By, Rashmi Vittal, CMO, Conversica
The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly placed an inordinate amount of challenges for businesses across nearly every sector around the world. The International Labour Organization (ILO), which is the United Nations’ labor body, recently forecast that the equivalent of 195 million jobs could be lost worldwide as a result of the disruption to global economies.
However, it is also true to say that some industries have been presented with a unique opportunity. The shift to remote and virtual workforces has created a groundswell of demand for digital technologies, services and increased connectivity.
This has inevitably impacted the telecoms industry, which is expected to see a return to growth of 0.8% in 2021, with the sector overall expected to show some of the strongest investment post COVID-19, according to Analysys Mason.
In many respects, the demand for networked communications has never been as high as it is right now. The ubiquity of telecommunications in our lives has become more apparent than ever, with the industry’s role in supporting critical communications and providing networking infrastructure and connectivity that enables people to seamlessly work from home proving indispensable to businesses in multiple sectors.
Indeed, the risks associated with overloading network providers is so great that the International Telecommunication Union, a specialized agency of the United Nations, recently launched a global platform designed to help governments maintain the resilience and availability of telecom networks during the COVID-19 crisis.
Now perhaps more than ever before, communication service providers (CSPs) are showcasing their strengths in enabling what could end up becoming the new norm even once we all emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. A world where remote and virtual workforces and increased online learning may well remain the new reality.
However, while this rise in demand for technologies and services within telecom is clearly welcome, it is also presenting new challenges in terms of customer engagement and satisfaction for telcos. With the volume of inbound inquiries continuing to rise, customer service teams are likely to be struggling to keep up with demand.
This is where technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its ability to augment the workforce is the ideal catalyst for fueling new innovation across the telecom industry. It is clear that the demand is certainly there, with a report from Capgemini identifying that nearly three quarters (74%) of organizations view conversational intelligent virtual assistants as an important enabler of successful customer engagement.
As consumers and businesses alike demand a far more consistent and fulfilling digital experience, the use of AI technologies to augment workforces and provide a better and more valued customer experience is increasing. One of the leading examples of this in the telecom industry is the use of intelligent virtual assistants (IVAs), which provide increased value across a number of different functions for telcos.
One of the most prominent examples of this in the current environment is to enhance customer support departments, with the demand on call center resources particularly high as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. IVAs can augment call centre and customer service workforces by replying to more straightforward, mundane and repetitive questions. This in turn enables workers to focus on more higher value tasks such as dealing with more complex enquiries or staff training, thereby improving overall productivity and increasing job satisfaction.
Another key role IVAs can assist telcos with is the fight against fraud. Indeed, enhancing security measures through AI has become an imperative for organizations, according to a Capgemnini report, which also lists telecom as among the most susceptible industries to cyber fraud. This is reinforced by the Cyber-Telecom Crime Report 2019 published by Europol and Trend Micro, which highlights that the telecom industry suffered losses amounting to €29bn due to telecom fraud. IVAs can assist in this fight due to their capability for monitoring and detecting irregular patterns in behaviour and flagging alerts upon detection of such activity.
However, perhaps the most important role IVAs can support telcos with is the transformational impact on front-end office functions; namely marketing, sales and customer success where there are big opportunities to use IVAs to scale the business and accelerate revenue across the customer journey.
One prominent example of this in practice today is CenturyLink, the third largest telecommunications company in the US, providing broadband, voice, video, advanced data and managed network services over a 265,000-route-mile US fiber network. The company has been using AI-powered sales assistants to drive warm leads through its sales funnel.
To begin with, CenturyLink tasked the AI Assistants, which they named ‘Angie’ and ‘Ashley’, with reaching out to smaller prospects that did not have a designated sales rep. This led to 300 calls being set up for four of the company’s sales reps, which quickly turned into a case of enabling CenturyLink to follow up with 800 qualified telemarketing leads per week who are legitimately open and ready to engage with salespeople.
In this respect, incorporating IVAs to augment the workforce has been a fundamental game-changer for CenturyLink’s business. The company is now contacting 90,000 qualified prospects every quarter, whichhas resulted in increased excitement among the sales team and a 8-1 ROI on a monthly basis. This is arguably the most important piece of the puzzle; the fact that the sales team have become accustomed to technology augmenting their work.
As telecommunications turn further towards digital transformation, intelligent automation can play a crucial role in transforming their sales and marketing functions. By being able to follow up with leads quickly and at scale as shown by the likes of CenturyLink, telecommunications can not only provide better value to customers but also enhance internal satisfaction amongst the workforce through utilising IVAs. It really is win-win.
About Conversica: Conversica is a leading provider of Intelligent Virtual Assistants helping organizations attract, acquire and grow customers at scale. A Conversica Intelligent Virtual Assistant is an AI-powered, SaaS-based software application that serves as a virtual team member and autonomously engages contacts, prospects, customers or partners in human-like, two-way interactions at scale to drive towards the next best action accelerating revenue; whether that’s scheduling a sales meeting, gauging interest to buy additional products or services, or politely but persistently collecting overdue payments. To learn more, visit www.conversica.com.