Facing a landscape of changing trends, telcos need to reinvent themselves to stay relevant. Innovation is important, but so is having a growth mindset that understands where the overall industry is headed, and what telcos will need to get there.
In Part 3 of a special three-part series of interviews about driving growth mindsets in telecoms, Mei Lee Quah, director of ICT Research at Frost & Sullivan, speaks with Sandra De Zoysa, group chief customer officer at Dialog Axiata.
De Zoysa says that if telcos really want to drive disruption and innovation, they should engage with young people to cultivate innovative mindsets, and empower women entrepreneurs. Dialog Axiata does both, and it works.
Disruption and innovation starts with educating youth …
Mei Lee Quah: First of all, congratulations on winning an international award for your meaningful work in driving disruption and innovation. Please tell us more about that work, and the positive results you’re achieving.
Sandra De Zoysa: It is important to recognize the potential of younger age groups in the field of technology and encourage them to pursue careers in the tech industry. To do so, gathering information on their trends, behaviors, and preferences is crucial. However, this can be challenging due to age restrictions on signing contracts. One approach to overcoming this challenge is to engage with users below 18 years separately and analyze their data to understand their needs and preferences.
Telcos can play a vital role in this education ecosystem by collaborating with the education industry to incorporate technology into the school curriculum and providing resources for hands-on learning and experimentation. This approach can also make the telco industry more attractive and exciting for younger age groups to work in.
By familiarizing younger age groups with technology, we can stimulate creativity, an innovation mindset, and an entrepreneurial spirit spurred by disruption. The tech industry is constantly evolving, and engaging with younger age groups can help to ensure that it continues to do so in the future.
… And empowering women
Our goal at Dialog is to promote partnerships within the IT/BPM industry and offer internships to recent graduates. Our aim is to facilitate engagement with the community and provide valuable business experience and career guidance to interns, undergraduates, and new graduates. We place a special emphasis on empowering women by providing support to female entrepreneurs and motivating more young women to pursue careers as tech entrepreneurs.
As a fully owned subsidiary of Dialog, Dialog Business Services (DBS) has formulated specific working policies to enable female employees to choose from a range of flexible work schedules. Our workforce comprises 52% women, and we believe that providing a safe and conducive working environment for them is essential. By prioritizing their physical and mental well-being, we can tap into their creativity and achieve amazing results.
Our efforts have been recognized over the years, and we are proud to have been named among the top 50 great places to work in the country for three consecutive years. Additionally, DBS was recently recognized as one of the country’s top 10 great places for women to work. As an employer, we have gone the extra mile to create a working environment that is supportive of women, recognizing that they often play multiple roles as multitaskers and caregivers. We have invested time and resources to help them balance these roles and succeed in their careers.
SLASSCOM’s work with educational institutions
You’re also the inaugural female chairperson of SLASSCOM (Sri Lanka Association for Software & Service Companies), the primary industry body representing the IT/BPM export sector in the country. Tell us about the work you’re doing there.
SLASSCOM is at the forefront of various programs aimed at enhancing the country’s capacity and capability to accelerate exports of software services, BPM, product, and platforms, thereby generating foreign exchange revenue.
One of our key initiatives in pursuit of this objective is to work in complete alignment with state and non-state universities, as well as vocational training institutions across the country, to encourage and train young people to pursue careers in technology. We have designed conversion programs that facilitate the absorption of young people from diverse educational backgrounds, such as the arts, into the tech field. Our social education, webinars, workshops, and other skill-building programs are tailored to familiarize young people with technology and equip them with the knowledge and qualifications necessary to succeed in the tech industry.
We achieve this through several open-source platforms that make education more accessible to young people, especially those whose parents may not be able to afford the high costs associated with higher education. The chamber is committed to offering internships, employment opportunities, and even sponsorships to complete degree programs to enable young people to gain practical experience while pursuing their studies part-time.
Why 5G SA rollout is so slow
What are your thoughts on why the telecoms industry is slow in rolling out 5G standalone (SA)?
There are several factors contributing to the slow pace of 5G SA rollout, including geopolitical issues and economic sanctions, which make it difficult for companies to obtain the necessary network equipment and technology. In addition, challenges with the enablement and monetization of 5G, as well as spectrum allocation, have also affected rollout. The push for margins by investors and the erosion of traditional revenue streams by OTT services further complicate 5G monetization.
Despite these challenges, the outlook for 5G SA is positive as more countries embark on their rollout plans and devices that support 5G SA become available. However, ecosystem development must keep up with these developments to ensure a seamless customer experience, particularly for new use cases like IoT, Industry 4.0, and autonomous vehicles. Telcos must either compete with or complement each other to overcome these challenges.
Telcos need automation
Automation is a major topic for telcos now, but it can also make employees nervous when they hear about job tasks being automated. In your view, is the industry automating because we have too many people that do not have the necessary skillsets? What is the ideal outcome?
The futurization of customer experience involves simplification, automation, and digitization to enhance customer service and gain a competitive edge. It is important to recognize that technology and automation are designed to aid humans and not replace them, making them more productive and creative.
Technologies like RPA can improve process efficiencies in the following ways:
- Automating repetitive tasks to simplify complex processes
- Minimizing manual data entry and providing real-time updates and information
- Enhancing efficiency and productivity
- Reducing errors and increasing productivity
- Offering self-service options to customers through digital channels, which allows them to access information and accomplish tasks independently, reducing the need for human interaction
- Enabling the performance of tasks that are too hazardous or challenging for humans.
At Dialog, we have optimized our organizational structure to reduce the need for our employees to perform monotonous and repetitive tasks that can be automated, while allocating more resources towards achieving optimal outcomes by tapping into our employees’ newly acquired skills and creativity. To achieve the desired outcomes, we constantly explore and adopt new technologies, solutions, processes, and work methodologies that do not require external hiring. By investing in upskilling and reskilling programs, we create opportunities for internal growth and development. Transformation is vital for our organization, and it all depends on our approach.
The future of the customer experience for telcos
You mentioned the ‘futurization of customer experience’. What do you see as the current market trends that will dictate how telcos handle customer experience in the future?
Telcos must prioritize delivering excellent customer experiences and incorporating a human touch to retain and attract customers amidst a wider range of options. Furthermore, with the rise of connected devices and advanced cyber threats, telcos must invest in cybersecurity measures to ensure customer privacy and trust.
To improve customer experience, telcos are increasingly turning to AI and automation for self-service options across various channels based on customer preference, particularly among digital native millennials who now constitute a significant portion of the workforce and hold management positions. This strategy also presents an opportunity for telcos to streamline customer management and optimize network performance.
Sandra De Zoysa, group chief customer officer at Dialog Axiata, is an expert in customer experience, process excellence and digital transformation. She is an award-winning thought leader in the sphere of Customer Experience and Women in Tech Leadership.
Dive deeper: F&S is hosting an on-demand webinar on Wednesday, March 8 titled “Innovation in Telecommunications: Driving Growth Mindsets”. You can register for it here.
Growth Mindsets Part 1: Where telcos fit in the digital ecosystem
Growth Mindsets Part 2: Telcos must learn to collaborate better
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