AI and automation priorities in customer care since the pandemic

This January 2022, STL Partners has updated its 2020 report A3 for telcos: Mapping the financial value, published in May 2020, which estimated the financial value of A3 (analytics, artificial intelligence and automation) through bottom up analysis of potential capex/opex savings or revenue uplift from integrating A3 into 150+ processes across a telco’s core areas such as:

  1. Networks and operations – BSS, OSS and networks;
  2. Customer channels – contact centre and digital channels, retail;
  3. Sales and marketing – up-sell, stimulation, CX and retention.

In terms of contact centre and digital channels…

A3 is used to tackle four types of problem:

  1. It improves the understanding of both customer and agent needs. For example, ML (machine learning) is used in segmentation and to trigger activities to allow next-best-offers (eg. a discount on insurance if the customer has just purchased a new handset from an agent). It also includes the use of sentiment and text analysis to monitoring agent quality.
  2. Understanding customer experience through the use of analytics and ML to collect and understand the large volumes of telco data.
  3. Understanding customer problems – both those immediately occurring and those expected to happen in future – through analytics and ML to understand the root cause, predict what might happen in future and prescribe either the best reactive or proactive action to be taken.
  4. All types of automation requirements

Our graphic summarises how the pandemic has affected key A3 priorities for telcos since 2020

Source: STL Partners

  • Case management includes use of RPA (Robotic process automation) and some ML to assign tickets and manage the process. A little more financial value has been assigned to the automation of the agent desktop as more case studies have emerged. However, in general A3 uses in this area are simple automation or analytics so account for a small proportion of savings.
  • Issue resolution is a related area and includes use of A3 to personalise offers or best-next-actions. These use cases are typically built around case management, workflow management and knowledge management and include a variety of personalisation capabilities – such as best next offer or action, problem diagnostics, proactive engagement and contextual routing.
  • Contact centre infrastructure has had a small uplift in its financial value due to new uses cases around call recording. Although, most of the value continues to come from the addition of A3 into IVR containment, where the financial benefit has been well understood over the last couple of years.
  • CX management: in recent research we highlighted that customer journey management will become more important as product sets increase in complexity with 5G.
    • Anecdotally, customer journey management tools haven’t always provided the expected utility for telcos, being difficult to use and lacking robust data feeds. However, vendors in this space are beginning to demonstrate new case studies.
    • A3 is increasingly used within the tools to improve data management, provide sentiment and text analysis to improve customer understanding and voice of the customer. They are also leveraging ML to improve customer journey management.

* The update to this research shows a market just beginning to mature and the financial model created in 2020 is holding up well. The underlying values from revenue uplift or capex/opex decreases have shifted up and down, but without radical change. The value is measured on an annual basis in dollar terms and as a proportion of total revenue for an “average telecoms operator”.