Digital Transformation – What does it mean to CSPs?

Digital TransformationDigital Transformation has been one of the current buzzwords in many industries for some time but what does it actually mean and what are the implications? Digital could be considered to be anything involving the use of technology.  For example, for years we used to go to our local newsagent and buy the local paper or even have it delivered to our door.  Media has ‘gone digital’ by enabling users to download their favourite newspaper to their smartphone or tablet.  Therefore, we can consider digital transformation is the process the business took to enable this to happen.  Changes in product creation and delivery, changes in IT infrastructure, changes in the consumption and payment methods all had to take place to enable the business to ‘go digital’.  i-Scoop define Digital Transformation as “…the profound and accelerating transformation of business activities, processes, competencies and models to fully leverage the changes and opportunities of digital technologies and their impact across society in a strategic and prioritized way.” This would suggest it is more than simply utilising the technology but transforming the business to leverage the digital environment as well.

Communications Service Providers (CSPs) are at the heart of the digital world so why do we still hear that digital transformation programs are happening here too? Most CSPs already have websites to sell their products and have done for over a decade.  They have their own apps where users can update their details, raise trouble tickets, buy upgrades and view their bills and usage.  So what digital transformation could they actually require?  It could be argued that CSPs have evolved naturally to embrace the digital world but perhaps those evolutions have just happened.  CSPs have some areas of the business that are fully connected to the digital world and operate in a digital way.  However, many areas operate in isolation.  For example, if we consider how customers interact with their CSP we can identify the siloed nature of these digital evolutions.  Once upon a time you could only interact with a CSP by visiting a store or calling a call centre.  Then came some digital evolution.  Now you can email them, use their online chat service or take to social media for a rant about poor customer service or bad coverage.  You can use multiple channels in an attempt to get problems resolved but often find yourself repeating the story again and again.  As CSPs evolve they can handle things digitally because the technology has been put in place but often to address a specific need e.g. we need to support online chat.  However, the requirement really is ‘we need to support online chat and this interaction needs to be available to all agents who may have to interact with this customer regardless of channel.’  The latter part of the requirement is often overlooked and this leads to calls for digital transformation programs.

Evolving or acquiring the technology to meet the need appears to be something most CSPs can handle but joining up the technology to support the evolved business process is sometimes lacking. For example, the true 360 degree view of the customer requires the CSP to harness all the interactions and transactions of the customer.  Seems like an obvious statement yet so many Digital Transformation programs are so focused on the technology and bringing the CSP into this century that they forget the reason for the transformation, the customer.

CSPs have to embrace the digital world to protect themselves from the digital disruptors. Several years ago CSPs were slow to catch the changing trend of their customers moving to alternative services.  Over-the-top services eroded their revenue as services such as Skype, Viber, Whatsapp and Line enabled their customers to make calls and send messages for free, using the CSP as the transport mechanism.  Disruptors come to industries with a view to changing the playing field.  Uber have shown how solid industries can be digitally disrupted with a change in the business model.  CSPs have less concern over further digital disruption as many of them have embraced the digital world but most markets are saturated and many CSPs are looking to things like customer experience as differentiators.  Which CSP are you most likely to stay with – the one who handles your complaint quickly and efficiently regardless of channel or one who asks you to repeat yourself as you try to engage them for help?  Customer experience is often a driver for Digital Transformation and leads to CSPs implementing new technology in an effort to get closer to their customers.  This can have a positive effect as transformations are targeting specific business outcomes like higher NPS, CSAT or Customer Effort Scores.

Many CSPs have spent millions on transformation programs and will continue to do so. So if you’re a CSP embarking on a transformation program or a Service Integrator who is implementing one then make sure you understand the true value of transformation.  The effect should be better services, better processes, easier interactions and transactions which generates more loyal customers who spend more money.  Those CSPs who have a comprehensive digital strategy will overtake those who do not as long as it’s not just about the technology.