Globally, there were 5.11 billion unique mobile users in 2019. In South Africa alone, mobile phone Internet users totalled 23.8 million in 2019 (projected to rise to 28.1 million by 2023). Powering this development is a surge in Internet user penetration, which is estimated to touch 80.8 percent by 2023.
But these numbers only reveal the partial story. Digital disruptions are significantly impacting the telecom industry, putting a serious strain on its infrastructure. On the one hand, companies have to satiate today’s consumers who demand higher speed and responsiveness, greater connectivity and innovative services. On the other, they have to contend with the rapid emergence of Over-the-Top (OTT) players, which is leading to a significant reduction in revenues. Add to this the challenge posed by tougher regulations and talent shortage.
Telcos must find a way to expand their role in the value chain and thrive in the digital era. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and analytics hold the key for telecom companies to enhance customer experience while reducing operational costs.
RPA – The Enhancer of Service Quality and Speed
Gartner estimates that by 2021, RPA will be deployed in at least 90 percent of medium to large enterprises. While this is exciting, the application needs to go much beyond task-based RPA. When (RPA is) integrated with built-in cognitive capabilities, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), the resultant intelligent automation handles routine tasks while saving the more complex challenges for humans to address.
The impact of RPA is pervasive. Companies can reduce costs, and improve efficiency, accuracy and quality. Many key functions such as sales, finance, security and operations can be streamlined with the help of an intelligent digital workforce. RPA can transform call centres from a traditional cost-centre model to a revenue model. Robots can gather and harmonise user data from different sources for a 360-degree customer view. This will free the bandwidth of customer service agents to focus on value-adding strategies and activities for enhanced customer experiences.
Winning with Big Data, Advanced Analytics and Deep Customer Insights
Thanks to advances in computing, storage and AI, the global telecom analytics market is poised to reach more than USD 11 Billion by 2023, growing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 33 percent. Data infrastructure improvements enable telcos to gather meaningful intelligence and insights, and transform areas such as operations, customer experience, finance, procurement, marketing and human resources. McKinsey estimates that the deployment of advanced analytics can bring down customer churn by as much as 15 percent.
Telcos will need to move beyond traditional descriptive analytics to unlock better performance value and outcomes. For example, ML-based traffic analytics can enable accurate prediction of capacity issues and customer behaviours for the best and next-best actions. Carriers can leverage these insights to identify ‘at-risk’ customers, and develop proactive campaigns and newer services. They can also determine characteristics of their loyal customers to acquire more like them through the right initiatives. Advanced customer analytics – especially social media analytics – can specifically help them drill down to online brand sentiments and understand what their customers really need in return for their loyalty. Location and network analytics can enable the right and agile allocation of network resources to enhance performance at reduced costs.
Beyond intelligent data aggregation, however, telcos will need to deploy innovative modelling techniques and use the right tools. Companies should review multiple Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to select the most critical ones and develop a composite metric for the right outcome variable. Additionally, they should deploy advanced data visualisation techniques to narrow down network elements that cause issues – and set up preventive and proactive alerts.
In today’s fiercely competitive landscape, telcos need to move fast in their automation and analytics journey. Forging strategic partnerships with strong business process management partners can provide them access to advanced technology and large data centres manned by highly skilled analytics experts. Charting such a course will result in improved performance and superior customer experiences at sustainable costs.
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