Telecoms executives are increasingly convinced that the world is shifting from value chains to platform-based ecosystems and are keen to play a central role – but that means delivering a strong customer experience via big data analytics, and part of that experience means giving customers as much visibility and control over their data as possible before they trust you with it.
That was the message that emerged from the results of two separate IBM surveys – one for telco execs, the other for consumers – presented by Rob van den Dam, global telecommunications industry leader at the IBM Institute for Business Value during a workshop at ACC 2017 in Cebu last week.
According to the executive survey, van den Dam explained, “Executives are starting to realize the power of ecosystems in the digital era – 56% of them said in the survey that ecosystems are the best way to access new markets, and 55% believe that the level of partnering that ecosystems thrive on is the way forward.”
The attraction of the ecosystem model isn’t hard to understand when you look at the companies that have pioneered it. As an example, Amazon.com’s ecosystem now has a market value of around $471 billion – far more than top retailers such as Macy’s, Wal-mart and others that have been around far longer than Amazon. It’s the same story for Tesla Uber, Airbnb and Netflix – all of which possess a market value higher than the many of the top traditional players they’re competing against.
As for what role telcos can play in the ecosystem, van den Dam says there are four basic roles to choose from: experience provider, asset provider, process provider, and platform provider. CSPs can take on one role, a combination of roles or all of them if they have the capability to do so. However, the most popular choice among surveyed telecoms executives (57%) is “platform provider”.
The reason isn’t hard to understand, he says: of the Top 15 internet companies by market value – Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Alibaba, Tencent, etc – every single one of them are platform companies.
Naturally, CSPs must undergo some level of transformation and reinvention to become that platform, and the core of that reinvention is delivering new customer experiences through the ecosystem. To deliver that, said van den Dam, you need two things: big data analytics, and the trust of your customers to collect and use it responsibly.
This is where it gets tricky.
The good news for telcos is that a global IBM consumer survey exploring this very topic found that consumers generally trust telcos with their data – even more than they trust banks. However, that’s for emerging markets – in mature markets, while telcos still rank highly, the overall level of trust is much, much lower. And that overall level of trust globally is declining across the board (although, interestingly, telcos are seeing the least amount of decrease compared to other industry sectors).
More to the point, just because consumers trust you with their data doesn’t mean they’re not worried. According to the survey, a whopping 84% of consumers are worried about data collection. Perhaps more significantly, 73% said they have limited knowledge of the issue or how much of their data is being collected, 75% said they found it difficult to find out more information about how their data is collected and used, and 85% said they had found out that their data had been used for something they hadn’t agreed to.
IBM’s research found that three consumer mindsets regarding data collection were revealed: consistently trustful, increasingly suspicious and trustful but worried.
This matters because consumers who fall into the “increasingly suspicious” category would rather pay for a service than get for free in exchange for their personal data being used for advertising or marketing purposes, said van den Dam.
“We have to understand customer mindsets and trust imperatives,” he said. “Consumers want more control over their data, and they want to be told what you will do with it.”
Van den Dam recommended that telcos give their consumers as much control over their data in the most transparent way possible, and do more to raise consumer awareness about the issue. He also recommended leveraging technologies such as cognitive computing to identify privacy threats and extract better insight into what consumers like and don’t like.
In light of worries about personal data being stolen, he also said that telcos should look at technologies like blockchain – either within the organization, as part of their partner ecosystem or even offering it as a service – to provide optimal security for user data.