AI and the future of wholesale
Artificial intelligence (AI) is rarely far from the headlines these days. While the technology isn’t new, the hype that surrounds it has reached fever pitch – we’re constantly hearing about the latest AI-based innovation transforming its industry. Little wonder then that organisations of all stripes are rushing to implement their own AI solutions, keen to realise the benefits it promises, writes Ravi Palepu, the global head of telco solutions at Virtusa.
The wholesale industry is no exception. Spurred on by the hype, wholesalers are now exploring various uses of the technology for areas such as quality of service guarantees, maintenance predictions, and improving the customer experience. So how can AI help?
It’s all in the data
Firstly, AI will improve network QoS. Networks offer a huge amount of data, but in practice just a fraction – roughly 2% – of it is actually used. This means that when an issue emerges; an alarm raised at a certain point in the network, for example, wholesalers must reactively respond to it. Yet AI’s introduction allows wholesalers to do much more with the huge proportion of data they’re not using – sifting through it to identify trends, or analysing historical patterns. This enables them to optimise network use by building predictive models that can alert to when the network is likely to have a reduced service, and carry out a far more efficient root-cause analysis. Plus, when deployed in conjunction with a workflow management platform, AI can have the added advantage of self-remediation to automate the improvements it makes. Algorithms will be able to crunch vast amounts of data that allow businesses to improve network planning and decision making, and ultimately, to maintain the health of the network as a whole.
Predicting the future
AI can also help wholesalers to improve service assurance and service management. An AI-based business automation platform can examine service tickets to get a picture of the type of requests customers are making; it can then identify patterns, run tests, spot false positives, diagnose issues, and resolve problems automatically. Because an AI platform can handle such large volumes of data, it can also identify new problems before they happen, or spot trends that CSPs haven’t seen. For example, a carrier might reactively respond to a device outage, which can be an inefficient way of addressing the fault. AI, however, can analyse the patterns and flag which particular switches will need fixing in the coming days or weeks so the carrier can fix it proactively, reducing the cost and resource impact of a device outage.
Know your customer
In today’s environment, customers have endless options to engage with their providers – from the traditional call centre model through to engagement over customer’s social media channels. Yet in most cases, these channels are not integrated properly, making it very difficult for providers to build a clear customer persona. Yet by making sense of vast amounts of complex customer data, AI will allow carriers to better understand and dynamically profile their customers, tailoring their services accordingly. This is something wholesalers are notoriously bad at because historically, they have focused on the network over the customer. As a result, they have failed to uncover upsell and cross-sell opportunities, so the revenue opportunity here for wholesalers is notable. An AI platform can be integrated across channels, gateways, mobile apps, and call centres, and collect customer information from each source. This allows wholesalers to build a profile of each customer, understand how best to communicate with them, and find out exactly what they are interested in – so they can personalise offerings and push relevant content to each customer when they make contact.
The autonomous future
It’s quite clear that we’re still in the early stages of experimentation with AI, and as the technology continues to develop, we’ll see more and more use cases within the wholesale industry. Yet thus far, we’re yet to see wholesalers really embrace AI technology.
This needs to change. By rolling out AI initiatives, wholesalers can get a clearer view of issues on their networks, and more accurately predict where improvements will need to be made. Importantly, the more sophisticated customer view it can provide will help wholesalers unlock new streams of revenue through increasingly personalised offerings to customers. AI may be the latest buzzword, but it’s certainly not without merit.