doing this means breaking down siloes, both at a human and application level.
Early take-aways? Well, Digital is data and questions of data collection, processing and subsequent usage by “upstream” applications really are going to be at the heart of digital success. Without them, without the removal of legacy siloes, digital is going to be just another network mechanism that affords more untapped opportunities than real change. From the customer perspective, the service provider’s investment in data integration and management technology may be invisible but from the customer experience perspective it’s absolutely central to success (and fuels the ability to delight.)
One or two private conversations are underlining these messages. Digitization remains rooted to some degree at a conceptual level, but customer experience ramifications are beginning to parallel operationally driven Use Cases in the conversation. In Singapore this week, things are hot in more ways than one.