4 challenges CSPs will face in 2020 (and how to overcome them)

Kevin Billings,

As we head into 2020, Communications Service Providers (CSPs) will continue to face some familiar challenges – a deluge of products, tangled systems, demanding customers. Oh, and did we mention 5G? To cope with all this complexity, CSPs will need to find ways to create seamless experiences across channels while keeping costs down. It will continue to prove challenging to connect the old to the new, the front office to the team behind the scenes, and make big, complicated businesses simpler and more agile.

So what can CSPs do to overcome these challenges and take advantage of trends in the industry? We have some ideas.

Challenge #1: Customer expectations continue to rise

The solution: Streamline experiences

Customer expectations continue to rise and are increasingly influenced by digital disruptors like Google, Amazon, and Uber. Customers want better, easier self-service through digital and live-agent channels. But disconnected customer experiences hurt NPS and the bottom line. According to our 2019 customer service research report, 63% of customers say that getting to know them should be a priority for businesses.To compete, CSPs need to streamline experiences on any and all channels, making it easier for customers and agents to resolve inquiries and create personalized engagements that generate value.

The customer’s experience should be easy from beginning to end and executed seamlessly across the physical and virtual worlds. For example, Google and Amazon customers happily click on ads for offers because the recommendations are relevant to the context of their search or shopping journey. And clicking through to purchase is easy because automation capabilities are running in the background. Uber is another example of a business that delivers a superior customer experience by integrating the online and offline worlds, passing customer context from a mobile app to a live driver. The result for all of these companies? Efficient operations, lower costs, higher revenues, happier customers.

It is not as simple for CSPs to revolutionize the customer experience as it is for these digital-natives. CSPs must contend with complex products supported by legacy IT, siloed channels, and highly variable human decisions made throughout the customer lifecycle. But delivering the same simple, streamlined level of service as digital-first companies is possible by taking a business-backed and technology-enabled approach. Liberty Global, for example, does this by creating an enterprise digital layer that feeds all of their customer data into a centralized brain and recommends personalized experiences.

Take action - Stop using outdated AI technology that is typically built for use in individual channels. By combining AI, and centralized decisioning with intelligent automation, CSPs can analyze their data from all channels and sources, understand and predict what customers really want, and then apply this information in real-time to personalize service and add value at every interaction.

Challenge #2: The volume of products and competitive pressures create operational complexities

The solution: Connect legacy systems to next-gen solutions like AI and automation, using robotics as needed

In 2019 we saw the numbers and types of industry products continue to grow – like new 5G-enabled offers to support gaming, streaming, or working, plus enterprise and consumer IoT products and services. More products to support, more customer data, and more siloed systems to touch create even greater challenges for CSPs who already struggle with a complex ecosystem. And this complexity isn’t going away in 2020. But there are steps CSPs can take to crush complexity.

For ecosystems with multiple applications and systems of record, use attended RPA on the desktop to bridge the gap between API-less legacy applications, current applications, and customer data. The more customer data CSPs can surface and share between apps, the more robust and personalized the response to each customer engagement.

For even greater operational efficiency, CSPs that adopt an intelligent automation platform can leverage capabilities like AI and case management to orchestrate and automate a customer interaction end-to-end, from first call to order fulfillment. VodafoneZiggo are finding success with this approach, applying next-best-actions and orchestrating communications across all of their inbound and outbound channels for millions of customers.

Take action - Move away from a “ticketing-system” approach and RPA solutions that only focus on the automation of small individual tasks.CSPs can more effectively reduce complexity and cost with robotics and end-to-end case management that orchestrates, tracks, and delivers the right message or action for every interaction. No more duplication of efforts or orders that fall through the cracks.

Challenge #3: 5G is a massive opportunity, but requires new business models to win

The solution: Leverage Intelligent automation

As we head into 2020, it is clear that CSPs are racing to deploy 5G networks. But the transition is complex and costly. (Read my most recent blog on 5G for greater detail on this topic.) In addition to bearing the high cost of acquiring spectrum, CSPs need to invest heavily in core and radio access networks, transmission, and infrastructure. 5G typically requires 5 to 10 times more cell tower infrastructure, and some industry analysts predict that network-related capital expenditures will increase significantly, roughly doubling the cost of ownership in some markets. How each CSP rolls out their 5G plan will be crucial.

With faster and broader wireless connectivity, CSPs will be able to offer B2B and B2C customers greater capacity for needs like live/interactive video streaming, gaming, augmented reality, and multitudes of IoT connections that will power the smart cities, utilities, education, healthcare, transportation, and enterprise needs of today and tomorrow. This greater capacity, combined with new services for smart cities, smart homes, and driverless cars require new platform engagement business models. Some services will be sold directly to customers, yet some services (B2C) will be sold through partnerships with companies like automakers (B2B2C). Understanding the behavior of the customer throughout these relationships creates new opportunities. CSPs need to sharpen acquisition, upsell, and retention strategies for adopters of these services and utilize data sharing platforms with partners.

Take action - Process-centric re-engineering efforts using many technology solutions generally fail, causing CSPs to lose sight of business outcomes.To manage the cost and complexity for the physical deployment of a 5G network, and to respond quickly and competitively to new 5G-based offerings, CSPs need intelligent automation. This approach coordinates and automates operations from end-to-end while providing visibility of network implementations and maintenance processes. Together with AI and centralized decisioning, it also orchestrates customer data, big data, and analytics to help guide and deliver tailored customer offers.

Challenge #4: The pace of industry transformation is increasing

The solution: Go Agile

With the increasing spending power of digital-natives threatening the core business and customers moving between new digital experiences, digital transformation has become the “new normal” for CSPs. An Agile environment is more important than ever. To stay relevant, CSPs need flexible platforms that can support current systems and adapt to what’s coming next. They need to rethink how they run their digital business and empower business domain owners to be citizen developers, using low-code solutions to ensure that their processes can be adapted to meet the pace of market demand.

In this fast and changing market, CSPs will need to be able to modify enterprise apps and introduce new ones quickly to keep up with operational and customer engagement needs. And be able to do it as Vodafone UK does, without relying on an army of new programmers. As a result, more and more CSPs will look to collaborations between their citizen-developers and traditional technical developers to build and deploy applications. As analyst firm Gartner recognizes, “citizen development will play a crucial role in the future of apps.” Low-code, visual-based application development platforms will help CSPs drive agility and transformation throughout their organizations, and are built to scale to the needs of the business.

Take action - Many systems claim to enable low-code but in reality, demand custom coding to make meaningful business changes and limit re-use and scalability. CSPs can however capture and apply the front-line knowledge of customer service and operational team members through the incorporation of a scalable, low-code development platform. By empowering business users and IT developers to work together, CSPs can more quickly wrap and renew legacy tech.

The bottom line for 2020, real digital transformation is now more important than ever for CSPs

Digital-native businesses currently have an advantage. That’s why in 2020, it’s more important than ever for CSPs that have been sitting on the sidelines planning their digital transformation projects to get started. Leverage the power of central decisioning and utilize data in milliseconds not minutes, regardless of its location, to better understand how to grow the value of existing customers and capture new ones. Begin with a single customer journey and use robotics to help connect data. Empower business leaders and IT to work together to define new business models based on mission-critical outcomes, and start adopting an end-to-end approach to manage complexity.

Talk to us at MWC 2020 and PegaWorld iNspire to learn how the world’s greatest brands are transforming their businesses!

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Tags

  • Challenge: 1-to-1 Marketing
  • Challenge: Operational Excellence
  • Industry: Communications Service Providers
  • Product Area: Marketing
  • Product Area: Customer Decision Hub
  • Topic: Customer Experience
  • Topic: Decision Management

About the Author

As Director and Communications Industry Principal, Kevin Billings, applies his deep knowledge of business development, digital product development and go-to-market deployment, market strategy, and digital transformation/change to help Pega’s communications and technology sector clients achieve their DX goals.