5G operators need a new game strategy for customer experience
When NBA great, Phil Jackson said, “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team”, his words were meant for sports teams. That quote is also apt for telecoms, says Patrick Kalaher of frog, where teamwork is essential if operators and their partners are to build 5G networks that deliver Industry 4.0.
In the case of 5G buildout, the network provider’s team includes operators, resellers, vendors and developers throughout the telecom ecosystem. Cross-player collaboration, however, is a drastically different approach than what currently exists. You could say that the game is not going too well. Operators are up against – and losing the game – to over the top players (OTTs) on traditional revenue streams like voice and text.
But for such cooperation to succeed, communications service providers (CSPs) must focus now on managing those collaborations and testing interoperability for customer experience.
Managing customer experience
In most cases, the most public-facing entity in 5G partnerships will be CSPs. What this means is that poor customer experience from service partners, equipment vendors and developers – to name a few – will be laid at the feet of the network operator. Both consumer and enterprise customers view telcos as incumbent monopolies, and they’re hardwired to choose providers based on price versus customer experience.
Operators that effectively collaborate with telecom ecosystem partners will change that, placing higher priority on customer experience to win and retain customers. With 5G networks, CSPs need to move away from weak marketing and sales plans centred around end-user pricing and instead strive to provide the best overall customer experience.
Additionally, operators have to innovate to create new services and applications for 5G networks. Currently, for instance, most 5G networks are delivered over existing 4G infrastructure, creating a vast chasm between 5G hype and 5G reality. Instead, operators should focus on developing services that take advantage of true 5G networks, where the 5G radio path meets a 5G-ready transport layer, and mobile edge computing is enabled by backbone networks.
The obvious challenge for operators is that they don’t always know what their teammates are doing or how those activities might impact customer service. The solution is for each member of the telecom ecosystem to contribute to the strength of the team rather than simply developing products or solutions without collaboration.
A new game strategy
Operators also need to partner with vendors and standards organisations to address customer experience. Although 5G networks are still in their infancy, consumers and enterprises already are fretting about security, privacy and the protection of personal data on the networks. For instance, the EU has cited the increased security risks posed by 5G, making it a vital concern for operators to address.
Specifically, operators should focus on issues like availability, reliability and security of end-to-end 5G network service. Interoperability is also a key concern as operators collaborate to ensure that all connections work together as expected. This is a tall order, according to Ericsson, which estimates that 160 million 5G devices will be shipped by the end of this year.
To ensure outstanding customer experience, operators need to test all products and services before they’re live on the network. While this has been important for previous network rollouts, 5G networks are significantly more complex and must deliver new characteristics like extremely low latency.
Those characteristics will require more partnerships for operators to manage than they’ve had in previous network rollouts. Moreover, testing will be more challenging on 5G networks, underscoring the need for collaborative partnerships. Specifically, operators and vendors need lab environments where they can test 5G services together.
The most successful 5G operators will be those that prioritise customer service and customer experience now, while managing strong cooperative partnerships to guarantee service levels. Operators that are most adept at doing so will find that the whole of their offerings exceed the sum of each partner’s contributions, thereby delighting customers and earning their loyalty for years to come.
About the author
Patrick Kalaher is vice president of strategy and growth at frog, a design and innovation firm and a company of Altran. He has extensive experience in customer experience (CX) design and digital technology. During his 10 years with frog, he has held a number of different roles spanning strategy, innovation, digital design and business development. Earlier in his career, he worked at Wipro, NerveWire, Tanning Technology and Cambridge Technology Partners (now Atos).