As we discussed in our previous blog, it was hard to avoid the topic of artificial intelligence (AI) at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. As happens with all new technologies, AI has certainly become the victim of hype, with companies of all shapes and sizes, and from all types of industries, trumpeting the launch of AI-based products or services.
For telcos, AI is certainly a priority, and has become a must-have element of a number of different operational and marketing tasks — especially with regard to how they manage customer services and support. Many AI-based services have already been launched, and new and innovative services continue to emerge as telcos see the benefits of integrated AI in different aspects of their business operations.
At Etiya we’ve been laying the foundation for introducing AI into our OSS and BSS solutions since the very earliest days of our company. AI-based recommendations engines are among our earliest offerings , for example, and are now gaining momentum because of the growing recognition of their usefulness as a marketing tool for telcos.
Certainly, by using machines that learn, we can transform vast amounts of complex data into insight and move closer to the ideal of mass customisation — producing services to meet individual customer needs with near mass production efficiency. A growing trend in mass customisation is the concept of digital twins — basically digital copies of physical assets that can empower future-looking decision-making capabilities to succeed in the uncertainty of future market demands. In marketing terms, digital twins can be used as a concept for better customer understanding without trial and error methods in the market.
AI technology has also long been used as a technique for churn prevention and customer retention, using natural language processing (NLP) as well as sentiment analysis to build churn-analysis systems that can predict when customers are likely to cancel their service and move to another provider. With Etiya AI technologies using NLP and predictive analysis, for example, telcos are able to use AI not only for churn and retention but also to transform their businesses and reduce costs.
For example, AI is applied to customer services and support, agent-guided assistance, personalised marketing, and product bundling recommendations. As a result, service providers achieve targeted business outcomes, increase productivity, and improve customer experience.
Some of the more productive services enabled by AI include automated customer service management, also using NLP combined with sentiment analysis and machine learning, to automate repeatable tasks. Digital virtual assistants, or chatbots, are popping up everywhere these days, for example, and can be deployed to help resolve customer problems by analysing big data to understand subscriber behaviour. AI can minimise the operational burden for employees, allowing organisations to improve people efficiency and add value in other areas.
There is still so much more that AI can do, and we are already working on new solutions that can help service providers transform their businesses and ultimately reduce costs through further automation, data analysis and cognitive engagement. Process automation, for example, is a clear case for further automation, freeing employees from more mundane tasks and enabling them to be deployed in areas where they can focus on the creation of value. CSPs can reduce processing time and costs at a time when they are under huge pressure to reinvent their businesses as a matter of survival.
Looking further ahead, AI can also be used to automate and simplify processes such as root cause analysis. In the majority of cases, root cause analysis requires us to answer a very similar set of questions and is thus a clear contender for the automation techniques enabled by AI. AI can also help take the guesswork out of many of these situations, automatically pinpointing the reasons underlying performance issues and even resolving them before your customers notice anything is wrong.
In summary, it is difficult to overstate how AI is helping, and will help, telcos to fundamentally change their operational and commercial approaches. As telco services increasingly become a commodity, they need AI-based innovative actions to shift the perception from cheaper voice and data rates to a richer customer experience.
These new cognitive technologies will influence how they deal with customers through the use of AI-enabled tools such as chatbots and big data analysis; manage their operations by integrating AI with their OSS/BSS; and create new products and services. Moreover, the impact of AI does not stop there, as its application will have wider implications for how brands themselves are perceived due an improved and more consistent customer experience, in turn influencing a telco’s ability to both attract and retain its customers.