By: Dominic O’Connor, Head of Telcos and Utilities at Acxiom
No sector of the economy has gone untouched or unchanged by the COVID-19 pandemic. As is to be expected, demand for telecommunications services has skyrocketed. Last year, our research had found that the total market size of video callers for work and socialising increased by 31% in a matter of weeks.
Whether working from home or experiencing an increased need for connectivity for communication, people have recognised the value of telco services, and service providers are being pushed to meet these enhanced expectations.
Big changes for everyone
For every event that occurs in the industry, effects are felt on two plains – at a customer and on an operator level. COVID-19 has been no different in this regard. On the operator side, the impact on network traffic and maintaining services has been the most critical challenge arising from the pandemic.
Telcos worldwide are experiencing new demand peaks across their fixed and mobile networks and need to make sure they can maintain this workload. As workloads continue to spike, those operators that rise to the challenge will be able to maintain or grow market share in line with their service quality rather than marketing spend. Alongside the explosion in work-related strain, the growth of streaming as a result of the extended time spent indoors is pushing operator’s services to the limit.
Research shows an increased recognition from customers of their reliance on and the importance of their provider and the solutions they offer. As a result, loyalty is at an all-time high. This does, of course, add to the pressure for providers to maintain services, optimise customer experience, and go beyond fast-growing consumer expectations.
Increased demand in line with new expectations
Despite being a relatively COVID-proof sector, last year revenues were down across all major operators. Increased demand alongside other technical limitations means that costs are higher, with reduction of cash flow continuously being a challenge for Telcos in times of recession.
Increased demand necessitated a move to up bandwidth to cope with the higher volume of voice calls and content downloads, which we all know have exploded as a result of home working. This industry shift has come at a cost to operators. In the UK, Ofcom (the Industry regulatory body) has put in place measures on providers that give vulnerable – out-of-contract – consumers tariff reductions and for current customers price freezes that have cut into the margins of operators.
Increasingly, telcos have tried to rely on augmenting digital customer journeys and utilising chatbots to relieve increased levels of service problems and queries. A major challenge has been adjusting to the scale and complexity of data that these services produce.
Ultimately, those who have been able to best match their level of service with an enhanced customer experience provision against this backdrop are set to be market leaders on the other side of this pandemic.
Data and the future of customer experience
So, what can operators do to keep up with increasing demand and rising customer expectations?
A lot of industry chatter has discussed the importance of emerging technologies such as AI, IoT, and 5G
When it comes to data, the most striking trend and clear growth opportunity is the general increase in volume and complexity of data streams. When you factor in those streams arising from newer technologies, there is tremendous potential for businesses to utilise data to create new propositions and further enrich the customer experience.
The issue is that many telcos cannot manage this new influx of data to create actionable insights and, in turn, many rely on aggregation as a solution, which diminishes the power of the datastreams. Optimising digital omnichannel experiences with an effective programme of enhanced data usage is therefore crucial in driving long-term success.
Moving forwards, telcos need to bring together data and insights to reduce churn, increase “lifetime value” of the customer, and bolster brand loyalty. Post-pandemic focus for the industry should now turn to fixing the underlying data infrastructure with a unified data layer or best-of-breed technologiy like customer data platforms (CDP) can help them to better understand what the customer and business needs.