Forget 5G: to succeed in the digital world, focus on the customer

5G customer
Image credit: canbedone /

While the telecoms industry, as usual, is focused to the exclusion of almost everything else on 5G, customers are not. And while 5G is coming, for sure, and while it might well usher in a whole new sparkly array of great new things, customers do not care.

Ask a colleague whether his computer is fast enough. He will probably say, “Yes, it is fine.” Take said colleague down the corridor and show him the shiny new computer that is basically a holographic machine with zero latency and then take him back down the corridor to his now dingy office and say, “Well at least you are happy with your computer,” and he will probably (a) never speak to you again and (b) be forever unhappy with his computer.

5G will probably work like that in the eyes of consumers.

According to a recent survey in the US, 59% of respondents are not aware that 5G is just around the corner and 28% of them said the benefits were not clear at all anyway.

Digital JourneySo while the technology section of the industry carries on making 5G a reality, you have to wonder what the rest of the guys should be doing – apart from building business models that make sense (and, ideally, money).

Getting closer to the customer is an obvious one, probably via an app.

Vodafone is doing just that, as Sean Broderick explained the other day. Indeed the company is held up as a great example of a trend that Openet sees – the maturing of the self-care app.

The trouble is that Vodafone and a couple of other large players are way ahead. According to the Openet paper, the average operator today has a self-care app penetration level of less than 20%.

While that may cause a certain amount of depression to set in, creating an app through which customers can manage their digital lives in a seamless, intuitive way is far from easy.

The on-boarding process alone must balance ease of use with credit checks and ‘know your customer’ processes. Billing and payment information must be at the finger tips, in the way the customer wants to see it. And the links to their preferences from there must be seamless, as must payments.

Once that first encounter is managed properly, then operators can build on that. And the prospects are good for an online experience. AI is becoming embedded in the experience to the point that 40% of e-commerce transactions will be enabled by AI within two years, according to IDC. Vodafone can now boast that 70% of queries can be answered by its chatbot, Tobi. And this will only rise.

It seems, finally, as if operators are beginning to produce concrete and quite compelling stories when it comes to their digitalization journeys. And it also seems that there is now a widespread understanding that a well-designed, easy to use self-care app is crucial in the fight for the customer.

Indeed, if customers begin to fall in love with them, it will go a long way to restoring trust in operators. And if operators regain the trust, then customers will believe that their digital lives are safe and that operators are their online guardians.

The Openet paper is free, a worthwhile read and available here.

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