Automation, Analytics and AI
For a service provider (SP) to compete in an increasingly competitive market, it must invest in three categories. It’s well understood that analytics, AI and automation, the three As, will pave the way for any telco looking to futureproof its operations. But how can SPs make sure their investment is worthwhile? Here, Amr Houssein, managing director of BSS telecom software developer Mobilise, explores how SPs can extract value from the three As, telco’s best investment.
The concept of the three As isn’t exactly novel — advanced analytics and increased automation, enhanced by artificial intelligence, are the core technologies underpinning the Forth Industrial Revolution. However, it’s important we recognise their value outside of the factory walls. And that includes in revolutionising the telco customer experience (CX).
Automation will act as the foundation pillar to manage the telecoms user experience. SPs are already beginning to realise the benefits of automation and its underlying technologies such as service orchestration, automation solutions such as self-organising networks (SON) and machine learning (ML) to help manage their data deluge.
Currently, the sector is grappling with many operational procedures such as data management, increased business agility, cost control, improved business efficiency, and the need to create new models and services to stave off competition. With this comes the opportunity to do more with customer data, if SPs can get hold of it effectively.
Automation may bridge the gap between data sources and access by automating a variety of tasks such as automatic report generation and responding to simple customer queries, all the way up to more robust chatbot activities and building the foundations for churn prediction.
Automating processes can help give SPs access to more data, but that information means nothing if it’s not analysed correctly. Being able to harness, and use, customer data enables better decisions, stronger feedback, increased automation, more personalised experiences and ultimately a better CX. Making the most of data can also help SPs drive relevancy to their customers. Knowing more about their customers’ wants and needs means SPs can put forward relevant offers and recommendations, rather than bombarding consumers with information they wouldn’t want to hear.
The challenge? Most SPs are yet to adopt a technology infrastructure capable of addressing these new data demands. Data all-too-often resides in siloes across brands, departments and technologies, making it difficult for a SP to consolidate and analyse that information to create relevant insights. If a SP wants to collate information on customer behaviour, such as data consumption, location data, dwell times and the types of interactions they’re performing, they may have to scramble this data from multiple sources.
Instead, if a SP is to futureproof its CX strategy, it should invest in a means of collating these analytics. Their user experience platform used to connect with customers should feature a sufficient data capture and analysis layer that captures more than the typical telecom call records. Deriving detailed analysis to obtain insights such as app analytics or traffic volumes, then using them to predict customer churn, will help a SP build a free-flowing tool that engages them with their customers based on their behaviour and interaction with the service.
There is, of course, a privacy challenge SPs must also contend with. Getting hold of customer data is undoubtedly useful — but the public needs to be willing to give it up in the first place. Getting hold of usage and habit data remains an uphill battle for SPs, but it seems customer perceptions of data use are changing. One McKinsey survey found that two thirds of consumers consistently expect brands to demonstrate how they know them personally through product recommendations, tailored messaging and targeted promotions. The challenge will be finding the balance between accessing customer data in a way that truly benefits the CX, while preventing the experience from becoming too “big brother”.
Process automation and data analytics are crucial parts of a telco’s investment arsenal, but SPs can take their digital investments a step further. Consumers have been acclimatising to AI for a few years now. A Capgemini report indicated that 54 per cent of customers have daily AI-based interactions with brands, and half of those customers found their interactions with AI to be trustworthy. This brings us to the third A of the trilogy — using artificial intelligence to take learnings from the prior two As, and act before customer churn begins.
Typically, the process for preventing customer churn is executed on a reactive basis. That is, a customer cancels their subscription and they’re contacted by an agent in a bid to retain their business. At this point, the chances the damage has been done are high. Instead, AI intelligence takes signals and insights from customer interactions, such as user history and conversations with service agents, and combines it with external data such as billing, network and data usage.
The AI module then uses all that data to develop a predictive picture of the customer, which determines whether they’re happy with their current service, if they’re likely to churn and what the SP should offer to retain them.
Of course, while a huge bonus of implementing the three As, preventing churn is not their only advantage. Investing in analytics, automation and AI will benefit the entire CX value chain, not only those who appear likely to shop elsewhere. On the whole, knowing more about what customers want from their service provider makes them feel valued. It can also drive some unexpected profitability, if customers are exposed to offers they wouldn’t typically consider or weren’t initially in the market for.
With competition across the telecoms landscape showing no signs of cooling down, SPs must invest wisely if they’re to get ahead. Knowing where to invest can be challenging, but adding the three As is undoubtedly the way to go. Going all-in isn’t feasible for most providers, but taking a step-by-step approach and taking measures to accumulate, analyse and action data is the only way of delivering a futureproofed CX.
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