The real story from MWC: new frontiers in customer engagement

Now in its 30th year, the Mobile World Congress (MWC) event in Barcelona has wrapped up last week. As one would expect, consumer tech announcements have dominated the headlines – fans of nostalgia will be thrilled to learn that Nokia relaunched its iconic 3310 phone at the event, for example.

Yet, this year’s event offered a few valuable takeaways for the telecoms industry. In particular, customer engagement was front of mind.

For an industry tarnished with a reputation for delivering a poor customer experience, attendees were treated to a number of new announcements and discussions which demonstrated customer engagement as it should be.

>See also: Hopes and predictions for Mobile World Congress 2017

Take O2 for example. At MWC, it announced plans to introduce AI into its call centres, with a voice-recognition system known as Aura. This is a notable use of digital-first technology designed to prioritise the customer.

It’s not alone; IBM also highlighted the work it’s doing in combining AI and cognitive computing technologies with mobile, to provide banks with the ability to offer a more intuitive experience to the customer via their banking apps.

Meanwhile, Visa pushed the concept of wearable technology further by outlining a payment innovation featuring the use of everyday personal items, even jewellery, for transactions.

Appealing to the digital generation

Last year, Gartner found that digital natives were far more likely than their older counterparts to rely on wearables, demand to work remotely, use social media, and use non-sanctioned IT services in the workplace.

This demand is making itself felt in the technology and telco industries. The balance between how people use mobile devices to access information, and the intelligent, AI-driven connected world, has opened new channels for engagement.

The world is a place where there are more mobile devices than people. All of this points to the fact that traditional approaches to customer experience aren’t fit for purpose in this climate.

>See also: This year will see competitive advantage in the IoT

In a world where telcos are virtually unable to distinguish on price, this year’s MWC showed how the drive for a better customer experience might manifest.

For example, reform of the much-maligned call centre has been on the agenda for years now. While there will undoubtedly be a few teething issues, AI-enabled call centres like that which O2 has introduced, will ultimately help CSPs to understand customers better, by collecting and analysing feedback data and providing more accurate insights.

By crunching all of this data, CSPs can then provide a consistent, seamless service – a prime example of addressing customer frustrations through digital innovation.

Managing the transformation

To successfully execute this kind of change, digitalisation needs to be at the heart of everything the organisation does. In practice, this means that organisations need to embrace every opportunity that digitalisation provides.

This could be a more efficient IT operation through virtualisation, a truly mobile workforce empowered through technology, or the collective use of data from all sources across the organisation to drive more practical insights for a range of business processes.

Yet, this isn’t easy. Per 451 Research, while 37% of businesses assert that mobile technologies will have the biggest transformational impact on their businesses in the near term, only 29% of US businesses state that they have formal digital transformation strategies in place.

>See also: Mobile payments and loyalty programs will lead to a cashless economy

Understanding the need for it isn’t the issue; it’s the transformation process that challenges many senior executives, unsure of what the ramifications might be.

Failure is not an option

Digital transformation may be a challenge, but avoiding it isn’t an option. The new innovations seen at MWC will surely raise the bar for customer expectation once they hit the market, leaving digital laggards out in the cold.

Ultimately, if these innovations are the greatest leaps forward in terms of customer engagement, it shows that there is still work to be done in the telecoms industry.

It’s clear that there’s far too much dithering among telcos at the moment as far as the customer is concerned, with just a select few responding to the needs of digital natives by enhancing their customer experience.

Considering the nature of today’s digital-savvy, always on consumer, we’re fast approaching a time where those that don’t meet this new standard will soon find their customers deserting them in droves.
Sourced by Adam Gabrault, VP & global head – mobile, AI & digital labs, VirtusaPolaris

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...