Hilary King, Head of Marketing at Akixi
2020 was a tumultuous year, defined by unexpected challenges, accelerated digital transformation, and the sudden demand for new ways of working. The issues affecting the globe also influenced the growth of the telecoms industry by increasing voice traffic, pushing a greater demand for video, and placing additional pressure on bandwidth demands.
Over the last year, the telecoms landscape has evolved at an incredible pace, which means that 2021 will no doubt have a new array of issues and opportunities to deliver. This year, a continued focus on digitisation, the rise of disruptive technology, and shifting consumer attitudes are just a handful of the concerns that telecoms companies will need to address.
Let’s explore some of the challenges that the telecoms sector is set to face moving forward and discuss how organisations may be able to set themselves up for success.
Points of importance
A Growing Demand for Digitisation
In 2020, the need for traditional communications services was decreasing. VoIP and cloud-based solutions replaced the on-premise PBX in companies around the world, and organisations found themselves shifting slowly but surely to the cloud.
Thanks to the influence of global quarantines in 2020, however, this process of digitisation is now moving at a much faster pace. Companies can’t afford to rely on traditional and legacy systems for communication. Every organisation must have a presence in the cloud to adhere to consumer expectations, compete in their industry, and protect themselves against potential issues.
The cloud has become a crucial component of business continuity, and telecoms companies must ensure that they can deliver the right fully-featured systems for cloud communications. Many vendors and resellers are combining packages of technology featuring everything from call analytics to recording tools for their clients.
The result of this aligned cloud environment is a more aligned space for true unified communications, delivered over a flexible and scalable cloud bridge. Telecoms companies must now be able to deliver communication tools, services, and systems in a flexible environment that team members can access anywhere, at any time, without compromising on security.
Intelligence is a Must-Have
For years, intelligent systems for analytics, reporting, and data management have largely been regarded as ’add-ons‘ to the telecoms landscape. However, the year of virtual everything in 2020 paved the way to a future where intelligence is no longer optional. Companies rely on insights to keep the business from crumbling in complicated situations.
With the rise of remote work, companies depend on intelligent ways to monitor employee performance in real time, and pinpoint issues in customer service. Intelligent reporting tools can even form a crucial part of the employee engagement strategy. Gamification in the form of wallboards and real-time reports prevents remote and distributed teams from losing their connection to the business.
Intelligence also has a part to play in supporting the workforce in an increasingly challenging environment. In times where call volumes accelerate and customer demand increases, AI virtual assistants and chatbots can automate repetitive processes and manage aspects of self-service for today’s teams. These tools are becoming an essential aspect of ensuring that team members can continue to focus on the tasks that require the most human creativity.
More than just a tool for analysing the customer journey and providing business intelligence, AI is becoming a fundamental aspect of every part of the telecoms stack. Today’s telecoms vendors need to look at how they can intelligently support everything from productivity, to agent management with the right services.
We mentioned security and the threat of data breaches as common trends for the challenges that would face telecommunications companies in 2020. In 2021, the demand for better security is likely to continue, perhaps at even greater scale. The sudden trend towards digitisation in 2020 meant that many cybercriminals found new opportunities to steal data online.
With teams and business leaders relying on the internet more than ever to share and manage information, there are now more avenues for criminal activity to take place. According to some studies, COVID-19 was the world’s largest-ever cybersecurity threat.
Moving ahead, companies in telecoms will need to carefully evaluate their security practices and ensure that the right strategies are in place to protect information. From remote employees using secure networks to log into services, to team members ensuring that video meetings can remain secure, there are a lot of different components to consider.
Telecommunications firms in the new era will need to ensure that people can continue to feel safe in this rapidly virtual environment.
Transparency Will Be Crucial
Aside from keeping data secure, telecoms companies will also need to ensure that they’re transparent with their consumers and clients about how they use data. In recent years, we’ve already seen the impact that regulations like GDPR have had on the way we manage information. With a greater reliance on digital tools and artificial intelligence, it will be more important for companies to reconsider the way they collect data. The key in the new landscape is to find the right balance between personalising customer experiences with useful insights and keeping private information under wraps. Telecoms companies will need to ensure that they have the right systems in place to track the flow of information in the organisation from beginning to end. Any information captured needs to be carefully assessed and stored according to industry guidelines.
More importantly, companies will need to be able to prove, on-demand, that they’re taking all the appropriate measures to keep their customers and their information secure. Today’s consumers are even more concerned about the control that they have over their data and valuable information – particularly in a world where everything is digital. Telecoms brands must be ready to show that they’re committed to privacy.
New Opportunities Arise with 5G
5G promises some serious changes in the telecoms industry. With the full rollout of 5G on hold due to the 2020 pandemic, we haven’t experienced the massive impact that this technology could have on telecoms yet. The EU is still planning a rollout of 5G on a massive scale in the following years and the opportunities are incredible. 5G will be essential in a future where remote and mobile workers need to operate seamlessly outside of the office. This technology could also be the key to helping teams operate crucial tools from a distance. IoT, AR, and mixed realities could combine with 5G technology to allow engineers to see equipment through a headset, and make changes to performance from a distance, all by tapping buttons on a keyboard that send instructions to connected devices. The possibilities of 5G and IoT were already gaining a lot of attention in recent years, but the demand now could be higher than ever.
As employers look for ways to improve safety and efficiency in the workplace, while reducing the number of actual employees in the office, 5G could be the key to more effective communications on the move. Telecommunications firms will need to think about how they can deliver the right selection of disruptive tools to empower the workforce of tomorrow.
Empathy Will Be Required
Finally, today’s telecommunications companies are still competing based on excellent customer experience. Memorable moments with customers and clients pave the way to brand success. However, many telecom providers have struggled to deliver personalised experiences in the last year, thanks to the overwhelming demands and changing processes created by the pandemic.
Now, more than ever, customers are looking for insights into the kinds of companies they can trust to deliver the best service and support during difficult times. Companies that fail to take the right steps in showing thoughtfulness and empathy in 2021 could lose their customer base forever.
The key to success for many brands will be data. In-depth reporting tools allow organisations to understand what their customers need on a deeper level. The better your reports, the easier it is to see when you need to hire extra remote staff members for peaks in demand. You can also use these insights to offer better training to team members and reduce the risk of call quality issues.
Evaluating your customer’s journey and implementing the right strategies at every step will be a demanding process, but it’s the only way to set yourself apart from the crowd going forward.
Prepare for the Future and Protect Yourself
It’s difficult to know for sure what the future might look like in the communication landscape. What we do know is that the environment is becoming more sophisticated and advanced by the day. This means that if businesses want to stay ahead of the curve and deliver the results that their customers and shareholders expect, they need the right plan. It’s not enough to simply jump on the latest trends as soon as they arrive.
Business leaders need to assess the current gaps and issues in their communication strategy and look for ways to fix existing problems. Those who are ready to embrace opportunities from the new environment, like 5G and AI, will need a plan for monitoring the performance of their tools and ensuring that they’re not swapping reliability with innovation.
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