Like many other industries, Australia’s telecommunications sector was in a state of flux prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. New market entrants balanced consolidation at the top end, shrinking already narrow margins. Today, the convergence and remixing of entertainment offers is driving more sophisticated bundling. 5G and software defined networks are creating new opportunities for consumers, business, and government. Multi-utility partnerships are playing into growing demand for convenience and value.
One thing hasn’t changed: Telecoms still need to delight customers while increasing agility, growing scale, and lowering cost to serve. Regardless of size or market position, companies must digitise to connect the entire telecom value chain, from the customer to the network.
The pressure to stay relevant and competitive has never been more intense. Providers that can serve customers faster, and solve problems sooner, will reap the rewards.
The pandemic proved somewhat of a moment in the sun for telecoms. Rather than putting strategic plans on hold, communications service providers have thrived during the past year. Telecoms helped Aussies navigate lockdown restrictions and pivot to no-touch experiences, as we found new ways to live, work, learn, and play.
[Read also: Telecom companies become even more agile]
Matching this insatiable demand for 24/7 and faster connectivity, expectations for seamless experiences, and self-service are at an all-time high. Customers want more control and transparency; so do telecom employees. And leaders are heeding the call: a recent global survey measuring organisational agility ranked telecommunications above finance, healthcare, manufacturing, and the public sector. Digitisation efforts saw agility across the industry rise 38% during the course of the pandemic
Social behaviours are also changing in the post-pandemic world.
Aussies swap routine tasks for meaningful work
In a new analysis on Australian workflows by The Demographics Group, leading demographer Bernard Salt identifies two major social shifts that will help the telecom industry transition from older, product-based models to digital services.
Firstly, it’s clear that work-from-home (WFH) and work-from-anywhere (WFA) are here to stay, at scale. This had been slowly inching up in recent years, but the pandemic proved the old model of everyday commuting is over. Aussies are now clinging to hybrid work flexibility with a vice-like grip, fuelled by our relentless pursuit of lifestyle.
Secondly, people increasingly want all areas of work and life to be frictionless. Society has embraced intuitive, easy Uber-style experiences and now expects them in every setting: patience is wearing thin for manual, repetitive tasks when they can be replaced with a click or swipe to get things done.
Both of these trends offer huge opportunities for the telecommunications sector as people look for faster, more reliable, and easier to access services at work, home, or on the move. But there’s an important catch: To seize these opportunities, telecom employees must connect seamlessly across silos, systems, and processes, so they can deliver the experience and services customers are crying out for.
Over the past two decades, Aussie telecoms have suffocated under the weight of their own cumbersome systems and processes. Most enterprises have four to five core platforms in their ecosystem that employees need to navigate. For telecoms that number is often greater.
All of this adds up to frazzled frontline teams, reduced productivity, higher costs, lower quality of service, and increased mean time to resolve issues. And it leaves little time for innovation. Purpose-built digital workflows change all that, injecting simplicity and visibility into complex, high-cost environments.
By applying intelligence to everyday processes—prioritising, categorising, routing workflows, predicting anomalies—employees get more work done more easily. Data can be quickly and accurately correlated to identify common errors. Issues can be predicted and remediations proactively addressed, freeing up time to keep customers happy.
When NBN Co, the state-owned operator of Australia’s wholesale broadband network, transitioned its IT event management to the Now Platform, the IT Operations Management (ITOM) team gained instant visibility into network problems and downstream impacts.
Employees shouldn’t have to spend a lot of time looking for things. On the contrary, things should come looking for them.
“An alert now tells us: Server x is having CPU issues…here are the services that utilise the server, and as a result, here’s your impact,” explains James Tomlinson, ITOM and major incident management practice manager at NBN.
Previously, the team received limited context for events and would have to go searching for information to pinpoint the origin of service issues and figure out what action to take.
“Now we can front-load that information to the event management team so they can make informed decisions quickly,” Tomlinson says. “They’re not rummaging around in other tools to find what a specific server actually does.” Instead, information is served up, “almost on a platter, so they can make the right decisions at the right time.”
The takeaway? Employees shouldn’t have to spend a lot of time looking for things. On the contrary, things should come looking for them. And they should be able to problem-solve from anywhere. This is especially important when you’re providing a critical service. Telecom outages can have more wide-ranging impacts than service outages in almost any other industry, so fast problem-solving is essential.
Up-level experiences for a new world
That ability to extract actionable insights from mountains of data is also accelerating the development of multi-utility retail products. Large service providers—whether they’re telecoms, banks, or energy companies—are ramping up digital transformation so they can easily connect with each other and tap into the nuances of what individual customers need.
In the pursuit of a better lifestyle, the option of handling all of life’s boring-but-essential bits—broadband access, mobile plan, mortgage payments, electricity—with one provider via one app is, frankly, tantalising. It also reinforces one of the most important realisations from the work-from-home experiment: the boost in quality of life and productivity that occurs when people have greater control over where and how they get work done.
The telecom playing field is ripe for change.
Post-COVID, the most successful telecoms will deliver superior consumer and employee experiences. They will offer a frictionless omni-channel approach to meet customers and employees where they are. Communication service providers have a critical role to play in shaping how Australians live and work, but first they must reimagine the telecom experience from every angle.
The future of the industry
Telecoms are competing in different ways. Price is no longer the determinant it once was. As infrastructure is increasingly shared, coverage, speed, and reliability are also less important differentiators. This means a focus on seamless customer service and experience is all-important. This involves predictive and proactive engagement of customers to alert them about issues, warn how long they will last, and solve problems faster.
Telecoms will also need to connect and have a single view into multiple parts of the supply chain, such as the network operator and the handset provider; or an internet provider and on-the-ground technicians. As hybrid work proliferates, the telecoms that can solve problems fast will earn their customers’ trust and loyalty. Gone will be the days when consumers spend hours talking to multiple customer service teams trying to work out where the issue lies, who can fix it, and when.
The telecom playing field is ripe for change. Industry winners will embrace consolidated digital platforms, delivering automated, nimble operations connected by intelligent workflows.