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December 2017


    This is the first of a three-part Blockchain discussion designed to move the conversation back to the business view… given that any business spend on technology is an investment, we’re going to investigate where and how the blockchain might provide a return on that investment.

    This article builds on last year’s MahindraComviva blog What is Blockchain? to simplify just why the blockchain matters and to contextually separate it from Bitcoin. Part two will move forward to discover the business applicability of blockchains, while part three will illustrate, using a Nigerian blockchain start-up (which generates revenues, stimulates economies and even mitigates / eliminates fraud) just how Blockchain may well be the obvious solution to problems common across Frontier economies… and beyond.

    Does the Blockchain Matter?
    First things first: a definition. The blockchain – which by the way pre-dates bitcoin by a good many years – is a mechanism – or system, or protocol, or set of rules – which enables “trustless transactions”. These are automated transactions that are contractual, guaranteed, secure, legitimate, which do not require human intervention and which, due to just how the blockchain works, prevents nd self-heals both unauthorised transactions or data alterations… it is a single, trusted, consensus version of the truth.

    Let me repeat that: a Single, Trusted, Consensus Version of the Truth accepted by all stakeholders and users of any given distributed system – let alone a system that is distributed organisationally as well as geographically – is one of the ‘holy grails’ of info and data technology.

    … and the blockchain takes things to a different level entirely: with data relationship management in its definition and enhanced security inherent in its design, blockchain can enable cross-sectional views of the interrelationship of data across disparately managed, even cross-organisational database systems, bringing order to and deriving opportunity from the chaos that the sheer masses of big data have introduced.

    Reduced Fraud and Connected Order from Big Data Chaos
    Blockchain-based solutions can mitigate or eliminate fraud from almost any environment, connect all physical and digital interactions related to almost any asset; can support secure data- sharing consortiums of all forms (research, intelligence, defence and beyond). A well designed blockchain will deliver big data dataset value chains and interconnects.

    Such selected, connected, validated and verifiable subsets of data could be applied to impact the precision, reliability and delivery of services across fields as diverse as healthcare; land registration; social benefits; vehicle and driver registration, ownership and insurance; taxes of all forms; complex contracts and negotiations, project and budget control; scientific and other research.

    From my p.o.v. after more than thirty-five years in the ICT industry, I would easily rank blockchain in the top 5 most critical computing inventions / advances of all time… so, I guess, that would be a yes, that I do think that the blockchain matters.

    BlockChain the Mechanism v. BitCoin the Product
    Broad awareness of the blockchain has come to the forefront due to Bitcoin (which uses a public blockchain to secure, map, validate and audit virtual currency transactions). But cryptocurrency is only one type of “scarce asset” (or zero-sum properties) to which a blockchain is ideally suited.

    These are unique items, digital or legal digital representations of physical elements (for example, an electronic property certificate of ownership, or my personal medical records)… something that, by definition, is “proof that I have it, which proves that nobody else has it” or “this source of information is attached to this person/place/thing only”.
    Each transaction related to that property is stored in a block, with each block linked to every other transaction related to that “asset” (past and future)… hence, the term ‘blockchain’.

    A Couple of (simple) Examples
    With real estate as an example, the blocks would range from land surveys, building blueprints and planning approvals through to records of mortgages, tax and insurance – and every contract along the way.

    Looking at Patient Medical History records, how great would it be to know that your personal records (blocks from full health records through to prescriptions, tests, scheduled follow ups, etc.) are secured, stored and updated in one place ensuring that each health care provider has current and complete information?

    Differentiation is Easy; Applicability needs a Little Innovation
    This video from IBM provides a solid, not-too-technical (and surprisingly non-commercial) overview of the two… which goes to prove my point: it is non-commercial because while they want to help you on your blockchain projects they just don’t know what those projects are yet… and for the most part, either do the customers!

    Trust me on this: if they had a ‘product’ it would have been all over that video! ( … and didn’t we all experience the very same things, a few years back when everyone was plunging into big data, and a few years before that when their heads were all in the clouds! And you can take that as a warning: be prepared for an onslaught of blockchain hype over the coming months.
    So, it is quite easy to differentiate Blockchain from Bitcoin: blockchain is a delivery vehicle providing security, accuracy and veracity of data whereas bitcoin is a rather hyperactive cryptocurrency which uses blockchain to securely control, manage, link and validate all transactions.

    Another way to express it is that, without blockchain there would be no bitcoin, but blockchain doesn’t need bitcoin. Blockchain is a very clever approach to data management and sharing which can be modelled to solve a myriad of business and government problems, with or without a token or cryptocurrency element. As we’ve seen with past technology advances, it takes time to realise the capabilities that can help us redefine ‘acceptable’ levels and areas of risks by providing solutions that can redefine such thresholds.

    What isn’t easy is sparking up and encouraging the innovative mindsets who will recognise those problems and create such solutions… and, along the way, I can pretty much guarantee that we’ll see more than a few wrong answers as well, both offered and sold.

    More on all of that in Part 2, coming soon.

    The Blockchain: Why Does it Matter, Part 1
    by Daniel Steeves, Steeves Solutions, Germany and Nigeria… “Why does it Matter?” is a series of articles on those technology-orientated topics about which much has been written but not always so much has been said, at least not from the business points-of-view of: what problem is being solved; what requirement is being delivered to; what value is being added.

    December 18, 2017 0 comment
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    The title was inspired by the 1996 documentary “When We Were Kings” about the heavyweight fight of 1974 between two boxing legends, Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. In the not-so-distant future, it will also be a fitting phrase for many in the banking and insurance industries.

    Readers may ask themselves why I am talking about banking and insurance in such doom-ridden terms. My bleak forecast does not stem from the notion behind the common fintech (financial technology) and insurtech (insurance technology) industry pitch that they will change their respective industries with innovation and better customer experiences. Although I firmly believe that some of the startups will cause significant pain to the incumbents and will indeed change their respective industries. One day, some of the existing and as-yet unlaunched fintech and insurtech companies will also become incumbents that other startups aim to disrupt.

    The real threat to the financial industry will come from a radical approach to penetrate the financial market – an approach that I believe has not yet been addressed or even conceived by the competition. The emphasis is clearly on ‘yet’.

    What is this new concept? It is simply this: offering financial services at or below cost. I have mooted this idea at many think tank events, and I thought I should write it down to share it more broadly. It is and should be a terrifying thought for many, and I strongly believe this approach will be implemented in the near future. It will bring many of the incumbents to their knees unless they prepare for what is to come by investing in technology and adapting radical business models.

    People talk about the limited impact of fintech and insurtech on the incumbent business model. I must agree that at this point many startups have little influence if you look only at the customers they have taken away from incumbents. What the startups are already doing, however, is forcing many incumbents to lower their fees to better match what the smaller players offer to their clients. Moreover, startups have also changed customers’ expectations of the user experience. Startups will also use artificial intelligence and machine learning to compete against the established financial players that have more resources – such as money, data and clients – at hand to compete. Many startups already use machine learning algorithms to build better credit risk models, predict bad loans, detect fraud, anticipate financial market behavior, improve customer relationship management, and provide more customized services to their clients. Arguably, the biggest effect of startups is that they continuously put pressure on incumbent profit margins. Startups will continue to try to change the status quo because they smell blood in the incumbent water.

    The real and biggest threat to incumbents will likely originate from tech giants, such as Amazon, Apple and Facebook, and other big non-tech companies that have large customer and employee bases. These organizations will use their customers and employees to sell banking and insurance solutions, and the big financial institutions will become at best dumb pipes. The technical approaches to doing business within the fintech and insurtech industries may provide some of the tools tech giants and other large companies need to execute this strategy.
    Yes, I know some readers will say that regulators will stop any attempt by non-traditional players to provide many banking and insurance services. However, I do not think regulators can or will stop the new competitors, because these companies will either obtain the necessary licenses to operate or have a bank or insurer provide third-party financial services to them. This strategy is not unlike the way in which some fintech challenger banks use the licenses of an existing bank to operate.

    Why should we expect this scenario of financial industry disruption to happen? In our case, we all seem to agree that the tech giants are the ones to fear because of the big data, platform and technology knowledge they possess. In addition, tech giants have several advantages, such as the trust factor and the constant interaction with satisfied customers. Furthermore, studies have shown that millennials would prefer to bank with tech giants such as Amazon, Facebook or Google than with the existing banking players. And last but not least, are the tech giants and startups that keep setting the bar higher for exceptional customer experience (for instance Apple’s simplicity or Amazon’s instant gratification) and shape the client behavior and expectations, not the incumbents.

    All that speaks to tech giants’ favorable circumstances as serious competitors that are not yet ready to come in at full speed and hit the financial industry broadly, but it does not point to the need to fear an extreme disruption as I projected. I do not believe we will see those tech giants providing whole-spectrum financial services anytime soon, but they have the potential to offer services in certain segments, such as providing payment, lending or insurance options for their customers and employees.
    What is terrifying to imagine is a situation in which tech giants or other big companies provide financial service solutions at or below production costs. No, that is not a typo; I mean providing financial services for nothing – for free.

    If we take this scenario to its extreme – that is, selling banking or insurance services for nothing (yes, for zero pounds, euros, dollars or renminbi) – then we have a situation in which financial institutions in their present forms will die or be reduced to shadows of their current selves.

    That can and will happen, and I will tell you why: large companies could do exactly that – selling at or below cost – to win or keep customers. The new competitors would not need to earn money and could even afford to lose money in offering financial solutions if these features entice customers and new potential clients to use the companies’ core offerings. Remember that Facebook, for instance, earns the biggest portion of their profits through advertising because they have created a great platform through which people love to interact. Financial solutions would be just another great offering (especially if they are offered for free) to entice many people to join the tech giants’ ecosystems. Alternatively, car companies such as GM could provide their employees and customers with very cheap or no-cost (no cost to customers, at cost for the company) banking or insurance solutions. Don’t forget that banking and insurance solutions can be provided at very little cost as white-label services from third parties that already have all the necessary licenses, technology and infrastructure.
    All is not lost for banks and insurers, but it will be very hard for them to compete against savvy tech giants on their technological home turf. The financial industry has to think fast to find ways to compete before their business oxygen runs out.

    One solution that banks and insurers should pursue aggressively is to embrace the fintech and insurtech industries for their innovative business spirit and fast, direct execution approach to new ideas. That means financial institutions should buy what they can or partner with startups to make up for all the shortcomings that legacy brings. Size and regulation will not be enough to protect incumbent financial institutions against new competitors, as we have seen in many other industries.

    Another idea might be for financial institutions to place advertisements on their websites or apps to compensate for loss of profit margins. I do not think this is the only solution, but financial institutions must innovate beyond their core areas of expertise and standard industry practices. Why do you think Amazon, Uber and Airbnb have been so successful at disrupting their industries? It is because they thought and acted as if they had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

    The ‘at or below cost’ approach to financial service solutions is not a far-fetched scenario for tech giants and other companies that are trying to find new ways to attract and keep clients. The banking and insurance industries must at least get very comfortable with the idea that low-cost or free financial services are coming.

    A tsunami is often unnoticed in the open sea, but once it approaches the shore, it causes the sea to rise in a massive, devastating wave. The financial industry needs to determine if the threat by tech giants and non-tech companies is a small wave or a tsunami and prepare accordingly. My recommendation to all financial institutions is this: you’d better prepare for a tsunami even if all you see is a small wave on the horizon.

    December 18, 2017 0 comment
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    More than one-third of the global population has access to mobile applicationslications, comprising a staggering of 4 billion people. The most amazing part though; out of the 4 billion applications users worldwide, 1.441 billion is contributed by the Asia Pacific region (almost 36%).4

    So how much time do people spend on applicationslications? According to the study conducted by Flurry Analytics, consumers spend a whopping 5 hours per day on mobile devices, the majority of which is spent on applications (nearly 90 per cent).

    With four million applications on the Applications and Google Stores combined, only 36 applications are being installed by a regular user; and just 26 are being regularly used. All these numbers suggest that due to the availability of mobile data solutions we are way too much dependent on a select few applications for our day-to-day activities.

    Millennials spend the majority of their time on applications, starting from opening their email and chat applications very first in the morning. The usage continues with putting on music through streaming applications, calling for a ride, and checking the social media updates. Such is the glory of mobile applications now!

    The year 2017 saw some new trends in applications with the rise in on-demand applications, augmented reality/virtual reality applications, mobile payments, iot + wearables applications and so on. Here is what we saw in some of the most promising applications of 2017.

    Facebook no info on updates for any of these is required. Figure out the number of users and how much time was spent on the platform and doing what.

    Facebook has always been ahead of the game when it comes to experimenting with new ideas and providing a better user experience. With updates and expansions in mind and increase in mobile data solutions, Facebook saw the following trends in 2017:

    Astounding 500 million users watch an average of 100 million hours of video every day. The live video trend launched in 2017 prompted many exciting ways to find, create, share, and react to them. Brands were also seen adding a video element to carousel ads for promoting their products along with ‘Facebook Stories’ being creatively employed to connect with their customers.

    Out of 2 billion users, 1.50 billion people on average log onto Facebook daily and are considered daily active users (Statista). Facebook saw mobile optimisation with Facebook Lite, and Messenger Lite meant to tap the mobile segments of emerging economies with slower internet connections.


    With more than 60 million businesses onboard, ‘Messenger Platform 2.0’ was introduced with the aim to enhance customer experience. The ‘discover section’ was added to allow businesses to customise a chatbot according to their requirements and needs.

    Use of advanced marketing analytics using Page interactions, Facebook Workplace, Facebook Marketplace and Multi-Product Dynamic Ads were on the rise in 2017.



    Used by over 1.3 billion people worldwide and 200 million in India alone, WhatsAppis the most widespread messaging applications in the world. The following updates made WhatsApp more popular in 2017:

    WhatsApp most important updates this year, the new ‘Status’ feature was introduced in February, allowing users to change their status by adding multiple photos or a short video which automatically disappears in 24 hours.

    WhatsApp being one of the primary platforms for media sharing, increase in the media sharing limit to 30 was a welcome change by users all over.

    The ‘Revoke’ feature has allowed users to recall or unsend the messages that have been sent to their contacts. The ‘Two-step verification’ feature which rolled out in February allowed users to more securely verify their number while installing the applications on a new device.



    While still dwarfed by Facebook’s social networks, including the core Facebook applications, Messenger, and WhatsApp; Twitter notably has a crucial place among the world’s top social networks with 330 million monthly active users.

    This June, Twitter redesigned its desktop site and mobile applications to make Twitter lighter, faster, and easier to use. These UI and UX innovations were aimed to attract people to Twitter, and prevent existing users from leaving it.

    Twitter has begun to respond to threats and harassment and has introduced series of features aimed to keep people safe, like notification filtering, mute option, reporting transparency, safe search, hiding abusive tweets, and preventing new abuse.


    For millions of creators, YouTube isn’t just a creative outlet; it’s a source of income. With 1.5 billion logged-in monthly users watching tons of mobile video, YouTube has gained popularity due to the following factors:

    • SEO related edge given by Google to YouTube videos
    • A channel to make millions of dollars in revenue from Google AdSense ads displayed on the videos
    • A channel for promoting the products

    In April 2017, YouTube introduced ‘Expanded YouTube Partner Program (YPP) Safeguards’ to protect creators, wherein ads on YPP videos will not be served until the channel reaches 10k lifetime views.

    The way forward

    Augmented reality and virtual reality applications will slowly invade more of our lives including applications in real estate, fashion, and retail to woo customers.

    Progressive applications will make a significant impact in the future. Users could just make use of progressive applications at once, as the bridge between the internet experience and native applications functionality.

    Mobile applicationss have started leveraging IoT and going forward, IoT will allow mobile applicationss to connect with more devices and more customers to enable data collection and contribute to improving the standard of life.

    By using location-based services or geofencing software, users will get an alert about the nearby businesses.

    With an expected increase to USD 98.03 billion in 2021 for enterprise applications market, micro-applications with features like lightweight, targeted, HTML, and ad-hoc-based, will continue to see a push in future.


    In 2017, we saw a lot of interesting stuff happening in the applications arena due to rise in mobile data solutions. There is no doubt that mobile applications will turnaround our dependencies in the coming future, well, that’s the beauty of technology, isn’t it?

    Despite stiff competition in the industry, the applications market will leverage new monetisation methods and useful solutions for users. It will continue to generate higher revenue in the foreseeable future. The applications revolution is just beginning!







    December 6, 2017 0 comment
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    Mobile networks will be virtually ubiquitous by 2020, thanks to the rising use of smartphones. Just to show how much data usage has surged; ‘an average smartphone in North America consumes 2.4 gigabytes each month’. This is equivalent to about 10 hours of streaming video. But by 2020, mobile data usage will rise to 14 GB a month, which will be nearly six-fold, according to Ericsson Mobility Report.

    This ever-growing consumption of mobile data is profoundly contributed by the sheer amount of time people spend on their smartphones, and IoT applications like WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and much more.

    What Lies Ahead for Data?

    Exponential Growth in Mobile Data Traffic by Region:

    The immense growth in mobile technology and data usage, driven by a surge in mobile connectivity and smartphone uptake, is seen all over North America, Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East. However, Asia Pacific will have the most significant share of mobile data traffic, and in 2022 the total mobile traffic in the region is expected to exceed 30 exabytes (see figure 1)

    1In the coming years, smartphones will make up 80 per cent of all global mobile data, as 6.1 billion subscriptions as expected by 2020. This explosion will, in turn, see immense multiplication in mobile data usage worldwide.

    Growth in Mobile Data Consumption by Region:

    North America will lead the chart with 26 GB of estimated data consumption per consumer per month, followed by Western Europe at 22 GB, as per the Ericsson Mobility Report. The Asia Pacific region will depict close to 10 GB of data consumed per subscriber per month (See Figure 2).

    Factors that will drive usage consist of an increase in the number of LTE subscriptions, better device capabilities, attractive data plans, and an increase in data-intensive content.



    Rising Data Consumption by Device and Applications


    Going forwards, traffic generated by smartphones will profoundly dominate other devices. Between the 2016 and 2022, the smartphone traffic is expected to increase by nine times, so by the end of the forecast period, more than 90 percent of mobile data traffic will be attributed to smartphones (See Figure 3).

    According to Business Standard, 90 per cent of the global population will have smartphones by 2020, and this implies that earlier ways of computing on a desktop or laptop, are going to be replaced by mobile computing.

    Mobile video data will be the fastest-growing segment of mobile data traffic as it will increase 870 per cent from 2016 to 2021, reaching 38 exabytes per month, and encouraged by the broad adoption of live video, AR, and VR. It will also account for 78 per cent of total mobile data traffic.

    Cisco projects that the top 10 per cent of users will account for 55 per cent of all the traffic; whereas the top 20 per cent of users will account for a whopping 70 per cent of the data traffic.

    Implications for Telecom Operators

    Smartphone subscriptions will reach 6.1 billion in 2020, and almost 80 per cent of these new subscriptions will come from Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa.

    As more people subscribe, network operators must adopt 4G and 5G to be more efficient in the use of the limited radio spectrum. As businesses move to digitalisation and adopt IoT solutions, there will be an increased need for faster and more reliable network connections. Thus, network operators will need to improve services to tap this potential growth.

    IoT and digitalisation of business are where most revenue potential will stay. Hence networks must evolve to be able to provide reliable, high-speed internet over a more extensive coverage, and mobile operators must diversify their offerings to a value-derived model. Network controls will be essential to increase the required sophistication and create new opportunities around mobile data services.

    With the integration of the IoT into our lives, there will be 21 billion connected devices by 2020, according to Gartner. To sustain these numbers, telecom operators will face the pressure to make available platforms supporting this incredibly high levels of connectivity.

    The deployment of 5G will facilitate the development of IoT, such that 5G will not just be an upgrade, but a complete revolution of mobile data solutions. Many sectors and companies are investing in 5G to support their smartphones. The involvement of other industries puts telecom companies under pressure, and hence telecom companies will need to invest heavily in producing a network with the promised capabilities of 5G.

    Business Opportunities for Telecom Operators

    Operators need to leverage data/video traffic optimisation. Operators need to move their offering from a single quality-of-service (QoS) experience to all users, to differentiated services. Such services will allow customers to enjoy a better quality of service. As data consumption grows, more customers will be interested in improved network performance and an enhanced user experience. Operators can differentiate according to subscriber behaviour and usage pattern based on need, time of day, location, and the requirements of a specific application type.

    Operators will need to invest in building scalable and cost-efficient infrastructure that enables subscriber and application-centric QoS provisioning.

    Data optimisation will reduce network load by 5-25 percent and operating costs by up to 50 percent (Ericsson). Up-sell opportunities will bring incremental revenues through value-added services such as:

    • Personalized experience based on user profiling
    • Advertisement insertion
    • Secure browsing
    • Parental control

    Advertising and providing user data to third parties for mobile data solutions can help in monetisation of revenue.


    The proliferation of smartphone, expansion of network infrastructure, and broad adoption of mobile video will continue to drive up mobile data consumption. Both VR and AR will be poised to be the next set of the most prominent trends in mobile data solutions.

    The current 4G LTE networks are used to fulfil the demands of numerous existing and new use cases, but, as networks evolve and 5G is implemented, there will be even more opportunities to enhance the current and new use cases.

    The explosion of mobile applications and impressive adoption of mobile connectivity will help in optimized bandwidth management and network monetisation for the operators through mobile data solutions.

    With data management solutions, operators can efficiently manage the significant rise in network traffic, and mobile data, ultimately enhancing end-to-end customer management.

    December 6, 2017 0 comment
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    With 38% of the enterprises currently using ‘Artificial Intelligence Technologies’ and the number expected to grow to 62% by the year 2018 (Narrative Science), AI is seen as the most strategic customer experience trend of the year 2017. The same report suggests that 95% of the businesses who are using big data to solve business problems also use AI now, showing an enormous 61% growth in just two years (compared to 59% in 2015).

    Gartner research has reported that AI inquiries have tripled between 2015 and 2016 and that 85% of customer interaction will be digital by 2020. The worldwide AI revenue is expected to grow from $643.7 million in 2016 to $36.8 billion by 2025, and this portrays that there will be a strong connection between an organisation’s artificial intelligence maturity and its revenue figures.

    As AI is now widely integrated into the telecom sector, operators are constantly focusing on maintaining a balance between what they want for their customer experiences with what the consumer insights are.

    Customer Centric Multi-Channel Engagement

    Although telecom operators own a massive amount of data, the full potential of this data is not analysed. If properly utilised, AI can understand each customer with the view of delivering a personalised digital service aligned with the process, experience and purchase options.


    Figure 1: Benefits of AI Powered Solutions

    Image Source: Scoop.it

    A study by ‘Econsultancy’, pointed out that 60% of the companies use at least eight ‘touch-points’ when communicating with their customers. This includes e-mail, website, social media, retail outlets, offline advertising, online advertising, offline direct marketing and telephone/sales.

    Nowadays, customers want assured multi-channel engagement with brands. Consistently great experience across various channels in real-time is the need of the hour as such ‘Multi-Channel Engagements’ can benefit the operators through:

    • Analysing the data to generate consumer insights, predictions and recommendations
    • Real-time adaptation based on dynamic customer data such as click-stream, IoT data, social activity and so on
    • Using consumer insights to identify patterns and complete the repetitive tasks

    Role of Artificial Intelligence in enhancing Customer Experience

    1) Allowing customers to express themselves

    Telecom operators have leveraged AI to reduce the response time and personalise the customer experience. It has allowed the operators to reduce the time to answer customer enquiries in real-time.

    AI is used to give the customers an initial quick answer, to make them feel they are listened to and thus more patient before the second answer arrives. As AI can analyse behaviours, it offers a more personalised response the second time around.

    Some telecom companies are offering AI systems that can control home environments, manage schedule and make music recommendations.

    2) Improving networks and processes

    Operators have employed AI to improve networks to adjust services based on customer needs, environment conditions and business goals. This enables the AI-based system to learn from experience, configuring networks to meet demand, and therefore improving network use and maintenance, and reducing costs.

    Some telecom companies have even contributed funding and anonymised data to help establish new AI research centres.

    3) Chatbots

    Chatbots have put the telecom operators in a much better position to get valuable consumer insights. AI is redefining the service centre experience for the customers through bots having the ability to validate and understand unstructured data in the form of conversational-style speech. Speech bots are used as an intermediary channel for the AI back-end, as AI improves the accuracy and spontaneity of the response by the bot.

    Telecom companies have introduced their chatbots to help customers online. Such bots can handle a range of customer service-type questions, including troubleshooting, order tracking, and usage. These bots have sped up the responses to simple customer queries and have thus delivered the speed that customers want.

    4) Voice recognition techniques

    Voice recognition techniques are on the rise, and AI is the most sought-after technology adopted for this. AI has enhanced the customer experience by recognising speech patterns with greater precision, enabling operators to get more significant consumer insights.

    Challenges faced by AI

    1) Deployment of AI is a costly affair

    Although superior customer experience management is a critical growth driver for operators, deploying and managing the AI-enabled technology to serve the customers is a costly and a complex affair.

    The Solution:

    Operators must build the customer experience strategy based on the cloud. Cloud deployment will enable on demand application of the strategy virtually anywhere in the world. The best part is low CapEx and maximum scalability without compromising the consistent, seamless service across all the markets.

    2) Perception of customers towards AI

    The primary challenge faced by operators is that customers think that they understand AI, but in fact, they don’t. According to the study carried out by one of the customer engagement software:

    • Consumer insights state that 50% of them don’t understand the role of AI in problem-solving
    • 37% of the customers don’t understand that AI can interpret speech
    • 35% of the customers don’t understand that AI can mimic humans

    As a majority of them are fearful of AI, only 27% customers think that AI can deliver the same or even better customer service than humans.

    The Solution:

    Telecom operators must make the customers more literate about their AI experience and what is it trying to do. Their primary goal must be focused towards telling the customer what to expect, but more importantly to tell them what not to expect.

    3) The need for transparency

    As AI techniques advance, it becomes difficult to understand their algorithms and working patterns. Sometimes even the engineers cannot explain why the algorithm made a specific decision. Customers are still in a dilemma to trust such algorithms having the full control in decision-making.

    The Solution:

    There is a need to put constant efforts to make artificial intelligence more transparent and understandable. The reasons for the decisions made by an AI system must be explained to the customers to build their trust.

    The future of AI in enhancing customer experience

    Advanced predictive networks

    AI is bound to play a critical role in more advanced network evolution. Predictive and prescriptive networks will be the focus of AI for performance tuning and network management. Having AI enabled smarter networks will benefit things they’re connected to and make them more predictable.

    AI enabled 5G platform

    As AI has the potential to predict and analyse issues faster, it will allow a potentially transformative 5G platform and make it a more open network to enable connectivity to predictivity. As a result, 5G will be exceedingly predictable and adaptable.

    Chatbot advancement

    Chatbots will become increasingly sophisticated and would support new channels. Their sophistication will allow the customers to maintain conversations across many different platforms most naturally and conversationally.

    Seamless switching

    The future of enhancing the customer experience through AI will allow the telecom operators to use AI for seamless switching between a chatbot and a human during the same interaction. As artificial intelligence continues to become smarter, customers will not notice any difference in the service that is delivered by the operators.

    Some points to remember:

    • Operators must strive to create a seamless experience across all channels by designing the experience for the entire customer journey, not just one step of it
    • To achieve successful multi-channel customer engagement, AI-based solutions should ensure rapid responses with helpful answers
    • These solutions must keep uniform and consistent branding across all channels
    December 5, 2017 0 comment
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    Crafting out a marvellous customer experience management strategy can play a very vital role in affecting the bottom line numbers of an organisation. Today, more and more firms realise the true potential of engaging customer experience to gain competitive advantage. The only problem is the insufficient knowledge of firms to create such experience.

    But the truth is, there is no escape to customer experience management, especially for telecom operators, when the ARPU is falling, and profits are diminishing. Let’s support this with some stats:

    • In the U.S., $1.6 trillion is the estimated cost of customers switching due to poor service- Accenture
    • Apparently, 95 per cent of the customers share their bad experiences with others- Zendesk (Figure 1)
    • 45 per cent of the bad experience is shared on social media- Zendesk (Figure 1)
    • By 2018, more than 50 per cent of organisations will implement significant business model changes to improve customer experience- Gartner (See Figure 2)


    Customer Experience Management in Telecom

    Telecom industry is sitting on the goldmine that requires proper digging. Hence a rigid CXM program will be the game changer for the telecom operators in the years to come. But the strategy that will lay out the winning rules of the game is important. Big Data Analytics is that strategy, a phenomenon that the world is trying to find ways to exploit, and gaining grounds in every telecom business.


    Figure 2: Organizations Response to: “Did your organization’s customer experience improvement initiatives during 2014 involve any significant change of business model?” leading to the conclusion about the SPA

    Source: Survey Analysis:
    The State of Customer Experience Innovation, 2015, Gartner

    The telecom industry is bombarded with conventional data for years now, from simple calls, billing details, Call Detail Records (CDR), Event Detail Reports (EDR), etc. In the last few years due to smartphone proliferation, technology convergence, intelligent networks, and mobile applications, there is a demanding need to convert these data-rich repositories into actionable insights that can provide the much-needed competitive advantage.

    Can Customer Data Enable a Better CX Strategy?

    However, to gain actionable insights, telecom operators need to know what to do with the extensive data and to leverage it to the fullest. This is where big data analytics steps in.

    Access to data is not the challenge, however, harnessing the right data is. When operators get their hands on the right and meaningful data, it can help them to:

    • Transform business operations to achieve excellence
    • Deliver better services to generate new revenue streams
    • Develop better networks for consistent and high-quality service
    • Personalize the offering of services and increase ARPU
    • Improve customer loyalty
    • And not the least fraud management

    Using Big Data, telecom providers can get more profound and real-time insights into:

    • Customer behavior
    • Customer service usage patterns
    • Customer preferences and interests

    Using Big Data Analytics in Telecom

    In telecom, there are multiple sources of structured and unstructured data. Some examples of structured data for Telco’s include call details, billing details, e- records, records of the location, and more. On the other hand, unstructured data consists of call management data, blogs, textual data, website content, data from audio/video, performance data, errors, social media, etc.

    With proper big data analytics, there is a lot that can be achieved from such data. One of the vital benefits is fraud detection in telecom. Millions in revenue loss can be saved if voice and data frauds are observed and detected faster, thus preventing further misuse.

    With real-time (or predictive) analysis of data from network sources, telcos can track traffic in real- time and manage the network to avoid congestions in peak periods. A proactive incident management system can be put into effect by identifying and resolving incidents before they occur.

    Another key benefit is strategically identifying and running personalised campaigns through the real-time contextual information of customers. For instance, operators can launch social-based marketing campaigns, based on the insights drawn from customer’s social behaviour and telecom activity.

    An example would be, a customer using 3 GB data pack every month. Suppose his data usage extends, leading to additional billing for a particular month. For operators, this is the potential customer for upgrading to a 4 GB data pack with a higher tariff. Big data analytics can help identify such customers and send a subsequent promotional message. What’s the positive effect of this? A happy customer and some extra pennies for the operator!

    Data analytics also gives insights into value-added services that customers want, such as eHealth, mobile payments, astrology, and vehicle telematics. These services supported by data analytics will open additional revenue streams for telecom operators.

    A segmentation outcome of big data analytics is the ‘Customer Migration Segmentation’. Such a segmentation allows operators to distinguish clearly between those customer segments that are increasing in value and those that are headed downwards. Big data has now allowed the operators to identify the low-churn segment that is at risk of migrating downward in value.

    Big Data vs. CX – Near Future

    In today’s world, customer satisfaction is not the key. Instead, personalization (read customer delight) is the key to success in any industry. Operators need to turn to optimise their processes with predictive analytics of user data (even real time analytics is insufficient).

    Converting the data into actionable real-time information is an arduous task to tackle. However, if the service providers want to have a user-defined architecture for better customer experience management, this will be a compulsion in the years to come.

    The challenges of taming big data to achieve actionable insights lie in the ability to collect and analyses the data. Operators now need to move beyond the hype of “cost-intensive parameter of big data” and deploy it successfully to reap the potential benefits to build, run and market their services.

    More personalised service offerings of data analytics not only reduce the churn but also increase the revenue. In the future, big data implementation will become a fundamental pillar of network planning, and hence operators must start planning in that direction, from now!

    December 5, 2017 0 comment
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