Future of Telephony
How will the upcoming copper switch off change the telephony landscape in the UK?
Like the pandemic, the switch off is going to change the telecom landscape significantly. It will be another catalyst to introduce some fantastic new services that are only available in the cloud, and it will generate another shift of momentum.
The switch off will force businesses to adopt cloud-first strategies and drive new thinking within traditional businesses who relied on copper. The result will be exciting new services and business productivity tools that will enhance the customer experience.
The copper switch off also represents a considerable growth opportunity for the channel. It presents a way for the channel to go out to their customer base with new and innovative solutions.
We shouldn’t fear it. We have been using cloud and IP-first applications like Microsoft Teams and Zoom for several years as well as services like WhatsApp, with its 2 billion users worldwide. The switch off will accelerate the introduction and adoption of similar internet-based telephony and comms services but with a more business-focused perspective.
What other drivers will impact on the telephony market in the next few years?
All providers of services, including ourselves as a software developer, need to rethink and reimagine our product portfolios in line with these changes and think about how to differentiate in a market that is changing so rapidly.
It is useful to look at what some digital native companies are doing such as the Uber and Netflix, which are leading the way and forcing traditional markets to rethink their portfolios.
Everything requires a digital first approach, looking at the available technology and how it can be used in your value proposition. The key is to understand how the workforce is changing and how to deliver services that are relevant to both the workforce and changing customer needs.
Software-as-a-service will remain at the hearts of all strategies over the next few years as well as ensuring services are delivered over-the-top in an easy and seamless way, such as SD-WAN and its software-first approach to networks.
What new capabilities are emerging?
The emergence of analytics and AI will continue to gather significant pace over the coming years. It has real practical applications that will deliver strong service levels and improve productivity.
For example, many call recording services for compliance involve human intervention. AI can accelerate the ability to deliver stronger compliance since AI can understand what is being said, identify the compliance risk and take preventative action by stopping the recording.
We will also see more bot technologies augmenting customer service alongside human interactions.
These types of emerging technologies will start to rocket. We’ve talked about them for a long time because they take time to deliver real business outcomes. Currently, it is the larger organisations that are willing to invest in professional services to deliver these technologies in their specific businesses. Once we are able to democratise these services and offer them to smaller businesses, there will be a massive opportunity.
The market drivers have also changed. There is a shift in mindset driven by digital natives entering our workforce who are dictating how they wish to communicate. We need to stay mindful that our services are relevant to these 20- and 30-year-olds.
We also need to be aware of and understand changing customer behaviours and how they affect business decisions. We need to deliver services seamlessly, leveraging the technology to empower our customers and deliver a strong customer experience. This is true of everyone within the channel, right down to the end users. To do this well, it requires careful planning about how to measure and manage the customer experience, with data and insight at the heart of these processes.
How are the needs of end customers changing?
Customer engagement tools have evolved to deliver a multitude of enhancements in terms of business productivity.
Our digital native workforce will be the benchmark for customer experience across all industries and the service provider community will have to shift to capitalise on these behavioural changes. This requires a rethink of their customer service approach to deliver a strong customer success strategy.
There is lots we can do. The key is understanding your customers, identifying how they want to procure services, and how they wish to interact. Analytics underpin this process, and having the means to understand trends, as well as the detail, is becoming the rule rather than the exception. Only when this is determined can we consider how we can provide the right tools of engagement to meet their requirements.
This is achieved by providing multiple tools of engagement and then measuring the success of each new technology. This will enable us to evaluate the services available and then pick and choose the right technology to deliver a successful customer experience for our specific customer demographic.
How could resellers and MSPs evolve their offerings to keep pace with this change?
The channel needs to continue to think about how it can build a strong value proposition around the switch off and look at how they can make the proposition even stronger. Services will need to evolve based on a deep understanding of their customers and market verticals.
Some services will transition easily away from the physical infrastructure whilst others will be more challenging. This is where the channel can approach their customer base to see how they can help. Things like elevator phones, alarm systems and other emergency services that are currently driven by analogue and legacy platforms will require the channel to facilitate these services via IP.
We are currently seeing resellers and MSPs evolve and enhance their offerings though acquisition. These organisations are looking at their portfolio of services to see what is missing in this changing market environment.
With the future in mind, providers are also looking to strip out traditional costs, aligning their workforce and repurposing resources so that they stay relevant and keep pace with these rapid changes.