Serving the Connected Consumer

Hybris Moritz ZimmermanMoritz Zimmermann, chief technology officer at Hybris, considers what telcos need to do in order to leverage the digital services opportunity

In the past decade, the telecommunications industry has undergone massive transformational change. The decline in public switched telephone network (PSTN) revenues, the explosion of over-the-top (OTT) communication services, and the meteoric rise of mobile internet usage and apps have changed the rules of engagement. As a result, telcos have become key enablers in the digital world, and entertainment-centred content, and connectivity has become the focus for offsetting traditional voice and messaging revenue declines.

The move to a 24/7 connected society has driven a new approach to consumers. For telcos, managing the overall customer experience has become a strategic priority in the battle to improve subscriber loyalty, reduce costs and drive new revenue streams. Today, a cross-channel presence and the delivery of a seamless omnichannel engagement experience for customers is the name of the game when it comes to meeting the expectations of today’s technology-empowered consumers. As a result, telcos are mining the opportunities thrown up by Big Data to improve the customers’ experience and exploring how best to monetize the provision of this information to third parties.

Complex transaction environment
A new and even more complex transaction environment is emerging. Enterprise digital services represent a significant opportunity for telcos to leverage the return on their investment from their network assets and platforms. Successfully opening up this market will depend, however, on overcoming some key challenges that include delivering enterprise grade services, maintaining operational integrity and enabling rich, new and innovative services and consumer experiences.

But providing connectivity to any person, device or object is just part of the story.
Providing access in itself will not be enough. Participating successfully in the enterprise digital services arena will depend on the ability of telcos to transition into the role of carrier service providers, acting as primary enablers between upstream and downstream partners and enterprise customers.

Telcos are already well on the way to managing the retail aspect of digital services – cloud, VoIP, unified communications, entertainment services and digital advertising all fit well with today’s consumer-facing models. However, managing the complex partnership ecosystems that are part and parcel of the enterprise digital services landscape require a mindset change and a new approach to building end-to-end propositions that deliver a premium customer experience.

A brave new digital world
We’re already seeing the emergence of a new wave of mobile services. Developments like machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity are hot topics for enterprises looking to transform lives and how they interact with consumers.

Telcos are already engaging in vertical industry partnerships, covering off deployments across a wide range of Sectors, including energy and utilities, public services, eHealth, security, transport, logistics and automotive.

Consumer electronics manufacturers are already looking at cloud-based software solutions that enable them to use data collected from their machines to understand consumer usage and behaviours. They are building new service delivery models, driving subscription or usage-driven pricing initiatives, introducing consumer reward programs (for example, car insurance companies are pioneering the monitoring of safe-driver behaviours or low vehicle mileage to reward policy holders with a personalized or reduced premium) and provide new differentiated services and experiences to customers.

Similarly, consumers’ desire for apps is driving new enterprise service and support delivery models. For example, the global adoption of mobile payment is growing as consumers gain confidence in using mobile devices to pay for a wide range of services, plus digital or physical goods. Financial institutions and issuers are engaging in partnerships to deliver mobile apps to customers that transform their phones into mobile payment devices (such as mobile wallet, Near Field Communications payment, mobile web payment collection) or make it possible to transact on the move (mobile banking).

Tapping into this incremental business means telcos will have to evolve to support new business models and manage a new era of value chain interactions and intermediaries. As connectivity wholesale service providers, telcos will have to respond to the needs of wholesale customers to win and retain their business, providing automated interfaces to handle routine transactions efficiently and cost effectively. All of which will require a broadening of the services and support offered to intermediary customers.

At the present time, telcos are grappling with the implications of deploying commercial enterprise digital services in terms of network capacity, provisioning and open access. But telcos must also look to identify and address how they will deliver on the demands of new services like M2M and cloud, especially when it comes to supporting the customer/consumer experience within an integrated ecosystem and across multiple touchpoints.

Who owns the customer relationship?
One consequence of the emerging enterprise digital services landscape is a blurring of the lines when it comes to who owns or manages ‘post event’, customer-facing interactions. In the role of the wholesale connectivity provider (such as in the delivery of M2M services) telcos are more likely to operate as ‘hidden intermediaries’ where the focus will be on the effective management of interactions between ecosystem partners, and enabling data or service updates to support and manage the customer experience.

In the case of the delivery of digital apps via a subscriber’s mobile device, this circumstance firmly puts telcos in the sights of customers when it comes to problem resolution or support. Therefore, the ownership of the relationship is paramount. Who do customers contact first when they lose their mobile phone or it’s stolen? This is particularly critical for secure apps such as banking and payment. Furthermore, payment and banking apps are certified for a limited period only, so who owns the communication with the customer before these certifications end, or when a consumer changes their device?

Telcos need to frame who owns these aspects of the customer experience and deliver channels for consumers to manage issues relating to the range of secure apps they are likely to download to their devices. Failure to provide this support will risk additional cost, and an erosion of the brand’s standing in the eyes of subscribers. They are unlikely to differentiate between a community of providers when it comes to delivering a seamless and protected experience. All of which represents a potential threat to the core subscription relationship.

In a future where complex enterprise ecosystems will become increasingly prevalent, every customer interaction represents a moment of truth that determines the course of multiple relationships. Initially, telcos will need to understand what information an enterprise customer will need to manage the customer experience. What’s more, the fragmentation of customer engagement across the partnership-based ecosystem puts strategic online and offline relationships at risk for all concerned.

New digital services are accumulating fast, and telcos need to address digital services engagement from the customer experience perspective and ensure that they, and their partners, can meet customer expectations in terms of the customer journey between them.

Moritz Zimmermann is chief technology officer at Hybris