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Three Ways Telcos Can Win in a 5G World

March 3, 2023

Telcos aggressively pushed for 5G, but now, how will those investments pay off? Though some still say it’s best monetized for business use, others argue that there is revenue to be made in business-to-consumer (B2C). But that requires a competitive strategy and won’t be as easy as selling 4G. Though nearly 80% of Americans know about 5G, many still don’t fully understand it, or see its benefits. There’s also a limit to how much they’re willing to pay for the lightning-fast speeds, better connectivity, and low latency that 5G promises. How can telcos gain consumer buy-in and wider adoption? Here are three ways to win in a 5G world by using a strategic CX approach…  

The Merit in Marketing 5G to B2C  

There is merit in marketing 5G directly to home consumers. The interest is there. In a recent survey by PwC, over half of mobile internet users said they were willing to switch carriers for it, and in another Ericsson survey, 67% said they would be willing to pay more for 5G. The challenge is that only a third said they were willing to pay exceedingly more. It’s often an expectation that speeds and bandwidth will only improve over time, so customers are wary of paying more than $15 extra per month for the privilege of 5G, when 4G still meets most of their needs.  

So, how can telcos come out ahead? How can they create a workable business model that will allow them to recoup their investments in 5G infrastructure while also creating future revenue growth? Here are three challenges to wider 5G adoption and three solutions using your customer care teams. 

Challenge #1: Consumers Don’t Understand All the Benefits 

5G technology is making clear headway in B2C markets. 5G phone shipments have more than doubled in the last three years, and a Deloitte report shows that nearly 68% of global consumers own a 5G device. Yet, there are still gaps in knowledge that may be holding some consumers back, especially in the U.S. Almost 80% of Americans have heard of 5G, but this tends to skew heavily towards males and urban vs. rural areas. More than a quarter of U.S adults have still received no information about 5G technology, and don’t understand its uses or benefits. More concerning is that one in seven adults think it won’t be useful at all. For younger consumers, most education comes from social media posts, not from mobile network providers, which is worrisome. Only 22% say their main source of information is through telco advertising.  

How Telcos Can Win

To win, it’s important to control the narrative around 5G technology, and to convince customers of its value. Concerns about privacy and security will need to be addressed. It might also take a reimagining of how 5G is promoted to the consumer market. One way is to use the “pain point” approach, by showing customers that long-held issues with 4G, such as getting decent cellular service in a crowded concert event, or the lag that can sometimes happen when you’re online gaming on your mobile device, can and will be improved with 5G technology. That’s attaching a real-world use case scenario and showing the value of 5G in easily relatable terms, rather than spouting the usual “this is better” rhetoric, without explaining the why. The good news, according to PwC’s report, is that once 5G is better defined, studies show that it will become more appealing to over 90% of consumers, across all ages. 

Challenge #2: Consumers Don’t Understand the Offering 

Almost 70% of Americans aren’t looking to upgrade to 5G. Many feel locked in with their current wireless/broadband carrier, but could be persuaded to switch if, say, home broadband was bundled with something appealing, like streaming services. It all comes down to how 5G offers are presented to current and potential customers. According to the Ericsson report, some customer education is lacking. A third of smartphone users only know of maybe two broadband providers serving their area and may not even know which company offers 5G. Some have even indicated that they would be willing to pay as much as 30% more if the right plan were offered, and they received a better mobile internet experience.  

How Telcos Can Win:  

Higher speeds alone won’t be enough to lure people in. One way of appealing to consumers is through the personalization of customer experiences, made possible by network slicing. Instead of a one-size “bucket” of data, network slicing allows carriers to offer highly differentiated plans using the same physical infrastructure. Speeds would be based on individual needs and habits, and tiered, so instead of a monthly fixed subscription, customers only pay for what they need. Users could upgrade network performance if they wanted to game or stream videos, by paying a few more dollars for a temporary boost. This could also include more expensive “business class” plans, which guarantee premium network conditions all the time. A McKinsey study revealed that 74% of customers wouldn’t be phased by such an approach. They may even see it as a benefit if it allows them greater flexibility and choice.  

Challenge #3: Consumers Don’t See the Future Possibilities of 5G 

To gain buy-in, consumers must be excited about the technology. That’s an arduous task when there’s no perceived need. Half of consumers are currently satisfied with their home internet and feel they’re already paying too much for their current service. While two thirds of respondents in McKinsey’s survey say they want a better understanding of 5G’s capabilities, but do not see any revolutionary applications enabled by the technology. Customers aren’t wowed yet. But they could be, if shown the possibilities. Deloitte’s report shows that 25% of 5G users are already streaming more, and gaming more, thanks to their 5G phones. Yet, they say they would value 5G more if they could also access innovative digital services and apps designed to leverage the service.  

How Telcos Can Win: 

This may be why many 5G network providers are using the promise of cloud gaming and rich media to drive 5G subscriptions. These often come with appealing “add-ons” such as subscriptions to popular third-party streaming services and unlimited data plans. However, now’s the time to get consumers, especially younger consumers, excited about future applications of 5G technology. This could include 5G's enabling of VR (Virtual Reality) and augmented reality (AR) games and virtual shopping experiences, the enhanced connectivity of home robots, and the evolution of smartphones with holographic projection or the next gen of “smart” AR glasses which could be available as early as next year. By driving these early adopters towards a technology that can enable all these wonderful things, this could encourage those who lag behind through the clever use of “FOMO”, or fear of missing out.  

How We Can Help You Win in a 5G World 

Of course, the strategies above will require a level of personalization and sophisticated customer segmentation that will require 24/7 customer support, through voice and digital channels, something with which we can certainly help.  Such a massive customer education campaign will likely require sourcing additional agents, but telcos may also want to consider enhancing existing agent training programs to better acquaint customer service reps with 5G technology, features, benefits, and plans.    

First, we can look at recruitment. By sourcing right-fit agents from the beginning, not only is speed to proficiency improved, but so is employee retention, which helps to control hiring and training costs. This is an efficient way to increase agent numbers, but also to ensure the right brand fit. As an outsourcer with years of experience in the technology and telco sector, we are experts at performing precision recruiting at scale. With the use of highly refined candidate personas and using our network of local recruiters across the nearshore, we can source the right tech-savvy people, with the right skills and abilities, so telcos can scale efficiently and quickly in peak seasons. In fact, we have helped other clients ramp as much as 30% in as little as 60-90 days.  

Ideally, candidates should also have an interest in tech, streaming or gaming, so they can relate more to 5G’s most eager customer base. We can make sure to target job seekers with those interests, and once onboarded, training programs can be refined with clients, so they are highly focused, on-brand, and comprehensive enough to ensure that all agents have the necessary knowledge to answer all 5G-related questions and concerns. itel's Sales Academy also teaches agents subtle selling and upselling techniques that will help agents overcome customer objections, to better sell 5G services. More than that, we make sure to acculturate our agents to your unique brand, so they become an extension of your care team and every agent becomes a raving 5G ambassador for your company. 

Additionally, you may need to add a certain level of automation and self-service capability into your customer journey, if you haven't already, especially if “speed tiered” and per-use pricing are going to be offered. Customers aren’t going to want to call into a contact center every time they need a speed boost. It should be as simple as an app on their smartphones, and itel’s Data Science & Innovation team can help integrate such features into your legacy systems, or build new ones from scratch, if needed.  

Excited by our ideas? Learn how we support Telecommunications and Media clients, then book a free consultation with one of our team! 

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