With the global health pandemic creating significant budget constraints and cashflow challenges for many businesses around the world, some are struggling to pay for even the most vital of services, such as telecommunication services. What’s more, as many businesses shutter physical locations and temporarily cut their workforce, some organizations may consider downgrading or cancelling services as a way to increase their cash on hand.
This liquidity shortage presents a huge challenge for telco operators, not just in terms of their own economic vitality, but the continuation of major digital initiatives, many of which are driven by business interest. Perhaps even more concerning, with disruption at an all-time high, customers who walk away from operators now may not return – forcing telcos to consider how to preserve the customer base in the short term and create attractive offers for the future.
Short term response: Maintaining the customer portfolio through differentiated offers, solutions and communication
One of the most unnerving aspects of COVID-19 is that it has impacted business operations universally, but not uniformly. When we look at this issue through the lens of telco services, we see a wide variety of effects, from sectors that have virtually ceased to use telecom services overnight, to those that have shifted activity from one network to another, to businesses that have found net-new digital needs.
In today’s highly volatile environment, telco operators must analyze the effects of this situation on each specific segment, considering the organization’s industry, location, size, and history. Responding in the short term will require a differentiated approach, tailoring offers, solutions, and communications to meet the needs of each organization and their most pressing concerns – be it cost, flexibility, security, or speed.
For SME customers, flexible payment schemes are perhaps the most immediate and impactful solution telcos can offer. Operators can extend the terms of small business contracts, providing customers greater flexibility as to when and how bills are paid. Another solution to consider is temporary offers, which create short-term price reductions on current contracts for those customers that extend their commitment period. In both cases, the goal of the telco is to maintain the customer base in the short term while building long-term loyalty.
The application of these concepts will look different in each industry. For example, telcos may work with service-based companies or consultancies to negotiate special allowances for furloughed workers, allowing them to maintain individual phone or internet subscriptions for a reduced rate and corresponding reduction in data. Meanwhile, in travel and hospitality, telcos may allow businesses to pause sports or entertainment content packages in exchange for a contract extension.
In crafting these solutions, customization is key – as the basis for loyalty rests in the telco’s ability to prove how well they know and understand their customers. To that end, businesses should also consider their marketing and communication strategy, adapting when, where, and how they interact with customers.
Creating a long-term solution: Enabling new ways of working through enhanced connectivity, speed, and security
While recovery plans and timing related to COVID-19 vary widely from country to country, one thing most government leaders, medical professionals, business experts and private citizens can agree on is that this event will change the way people live and work.
The implication for telcos is that they must support this new normal, particularly with respect to remote work capabilities. While the shift to a home-based business has been seamless for some, others do not have reliable, fast network connections that can support their work-related activity, such as video conferencing, uploading/downloading large files or using web-based applications. Furthermore, many home connections do not support advanced security tools or applications, leaving the employee unable to work remotely or jeopardizing their company’s assets when they do.
B2B telcos have the opportunity to address all components of the work from home movement. This includes updating or reimagining the core telco business to create more secure connectivity and serve the customer from several locations. Some examples include:
- Providing devices to employees, either as permanent allocations or through a flexible sourcing program that allows temporary or occasional use
- Enabling new customer journeys for delivery and support, including digital ordering and activation
- Enabling wireless connectivity at home, including specially priced add-on services or features to temporarily enhance offers
- Managing remote network access for business-critical functions with SD-WAN, VPN or other advanced security solutions
- Creating unified solutions, offering bulk SMS, audio and video conference capabilities to support the company’s entire digital workforce.
There are many examples of telcos seizing this opportunity already and offering services that are even more relevant now – from Telia offering 4G routers for business-critical employees to AT&T Business’ special “work from home” package to device-as-a-service plans from Bouygues Enterprises.
Telco’s opportunity: Blurring industry lines in time of need
For many organizations, this environment has underscored the need to think outside traditional sector lines, using the company’s existing assets to unlock new revenue streams. For example, telcos may consider monetizing anonymized location-data services to companies that want to understand mobility patterns.
At the same time, telcos should be strategic in branching out beyond their core services, especially in a highly volatile landscape. These opportunities should be evaluated carefully so as to ensure these investments are limited to areas where there is a clear need and where operators have a competitive advantage.
Addressing these issues and opportunities is the goal of our newest digital telco offer –Inventive Telecoms, which helps operators create and deliver innovative digital experiences at speed and scale. For more information, please reach out to Johannes Aasheim, Vice President, Telecom, Media and Technology at Capgemini Invent.