Thanks to network infrastructures implemented by telecom operators, both businesses and individuals enjoy faster and more reliable Internet connections, which give us access to larger amounts of information than ever before, and an ability to communicate both instantly and easily among ourselves as well as with businesses and organizations. It is a reality that we could hardly imagine a few years ago.
It is therefore paradoxical that network operators are precisely the ones who have been the slowest to address their own digital transformation. According to a preliminary survey by PwC’s Strategy&, while 82% of global telecom executives anticipate that their companies will become digital leaders, there is still a long way to go for most telcos.
What degree of digitization do network operators enjoy at present and what areas of the sector require improving?
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According to the results of the above survey, 52% of respondents expect to become digital leaders in the telecom sector, and 30% believe to be already on par with digital leaders in any industry.
|expects his operator to become a digital leader||aims to become a digital leader in the telecom sector
||consider to be on par with digital leaders in any industry|
How far are network operators into their digital transformation at the present time?
The results of the above survey do not necessarily reveal the whole picture. Three key areas in which operators lag behind other industries, and which therefore require some measure of improvement, are:
Most operators don’t know enough about their customers to identify their needs, as they have not as of yet been able to properly integrate customer data from various communication channels, nor have they been able to use this data to offer customers the products and services they need, when they need them.
It is for this reason that the consumer experience with telecom operators tends to be substandard, a fact that is all the more obvious given the performance of digital companies like Apple, who have managed to integrate customer data to offer a seamless omnichannel experience. No matter if clients are attended to in a store, online or by phone, Apple employees have all the relevant data about a particular client on hand at all times, therefore knowing exactly how to help, what products and services a client already has and which ones might be of interest.
Product offers and digital services
Since costs assumed by operators are increasing as more and more devices will connect to their networks (this is the Internet of Things phenomenon in action), operators cannot continue to rely only on the products and services they offer for profit - telephone lines, Internet data and television being the main ones. They should rather try to expand their services to get the most out of their infrastructure (and by reducing operating costs, which we'll discuss in another post).
Beyond these purely telecom products and services, operators should try to open new revenue streams with products that compete directly with those belonging to the OTT (Over The Top players), namely Skype, Whatsapp, Spotify, Slack and Netflix, who have been benefiting from the infrastructure deployed by telcos without bearing the costs of its development. These digital companies offer products and services, to both businesses and consumers, that use network operators without contributing to their costs and they successfully meet the new consumer needs that have arisen in our current digital age.
Although many of these companies have gained enough ground and built enough customer loyalty to make life difficult for competitors, there are still areas in which no company has as yet positioned itself as a leader, offering many telcos the possibility of diversifying what they offer. And one of these areas is the IoT phenomenon.
The expected explosion of telecommunications devices is not only a challenge by the increasing cost they will mean for network operators (including the need to adapt and maintain their services given the greater volume of network connections), but represents a great opportunity to develop products and services that meet new customer requirements and potential future uses, with the advantage that they, as operators, will have the adequate infrastructure for the functioning of any future new devices.
Referring back to the results of the PwC's Strategy survey, more than half of the participants believe that digital culture is key to achieving their company’s digital goals. However, most telcos cannot boast of having achieved a cultural transformation within their organizations. Most still have hierarchical organizational structures that slow down decision-making and foster a way of thinking and acting that severely hamper the progress of any plans to make positive changes to the company as a whole.
A digital culture is characterized as being horizontal and collaborative: it should encourage cooperation across departments and among members of each team. Redesigning the way a company works is fundamental for change, as well as giving employees the tools they need to make a new company culture actually work. It is particularly tricky to implement a digital culture among employees and managers, but with the new economic context it is now an absolute must that companies streamline their decision-making processes and speed up the launch of new products and services.
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This post is also available in Spanish.