As 2017 is kicking off, I’m reflecting on what a big year it will be for communication service providers. The competition to introduce new digital services and improve the customer experience has never been more intense. Balancing the need to transform business models for the customers of tomorrow with still maintaining traditional lines of effort is challenging, to say the least.
After the year we’ve had in 2016, from the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series to Brexit to the historic US elections, I’m leery of making big, bold predictions—our world is dynamic and often unpredictable. That being said, looking to the year ahead, there are some emerging trends that will definitely shape the communications services landscape in the year to come.
Top of mind are a series of acronyms: B2B2X, IoT and CX. In this post, I’m going to try to unpack these overarching trends, cutting through this alphabet soup to highlight some concepts that are sure to play a role in 2017.
IoT will fuel the rise of B2B2X
Multi-device is no longer enough—it’s increasingly becoming “old news” as we are now moving into a world of “multi-connected devices.” From connected lightbulbs to sensors in your fridge that alert you when you’re running low on an item, the Internet of Things (IoT) has opened up a whole new world of possibilities to further connect the lives of consumers.
In the year to come, cable providers will increasingly explore opportunities to add services to their line-up, especially when it comes to the connected home and other IoT applications (such as Comcast’s partnership with Nest thermostats). Telecom operators will deploy the power of 5G, with its increased speed and efficiencies, to leverage IoT capabilities for more connected service offerings.
But what are the implications of this increased connectivity? In essence, partnering to bring multi-connected devices to consumers necessitates a different kind of business model. Providers won’t be able to go it alone—they’ll need to aggregate services and figure out how to make a complex array of partners work in concert. A service provider’s ability to move data to both consumers and business partners will become increasingly important, meaning that their infrastructure and processes have to become more open and nimble than ever before to support these complex interactions. It will be a world of B2B2X services, in which a provider delivers digital services to an endless combination of end-users, whether it’s enterprise, retail, partners, suppliers or end consumers.
The industry has talked about B2B2X and IoT in theory, but these concepts will transform into reality in 2017—and providers need to ensure they are prepared.
Personalizing CX: omnichannel means being everywhere consumers are
Customer experience (CX) has been an industry buzzword for a few years now. What makes it stand out when we’re looking ahead to 2017? Two more buzzwords: personalization and omnichannel.
Personalization will evolve to include data-driven recommendations based on location, device, viewing preferences, demographics and behavior. This theme of personalization will extend even further, as consumers will also want the ability to build their own personalized content packages, instead of choosing from pre-existing bundles that include channels they’d never watch. Customers don’t want to be seen as just another number— they want an experience custom-tailored to their interests and they want to interact with you in their own way.
And that’s where omnichannel comes in. An omnichannel approach entails meeting the customer where they are by catering to each specific consumer’s customer service preference, regardless of channel. The customer on-the-go has expectations and preferences, and whether it’s through a mobile app, retail store front, online chat service, or physical kiosk, it will be critical to provide a multitude of options that tailor the service experience in a way that builds loyalty and reduces friction.
The power of personalization and the increasing role of the omnichannel approach will make the difference between an average customer experience and an exceptional customer experience that builds brand loyalty and retains customers. In 2017, it will be critical for providers to focus on being everywhere their consumers are, using any and every channel to reach them in order to create a hyper-personalized experience.
Lessons for the future
In short, CSPs have a lot on their plates to tackle in 2017. Acronyms, trends and buzzwords aside, I’m looking forward to seeing what this year will hold for the industry and the connected consumer.