opinion


How is AI reshaping telecoms?

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Mark Jackson, Director and Industry Principal, Telecoms at Pegasystems, looks at the increasingly central role AI is playing in the telecoms world.

In the last year or so, the pandemic has caused the equivalent of several years of change for telecommunications providers. In many ways, they have kept the world going, supporting a huge increase in bandwidth needs and enabling staff, including customer service employees, to work from home when contact centres were disrupted. Communications Service Providers (CSPs) have responded well to these changes. However, the challenges have also revealed a new view of the world. There is a need to completely transform their operating models to be agile, efficient, and digital. With 5G rollouts now accelerating, telecoms need to launch new services quickly, become more competitive, and improve operating margins.

A move beyond connectivity is needed – creating new products and services based on the 5G networks that they are making huge capital investments in, which they need to get to market fast. This means adopting a fail-fast mentality for 5G services because no one really knows which services will succeed and drive uptake, revenue, or retention. Will customers want new consumer bundles? Or bespoke enterprise mobile combinations? Or IoT services? Or enterprise grade solutions like private 5G networks for manufacturing and healthcare customers, where new technologies such as automated vehicles or connected equipment are supported? Or will all of these take off?

To take advantage of this opportunity, CSPs will also need to accelerate the rollout of both 5G and broadband networks and adopt new technologies like edge cloud and Open RAN. The only way they can do this at the speed and volume that 5G will demand is to simplify and automate their network processes.

To deliver all of this, telcos will need AI driven solutions allowing them to configure new offers and products in hours and days, engage with and service their customers more effectively and radically simplify their operations.

Personalised customer engagement

With ever increasing customer expectations, new services such as 5G, increasingly complex products and existing legacy technology, it can be hard for telecommunications providers to maximise customer value while keeping costs down. Key to overcoming these challenges is the use of a centralised, AI-powered decisioning engine to help them take the right action during every interaction in real time, on every channel. With AI-driven capabilities in place, they can:

Boost loyalty and retention

Telcos can use advanced analytics and event monitoring to predict in real time when a customer is likely to leave. They can define a budget based on lifetime value and employ multiple modes of retention to ensure effectiveness.

Grow revenue through upsell and cross-sell of services

CSPs can increase average revenue per user (ARPU) by anticipating customer needs using real-time context, so they can make the right offer on the right channel when it is needed.

Accelerate subscriber growth

Net subscriber additions are critical to success. Key industry players in telecoms can build customer interest in preferred channels, guide prospects to find the right bundle, and delight them with a flawless omni-channel experience.

Proactive digital customer service

Disconnected customer experiences can hurt telcos’ net promoter scores (NPS) and ultimately their bottom line. By combining AI-driven decisioning with end-to-end automation, they can deliver proactive, personalised service across channels. This gives customers and agents a guided, intuitive experience that delivers the best outcomes for everyone seamlessly. Examples of what telecoms can do much more efficiently with this in place include:

Resolve billing enquiries

To avoid costly calls to service centres and keep customers happy, telcos need to stay one step ahead. AI driven capabilities such as real-time monitoring and pattern detection can enable them to sense a potential billing issue, then send a proactive notification to the customer.

With an improved customer self-service view, if the billing issue is due to new fees and charges, the customer can log in and easily see what has been changed. AI-powered propensity modeling can determine when to present the offer that gives the customer a resolution, without the need for calls to the service centre.

If a customer does pick up the phone, customer service agents will be ready. They will be able to view the details of charges over time and can be intelligently guided with scripts. That way agents can focus on the interaction with the customer instead of making calculations and being put on the spot. When customers’ billing issues are resolved quickly, telcos start to see results, higher customer satisfaction, fewer calls, and lower average handle time (AHT).

Guided service setup

In order to make a great first impression and reduce calls to the service centre, AI can drive a self-serve guided setup for services like internet connectivity to make customers’ experience easy and frictionless. Step-by step visual instructions can help to get set up successfully, and troubleshooting tips allow customers to easily navigate challenges along the way.

Customers can take photos of equipment, and technologies like optical character recognition (OCR) and natural language processing (NLP) that can work in the background to identify serial numbers and IDs.

This all adds up to seamless self-service, higher customer satisfaction, and fewer calls.

Intelligent automation

To increase network capacity, efficiently deploy new 5G and fibre networks, or simplify order fulfillment, telecoms providers can use AI in combination with robotics and end-to-end automation to streamline and digitise complex operations, keeping margins high and bringing value to customers fast. With intelligent automation and robotics, telecoms can:

Orchestrate, automate, and deliver customer orders

With a better connection between front and back offices, partners, and customers across all channels, telcos can optimise operations, reduce costs and boost customer satisfaction.

Build and deploy new networks faster

Telecoms providers can accelerate fibre and 5G mobile network rollout with intelligent automation. Case management, robotics, and low-code development capabilities can help them build out critical infrastructure more efficiently and faster at lower cost.

Automatically resolve network outages and events

They can provide end-to-end visibility of complex processes and analyse live data related to business rules, costs, and other criteria. The most effective delivery methods, equipment, vendors, or contractors can be selected to address and resolve problems.

AI is a vital tool for customer retention and cross-selling – the ability to personalise and optimise interactions for each individual customer, predict customer behaviour and be proactive to customer needs are invaluable. While the last 18 months have been tough, telecommunications providers now have a great opportunity to turn things around. By adopting a fail-fast, learn-fast mentality, and investing in the right technology framework, they can realise all these benefits and more.

 

Mark Jackson is Director and Industry Principal, Telecoms at Pegasystems, and was previously EMEA Director Solution Strategist, Enterprise. He has over 20 years’ experience in the technology industry and has worked with many of the major operators in the telecommunications sector during his career.

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