Outlook 2014: radical back-office overhaul

Joseph Waring
19 Dec 2013

Telcos today face a myriad of woes. We're all too familiar with this expanding list. In this issue a year ago, we reported that CSPs were waking up to the fact that the world had changed and they needed to up their game. Reality, we said, was finally setting in.

This was supported by our 2012 outlook survey that showed almost of 70% of telcos were planning network upgrades, 77% had IT upgrade initiatives and 50% expected to reduce staff. A year later just a quarter planned to cut staff, less than 40% had IT upgrade plans and 56% expected to upgrade networks.

So while the vast majority recognizes that it's crunch time for technology upgrades, most telcos aren't following through on that with concrete action.

Nick Pilbeam, director of PwC's TMT Center of Excellence, said recently that he deals with companies that haven't touched their back-office systems in 10 to 20 years. "One Hong Kong telco just extended the life of a back-office system built in the ‘70s by another five years."

That approach won't fly for much longer. Technology is drastically changing the way customers engage with operators. Both StarHub and dtac have seen customers' use of self-service channels jump sharply.

StarHub reported that 52% of postpaid customers now use self-help channels compared to 24% in 2011, when 76% used call-center assisted channels. At dtac in Thailand call-center contact now accounts for a quarter of the channel mix, down from 34% in 2012. Retail contacts also fell over the last year, as the percentage of inquires going through retail shops dropped to 18% compared to 25% last year.

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