Why telcos need to innovate for their B2B customers
There’s no denying that the last decade in the telecommunications industry has been uniquely focused on one thing; making consumers happy.
Thanks to a relentless focus on customer experience and the innovation to make this happen consumers are now benefiting from considerably lower price points and the ability to get everything they need from one provider. For many, says Gopal Rao, partner, head of CMT Europe, Infosys Consulting, the headache of paying multiple monthly bills and calling multiple helplines for every problem is gone.
For business-to-business (B2B) customers, the same does not apply. Most telcos saw revenue opportunities in business-to-consumer (B2C), and thus the vision and innovation of these organisations has been applied to solve consumer demands, not businesses’. Now, it’s time for that to change.
B2B customer needs are becoming the focus of innovation teams, and with the remote working revolution here to stay, there is more opportunity than ever for telcos to cater to the growing needs of B2B customers. But right now, most telcos can’t innovate to take new products to market at the speed required to make this happen. That’s why they must transform.
Taking B2C innovation to B2B customers
What consumers want most from their telco providers is simplicity. This is no different when it comes to B2B customers. In the same way that companies like Sky and BT have branched out from entertainment and broadband to mobile, streaming, sports, and more, there is an opportunity for telecoms providers to massively branch out what they can offer.
While this may seem counterintuitive, achieving this level of product innovation will require telcos to simplify their B2B product portfolio. First, they should consider adopting a framework to redesign their products to ensure they conform to the latest industry standards, avoiding any compliance or implementation issues down the line and keeping customers happy. Next, and perhaps most importantly, telcos should look to create a modular design approach for their products. This is a much more efficient approach, where products can be trialled, tweaked, created, and rolled out in a way that is flexible for organisations, and creates much more compelling offerings for customers.
The key benefit of efficient modular product design and a leaner product portfolio is a much quicker time to market. This means telcos can adapt fast to what their B2B customer base wants and needs, and be agile in their approach, delivering a better customer experience.
For example, take an IPVPN (Internet Protocol Virtual Private Network) product many legacy product catalogues define numerous individual offerings for each type of IPVPN product attributes, from upstream bandwidth to downstream bandwidth and beyond. What’s more, the services for the product are not atomic enough to be reused and combined in other products.
Thus, this could be simplified and redesigned by creating a common product specification with all the required attributes defined against it, with a limited number of distinct product offerings on top of it. This will enable Product Managers to reuse the common product specification and combine the granular services in an easy mix and match manner. This would also enable them to tailor the product offerings for their B2B customers with a quicker time-to-market.
The business impact of innovation
But time to market isn’t the only drawback of current product processes. Right now, most telcos have a bulky product portfolio, offering both legacy and new services, which causes more issues than it solves. For many, there is an almost unmanageable number of product offerings, which means customers struggle to know what’s best for them and even product teams sometimes struggle to know enough about every available product.
The other issue is cost. Put simply, the more offerings telcos are maintaining that are performing poorly or are unpopular with their customer base, the higher the wasted operational expenditure costs. Any offerings that don’t meet stringent regulatory requirements are a minefield for fines from the regulators and ensuring that products are designed to meet these requirements is a sure-fire way to avoid them. Not only that, but the less satisfied your customer base is, the less likely they are to invest more in your products and services. Once again, innovation is key to long-term success.
The future is bright for B2B
When it comes to meeting B2B customers’ needs, most telco organisations have a long way to go to get to the required levels of product innovation and customer experience. Leaders should ask themselves what they have taken to market for B2B customers lately, and whether the infrastructure behind it stacks up and aim to right these wrongs.
But just as important as the tech and products themselves are the people and talent on the team. Yes, most B2B teams have a way to go before they reach the levels of maturity that B2C teams (and product portfolios) do. But now is the time to act. The opportunity for telcos to become ‘lean’ by focusing on product simplification alongside their tech stack, operations, and organisational processes is too great to pass up, and it all starts with innovating to give their B2B customers what they really need.
The author is Gopal Rao, partner, head CMT Europe, Infosys Consulting.