In a fast-growth, knowledge-based economy like Romania's, telecommunications has long been a major contributor to GDP. However, its importance has become even more clear now that so many of us are working remotely, and staying at home. It is no exaggeration to say that broadband has become a lifeline for many people and companies during lockdown. I caught up with Debbie Mayville, a senior manager and customer adviser at SAS with a focus on telecoms, to understand more about opportunities and challenges the Romanian telecoms sector can expect to face.
Debbie, how have telecoms companies used analytics to help with their customer-facing activities as they move from fixed telephony to mobile?
There are a lot of possible use cases for customer-facing activity. I think companies need to start by moving to an omnichannel marketing approach. This allows them to support more optimized customer journeys and pick next best offers that are really personalized and timely to each customer. To deliver extraordinary customer experiences, you really have to understand emerging trends, and the reasons why customers are having issues, and analytics is essential for this. Companies can also use analytics to learn when new patterns arise. One of the things we see a lot in the US is the use of net promoter score, analysing people's satisfaction with the brand, which is also useful in telecoms.
Are there also back-office use cases for analytics?
Yes, there are a number of those. For example, telecoms companies have used analytics to improve the quality of the network, particularly around capacity planning and identifying where to augment the network. Predictive maintenance is also useful and helps to improve customer experience. The other area of use is in the detection and prevention of fraud. Risk and fraud analytics has become a big player in this field. For instance, handsets are getting more and more expensive, so as we move more into mobile, you see an increase in the percentage of fraud. Analytics can help to uncover fraudulent transactions and networks. Another area where we’ve seen use cases is in revenue assurance – to manage under- and over-billing. Many telcos are now moving to become payment providers, competing with banks and fintechs.
How can companies use analytics to manage the balance between B2C and B2B customers, and especially between price sensitivity and quality of service?
The data is very different across those groups, so you would use different types of analytics. With B2C, you have a more direct relationship, whereas, with B2B, you often have other channels or reps. However, a lot of telcos are going beyond this by becoming media companies. As well as providing the backbone connectivity, they're also providing and distributing content. And of course, this is creating a whole new series of use cases for analytics. Companies don’t just need different types of analytics to talk to different customers; they’re actually using analytics to create new businesses to make money. For example, you can do more revenue management and price guidance for advertising, and also use digital ad forecasting and stewardship.
How have you seen telcos navigate the skills requirements around analytics?
The analytics life cycle and culture requires some unique skills. Some of them are hard skills like programming and modelling, but companies also need soft skills, like stakeholder engagement, strategy, alignment, project management and resource management. I think telcos are challenged by this right now because there are not enough analytics experts around. We’ve seen companies working with different universities to try to improve both the analytical skills and soft skills. Even in a highly skilled market like Romania, there is still a shortage of people with the necessary expertise, although telcos are doing their best to grow talent through different programs.
Do you think software providers and tech companies can help with this?
SAS is doing a lot to help by providing software that’s more intuitive and easier to use. We are embedding AI in tools so that users can get answers without having to be programmers. We’ve also helped customers with links to universities, and are doing consulting work to bring companies up to speed. For example, we went into one of our large providers and helped with an academy there. I think it is important to look across processes, people and technology when thinking about how to improve skills as we become more data-driven. This is particularly true as the data becomes bigger and harder to handle.