To say carriers have had a tough time of it in recent years would be an understatement. Technology changes, the arrival of new digital players and the proliferation of more and more digital services have seen carriers invest heavily in transformation programs.
The good news is that these investments are starting to pay off. While they have been slower in adapting to change, there is now a real transformation happening in carriers and this is being noticed by the people who matter most – the carriers’ customers. Today’s consumers see their carrier on a level digital playing field as digital leaders like Amazon or Netflix. In fact, according to a recent global survey conducted by SAPIO Research and entitled ‘Mobile carriers: digital leaders or also-rans?’, the majority of global consumers (70%) believe their carrier to be ‘digital-first’, ranking their carrier ahead of Uber, Spotify and eBay in terms of digital leadership.
So, at last, it looks like carriers’ efforts to digitally transform are finally paying off, but while this is positive news, carriers cannot get too comfortable. Improved brand perception and digital ability is all well and good, but what must they do to capitalize on consumer sentiment? Can they turn this good news story into revenue?
Embracing the opportunity
The revised view of the carrier as a digital player could see them win in this digital era. Carriers have a strong asset in that they have the trust of their subscribers—a piece of research conducted in 2018 entitled ‘Who do consumers trust the most: Mobile carriers or OTTs’ found that consumers would be more receptive to digital offers being offered by their carriers over digital natives. This gives them the upper hand over the likes of Amazon, Google and Facebook whose reputations have been affected by negative publicity changing consumer sentiment towards them. The most recent SAPIO survey echoed these findings; the majority of consumers want to see more digital service innovation (bundled offers; gaming offers; data gifting and sharing etc.) from their carriers and believe that increased digital innovation would make them feel more loyal and engaged with their carrier.
Carriers have consumers in the “palm of their hand”. They want to see new services from their carrier; they want to continue engaging with them; they want to stay loyalty to them. But consumers also admit that they would switch if an alternative provider came along offering them better choice of content offers and subscriptions plans, better customer care via digital channels, increased choice of digital services and enhanced personalization. The opportunity is clear: expand the digital offering and see subscriber engagement, loyalty—and coincidently revenues—increase.
The right tools for the job
If carriers are to embrace this burgeoning opportunity, they must think carefully about the underlying technologies that will enable their success. The legacy systems of yesterday are no longer fit for purpose in this digital world and continue to stifle carrier innovation. Carriers need to replicate the agility and flexibility that digital natives possess. They must embrace new approaches, methods and ways of working—from DevOps, to microservices and open source, these emerging trends will become pillars of tomorrow’s telecoms world and will allow carriers to launch new services quickly, in hours rather than weeks or months. In doing so, carriers will be better equipped to demonstrate that they are “in touch” with their subscribers and able to respond and react quickly to emerging trends.
In addition to this, carriers should think about adopting interoperable platform-based systems that can be plugged in or out of existing technology stacks and systems, according to demand and requirement. Platform-based systems are flexible, making the process of upgrades and changes far easier and quicker than traditional legacy stacks, which can take months to upgrade or alter. This will become particularly important as new services arrive with the roll out of 5G; carriers will need to ensure they have the right tools and systems to overcome the complexity brought about by network slicing and the increase in data volumes.
So, what’s next?
Consumers are receptive and digitally engage with their carriers, there’s no doubt about it. But they want more, and they’ll continue to want more. Carriers must listen to these demands; they must assess how they can cater to growing cries for more digital innovation. Do they have the right systems in place? Do legacy systems hinder them in becoming more agile, more innovative and more disruptive? And ultimately, is outdated technology standing in the way of potential revenue growth?
Asking these questions now will ensure they can take the right steps to address the opportunity at hand and thrive in this evolving digital world. The opportunity is there, the tools are there, now it’s up to carriers to take action.