Best practices for digital transformation in the telecom sector

Best practices for digital transformation in the telecom sector

As a former ‘customer side’ telecom professional, I’m in the fortunate position of having regular and open discussions with CEOs and CIOs across the industry.

We talk about the issues and challenges facing the telecom industry and the exciting opportunities for change and growth.

Not surprisingly, a major topic among us in recent months has been the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lessons learned from this period. While the lifting of lockdowns brings a shift in focus, it is still unchartered territory, and how the industry can best move forward remains an open question

To gauge sector opinion on this issue, we recently held a roundtable (virtual, of course) with five major telecom players across EMEA. It was a fantastic opportunity to hear about the experiences of digital transformation and the major role it’s playing in shaping post-COVID strategies.

I’ve outlined the key takeaways from the session and our conclusions about what is really needed to achieve resilient and effective digital transformation in telecom organizations.

People power
We all agreed that creating the best possible customer experiences required starting with the experiences of our own employees. A happy and fulfilled workforce is more productive, collaborative, and more likely to embrace change. Employee satisfaction remains one of the most important goals for any telecom business.

We also agreed that simply introducing a technology platform is never enough to effect change. The tools themselves do not make a transformation project successful -- people do. We discussed how getting people to buy into change had to happen on two levels:

1. Executive level: To ensure transformation is successful within a business, you have to get buy-in from the very top — and not just fleeting support or approval. It must be a passion project that they can throw themselves behind.

Pressures and challenges will always come in the form of questions around budget, timing and ROI, but if the project is actively sponsored by a C-level exec, then the workforce is much more likely to engage.

2. Senior management level: One step down from the C-level ‘sponsor’ of a digital transformation programme is the senior management decision makers. This group must establish common and achievable goals that can be filtered down to teams. Without this clarity, a project can spin out of control. Managers must have a clear vision of their desired outcome and a realistic idea of how the business will get there.

Sending a clear message

After that project roadmap has been established, the next step, is execution – how teams are mobilised to get the job done. And this must always start with communication.

A common theme in the roundtable was how challenging but vital it is to set out a clear mission to teams and employees about why the project is being done and why digital transformation is important. Everyone in the business must understand the objectives, benefits, and processes before they can be expected to engage.

At this point, too, senior managers and executives will need to step in to remove any resistance to the project.

Genuine concerns must be addressed, and any apprehensions should be weeded out as soon as possible so, they don’t fester within teams. Barriers should be raised publicly and discussed collaboratively, with clear messages given about how they will be tackled and overcome.

Enabling acceptance
Another unanimous agreement within the group was that it’s vital to invest time and resources into the longer-term business change process. It’s not realistic or fair to introduce new processes or platforms and expect everyone to be comfortable and confident with them right away.

Training, early involvement and transparency are all key in making sure people know what’s coming, how to navigate change, and who to ask if they have a question or concern.

In terms of the telecom sector specifically, we talked about the importance of engaging agents in the digital transformation process. B2B relationships in this industry are reliant on agents, so whenever a change is implemented, they must be empowered to feel like part of the transformation.

You need to become the agent’s agent, giving them the support they need to navigate new processes.

Restoring order
One thing that emerged from the roundtable that was new (and fascinating) to me, was the concept of order management for B2B customers. Just as many of us during lockdown have become accustomed to ordering items and eagerly awaiting their arrival, it can be an anxious wait for business customers who have placed a large order with a telecom firm.

For example, if a bank orders a batch of phones for employees, it needs to know when they are arriving, what set-up they require and what support is available. So, the concept of order management, where smart systems are used to catalogue and communicate the progress of an order to customers, is becoming increasingly welcome.

A simple automated message that updates the customer on their order status is both reassuring and practical, allowing them to make the necessary arrangements to receive and process the delivery, thus giving the customer a great experience.

The consumerisation of B2B
It was this last point that led us to discuss another topic that is close to my heart and becoming increasingly debated among telecom professionals. Personalisation and automation have, for a while, played a major part in consumer customer service–. They should in the B2B world, too.

Taking the order management example mentioned above, as consumers we know we can expect similar order updates from retailers and delivery drivers. Food delivery services have become extremely creative in this regard; for example, offering an animated diagram depicting whether your order is being prepared or cooked or is already out for delivery. This level of personalisation and innovation brings a sense of joy and anticipation to the ordering process.

It’s now time for businesses to embrace the benefits of this creativity in their B2B operations. We are, after all, people, whether we are operating in a personal or professional capacity.

I strongly believe that telecom and other professional industries must take a page from the consumer book and implement personalised, digitally driven innovations to transform the customer experience.

Telecom is a fast moving and highly competitive industry, and now more than ever we have to adapt and learn in order to grow and succeed.

It was a privilege to host and participate in this roundtable, and I look forward to facilitating further discussion across the telecom sector so we can learn, develop, and succeed in our digital transformation efforts.

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