Despite its pivotal role in the 4th Industrial Revolution, the connectivity sphere is no different from any other business sector when it comes to profitability challenges. In the fast-moving and hyper-competitive economic environment of today, even the biggest players in ICT are under threat.

One of the largest issues the industry faces, apart from ever-plummeting pricing, is the ability to retain customers.

Once the initial, typically two-year, contract period ends and shifts to a month-to-month basis, there’s usually very little reason for customers to stay if they’re presented with better offers from competitors – unless their current provider has something more to offer. In the context of such upheaval and uncertainty, what can telcos – and other businesses for that matter – do to grow spend while positioning their organisations as a leading presence in their sector?

The key to successfully operating in the new age of business is to prioritise the following principles.

Full and flexible service

Although there will always be a place for specialist enterprises focusing on a single product or service, customers gravitate towards convenience. Far from a new concept, it’s a timeless staple of customer service and marketing.

From an ICT perspective, certainly, it’s overarching service, not product features that makes the greatest difference.

"Once the initial, typically two-year, contract period ends and shifts to a month-to-month basis, there’s usually very little reason for customers to stay if they’re presented with better offers from competitors – unless their current provider has something more to offer."

To remain competitive in a crowded market where everyone is essentially promising the same thing, a new-age telco cannot solely focus on connectivity as it is relatively easy for customers to change providers. By contrast, a full-service managed solutions model (where connectivity is offered in conjunction with cloud-based business services such as online backup, VoIP and all-important network security) provides far greater value for the customer. The “one-stop-shop” approach maximises customer convenience, letting them focus on their operations instead of continually dealing with multiple companies that each manage a different, outsourced business component.

At the same time, flexibility is a must for a next-generation business, not only in terms of their offerings but in fulfilling them as well. There is no place for pace-slowing rigidity. A new-age telco, for example, will provide solutions for big corporates through to SMEs. It should also be able to shift seamlessly between a more prescriptive style of solution proposal and a bespoke meeting of customers’ dictated needs.

Subscription model

The last few years have seen a paradigm shift in how everything from home entertainment to software and business solutions are accessed via the cloud, and paired with a subscription delivery model. From a business perspective, SaaS (Software as a Service), IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) and PaaS (Platform as a Service) appeal to customers because they are a cost-effective way for even the smallest start-ups to access highly useful, quick-to-implement business tools without the hefty, up-front costs associated with the likes of on-premises hardware and its maintenance.

From the provider side, meanwhile, utilising a subscription model helps to secure and grow spend. This is because it more tightly binds the customer to the organisation hosting and managing the solution in use.

Automate where you can

While using digital technology to automate a company’s internal systems has obvious time-saving and efficiency-boosting potential for the business in question, greater automation can also be used to drive the customer experience to new levels of satisfaction.

In South Africa, for example, the most popular method for customers to contact their bank is via mobile app. Bearing this in mind, as well as the McKinsey statistic that the highest level of satisfaction (76%) among telecommunications customers belongs to people who progressed through a digital-only customer service journey, it’s possible to identify new-age telecommunications companies by their willingness to increase the self-service component of their user experience.

Through online guided selling, it is possible to lead the customer to the best solution, ending in an immediate sale and streamlining the entire sales process. Forward-thinking companies looking to future-proof their business should consider this option as part of their digital customer service or e-care strategy.

Company culture

Most organisations today have learned to do more with less, typically out of necessity. This applies to staff too, with an increasing number of companies using digital tools to help their smaller workforces run leaner. For example, integrating chatbots and other AI functionality with customer care call centres allows fewer consultants to handle more enquiries more efficiently. Just as important, though, is to employ the right people who align perfectly with company culture. Key to a new-age company’s success is employees who go out of their way to make the customer experience as easy and enjoyable as possible instead of introducing resistance.

From high-level players in the ICT sector to fledgling entrepreneurs in vastly different spheres, future business growth can be achieved despite the market pressures and general tumultuousness of the Fourth Industrial Revolution: the foundation is a highly strategic, future-minded approach to integrating digital technologies into your business.

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