Knowledge Institute Podcasts
IKI Special Edition Podcast: Sentient Telecom Operations
Infosys' Anand Santhanam- Digital Solutions Strategist, Anurag Sinha- Head of Telecom, Americas and Olu Adegoke- Consulting Partner discuss digital transformation and the monetization of data in the telecom industry during this IKI Special Edition podcast.
Hosted by Jeff Kavanaugh, VP and Head of the Infosys Knowledge Institute.
“Technology is enabling us to really bring some new capabilities, which allow us to make these operations much more sentient, much more responsive and that can really be a game changing thing as we are moving forward.”
- Anurag Sinha
What is going on now in the telecom industry?
Why is this transformation occurring and what are some of the main challenges they're facing?
Who are the targets or what's the segment most affected by this discussion or revolution?
How is this different than before? Hasn't it been transforming for some time?
Anand talks about the disruption from digital natives (Google, Facebook). It is a cause of concern for the Telcos, and for telecom customers
What is the distinctive or contrarian view that Infosys has against this challenge?
Every other business or industry uses telecommunications as a platform, what's the impact for all those non-telecom listeners we have or for people that are dealing with them?
What Anurag is seeing with talent? How does this affect the employees and also the companies trying to attract, develop and retain these folks?
Olu on how to make sure that the human element is maintained
What are some of these assets that you can do more with than you could before?
Anand talks about how the customer service center is applicable to other functions in the company.
What are the three things that listeners can take away and actually take into their business and bring this to life?
Jeff Kavanaugh: Welcome to this episode at The Knowledge Institute, where we talk with experts on business trends, deconstruct main ideas, and share their insights. This is a special edition of the show, where we highlight the communications industry and the rise of Sentient Operations in telecom.
Jeff Kavanaugh: The telecom industry is broadly going through the dual challenges of preserving core business while navigating their way into adjacent opportunities to create new revenue streams. As a result, they're looking for ways to digitize core, while reducing costs and improving, maintaining customer experience. This is the hope to reduce attrition and preserve cashflow, critical for investment and new opportunities.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Conventional wisdom is that operations should digitize the core only for cost optimization while maintaining the experience. However, Infosys has taken a very different view that telcos can and should pivot from customer interactions to focus on business value.
Jeff Kavanaugh: And to discuss this contrarian view in more depth, we are joined today by Anurag Sinha, Anand Santhanam , Olu Adegoke: leaders at Infosys in their telecommunications business. Jumping right in, Anurag, we'll start with you. What is going on now, that's top of mind in the telecom industry?
Anurag Sinha: In one word, it's transformation. Every client in my industry that I meet is in some shape or form, embarked on the journey of digital transformation. Some are in early stages, some are in advanced. I clearly see transformation [inaudible 00:01:24] across the entire enterprise. Whether it is product and network engineering, sales or marketing, operations, ID or broader corporate groups. These transformations are indeed, have a very real sense of urgency and purpose and are being led by the top leaders in the company.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Why is this transformation occurring and what are some of the main challenges they're facing? And I think this probably is a good question for you Anand.
Anand Santhanam: Most of them are having the challenge of monetizing better the assets that they have, modernize the core legacy that they have and also face the disruption that is coming from the competition. These rigorous creating an imperative for them to start transforming, adopt technology as a way to do it and adopt other levers that are available in the industry to move towards the transformation.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Who are the targets or what's the segment most affected by this discussion or revolution?
Anurag Sinha: Jeff, these are all CXOs across the telecom corporation. We have been partnering with the CIO, CTOs, the CNOs as well as the chief experience officer, the chief marketing officers. But the real focus of this conversation is around what the operational leaders in the company do. So these will be the chief operations officer or the leaders who really run the core operations in the telecom company, whether it is for the consumer business or their B2B business.
Jeff Kavanaugh: That sounds good, but back to you Anurag. How is this different than before? Hasn't it been transforming for some time? Why is now different?
Anurag Sinha: So operations in today's paradigm is really at the intersection of digitizing what they call as a core business and does this tradition is to drive the cost optimization, while improving the experience that gets delivered to the customers. Why it is different today is because technology is enabling us to really bring some new capabilities, which allow us to make these operations much more sentient, much more responsive and that can really be a game changing thing as we are moving forward.
Jeff Kavanaugh: All right, well Mr. Digital, Anand, before we get to the solution [crosstalk 00:03:52] what has been on my mind when I think about telecom and changes, all these telecommunications companies have invested so much [crosstalk 00:04:00] but the Googles and the Facebooks, I've gotten all the value. How is what you're saying or the situation affecting that?
Anand Santhanam: Excellent question, Jeff. And this disruption from digital natives, as they are called is a cause of concern for the, for the Telcos, for our telecom customers. Each of them are in a different journey of how they tackle it. Some of them are embracing additional services beyond core connectivity in the form of media type of services or gaming type of services. That is one approach. Some of them are focusing a lot more on providing the best network at the fastest speed at the lowest latency and monetizing that and a few others are looking at broad enterprise services at a scale, at a price point, which the digital natives cannot offer.
Anand Santhanam: Because what telecom does sits on is, is the best network and the assets, the fiber assets and the radio assets that they have.
Jeff Kavanaugh: You know, it reminds me of Warren Buffett's metaphor, the of the economic moat, you know, are all these assets and anchor dragging them to the bottom of the ocean?
Anand Santhanam: Right.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Or are they a moat that protects them?
Anurag Sinha: And there is more to come because of it. The 5G revolution that is on, a lot more assets need to be invested in. That is a huge capital expenditure that a few telecom providers are going through to implement 5G across US and, of course, the other countries.
Jeff Kavanaugh: All right, that sets the problem up nicely. Olu, what is the distinctive or contrarian view in Infosys has against this challenge?
Olu Adegoke: The distinctive view that we have in Infosys is that the role of operation should be viewed fundamentally very differently. So what I found within the telecoms industry is how persons typically be seen as the people that manage the intellectuals with the customer and trying to do that are the most efficient level. I'm trying to redo the cost of building directions while I spent time trying to help to execute some of these sales and campaigns and promotions. However, what we believe is because of the amount of interactions and data that is coming from the customer interactions, operations can actually influence the overall product design. They can also help do we influence how marketing positions, the offers, how sales positions, the interactions with customers. So that operations is not just picking the role of executing the strategy, but they are also now becoming a very critical part of shipping this strategy you just because of the intellectual [inaudible 00:07:01] with the customers. So that is the view that we have Infosys.
Jeff Kavanaugh: So it's value first and not simply cost reduction or tech for tech's sake.
Olu Adegoke: Correct.
Jeff Kavanaugh: You're looking at telecom and yet if every other business or industry uses telecommunications as a platform, what's the impact for all those non telecom listeners we have or people that are dealing with them?
Anurag Santhanam:Very good question. What we see happen is with the cost focus that Olu spoke about, and the pressure that operations have, and they measure themselves on average handling time of the contacts with the customers, call them with how to reduce that cost per contact, how to reduce that. What this does is the incentive on the contact center, which is a frontline team talking to the customers. Their attempt is to complete the conversations as quickly as possible to reduce the cost of service. What this does to the businesses which sit on top are their experience of us because what customers would like and the frontline, the contact center is the last resort for them.
Anurag Santhanam: They would honestly like to self serve themselves. They would like automation, they would like things to work. The reason they called a contact center or customer service center is to get help and when the customer centers focus is reducing the cost of operations. Then there is a conflict of interest here. That is the impact it has on other industries.
Jeff Kavanaugh: You know, one of the things we haven't talked about, I know you focused a lot on talent and people and the human side of all this tech craziness out there and digital transformation, Anurag, what are you seeing with talent? You know, how does this affect the, the employees and also the companies trying to attract, develop and retain these folks.
Anurag Sinha: So in the conventional way of operating, there is always greater pressure on the talent and many times the talent gets demotivated and they look for ordinate career options after serving, maybe few months or few years at best, in the industry. So, in the new approach that Infosys is promoting, where we are focusing more on value as opposed to efficiency, there's a real opportunity for the talent to learn new skills, learn new ways of working and most importantly learn new ways of helping the corporation monetize the value of the contact with the customer. This can really create a game changing approach for the talent where they can get incentivized for making a real difference to the top line and bottom line for the company.
Jeff Kavanaugh: You know, it's interesting, when we began this discussion, the word "sentient operations" was there, it makes you feel like the rise of the machine, Terminator. Olu, I'll put the question to you. Since you mentioned business value before, how do we, how do you make sure that the human element is maintained in maybe these machines and the sentient nature is an amplification not in eradication of all the people involved?
Olu Adegoke: Yeah, that's a great question Jeff. So from our perspective, we believe that in this new world amplifying the employee capability by leveraging technology is very critical. And that needs to be approached from two perspectives. One is, how do you enable the employee or the talent to become much more productive? And then also, how do you now create a, sort of like, a learning culture within the organizations so that the employees are truly motivated, to be able to learn to the point that Anurag was making earlier on. So that they would be inspired to be able to deliver overall value to the company. The only way you'd be able to do that is to ensure that you can now create that culture of learning within the employees. Once you have both of those in place, then it's just a matter of making sure that the leadership, they are aligned to these broad objectives and these broad goals and then getting those employees to be motivated to do that.
Olu Adegoke: So I'll give an example. Right now, in the US, especially in the telecom industry, because of the very low unemployment rate, actually a lot of contact centers and having challenges to be able to retain many of the agents, partly because a lot of them are having to work very long hours. I heard recently that one of the major contacts and guys in the industry, excuse me, was operating at roughly like 99% and I said, [inaudible 00:11:52] they are losing employees. So that means as they bring on new people, they have to go through a training, which is very expensive and very cost prohibitive.
Olu Adegoke: If you take the approach that we are talking about, which is leveraging combination of automation and [inaudible 00:12:08] digital tools to be able to amplify those employees. And then the cost of retention would actually come down, and the cost of retraining will actually come down because you are actually relying less on human capability on their own, but you are now relying more on the fact that you have a system, which enables the employee to be able to come up to speed very quickly. We call that speed to competency, so the combination of those digital capability as well as having the culture of the [inaudible 00:12:41], we allow them to be able to achieve by these subjective what [inaudible 00:12:46], realizing value from the interactions with customers, much more faster.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Great. Thanks, Olu. Once again, you're listening to a special edition of the Knowledge Institute where we talk with experts, in this case, the communication industry on topics of interest in relevance. We're here with Anurag, Anand and Olu from Infosys on the topic of sentient telecom operations. What are some of these assets that you can do more with than you could before?
Anand Santhanam: When we looked at telecom operations and particularly customer services, the team inside operations who deal with customers, whether it's a contact center or a group who looks at email or a group who looks at chat and talks to customers. The single biggest asset that operations teams of our customers have are these contacts. There are customers who record 40 million contacts a year in the consumer space, 10-15 million contacts in the B2B space. I was reading from the American Statistic Institute that there are 90 million hours of contacts with customers that are recorded all over US and contact centers.
Anand Santhanam: And we started looking at this as actually a rich asset because we are hearing in this, the wises of customer regarding our brand, regarding our product, regarding our service.
Anand Santhanam: But today most of the customer feedback is sought outside of this with surveys, with questionnaires, which have the lowest response rate, 5-15% response rate on surveys. So we started looking at this asset that all our Telco customers already have, which is the wise of customer coming through the contact center, the email channel, chat bot channel, IVR channe. And we said can we monetize this asset, in that can we find information regarding how customers perceive our brand, our products, our services and what issues they have, what recommendations they have and from this, can we predict how customers react to us and what our real satisfaction score is? That's the asset we are figuring out how to monetize.
Jeff Kavanaugh: You know you talk a lot about the contact center, the customer service center. I think people be interested also in how is this a applicable to other functions in the company?
Anand Santhanam: Every touch point that a customer has with a company, in this case our telecom customers, when we enrich all of this, when we connect all of these together, I think there is tremendous value here. The biggest of that we are addressing is the customer service or contact center, simply because there are that many contacts that are happening, but customers also interact with the marketing campaigns. Customers interact with the brand in retail stores. Most of our Telcos already monetized that. They already have enough surveys, which all these for customer satisfaction. So yes, every touch point could be combined and when you combine them together there is even more knowledge. But this gap that we have seen, which we are focusing on the contact center or customer services center is a gap that we realize has not yet been monetized for value from the interactions. That's our focus, Jeff.
Jeff Kavanaugh: What are the three things that listeners can take away and actually take into their business and bring this to life?
Olu Adegoke: Yeah, that's a good question, Jeff. Three things. So one is, how do you begin to realize the potential value in all of those informations or data that you are capturing within the contact centers. So that was one. Then the second one is, how do you begin to share the insights from this information with all the groups or functional teams within your organization. Whether that is marketing, whether that is sales, whether that is product design, or product management or product strategy. So that is the second thing. And the third one is, how do you establish, sort of like, a closed loop mechanism, whereby you share the insights that you are getting from the operation standpoint with these other groups. Then in turn, use those insights to kind of execute [inaudible 00:00:17:19] in terms of refining their campaigns. [inaudible 00:17:23] in terms of refining sales promotions or tactics and then eventually they would typically come back to operations for execution.
Olu Adegoke: And then, how do you now close the loop when they come to you with those specific tactics or specific promotions or offers. Close the loop with the insights that you already got from the beginning. So that's, you're not doing three things right? So you are leveraging the information of any insights that you are capturing out outside of operations. Secondly, you are able to now engage with other groups and they [inaudible 00:17:55] close the loop. By doing that, what you're not going to do is you are increasing the value of the interactions with your customers, based on what we are learning from them. Teach a touch point and then also secondly, to actually extract more value from [inaudible 00:18:12] direction as well. And by doing that, you are now able to increase the value per contact, which is the main keyword that were advocating in this podcast.
Jeff Kavanaugh: I think that's going to wrap it up for today's show. Thank you Anurag, thank you Anand and Olu. Everyone, you'll be able to find details about the content on our show notes and transcripts. We'll transcript the discussion at Infosys.com/IKI and our podcast section and there, we'll also have other links that you can, you can use to get more information. Gentlemen, thank you for your time and a highly interesting discussion and everyone you've listened to The Knowledge Institute, where we talk with experts on business trends, deconstruct main ideas and share their insights. This has been a special edition focusing on Sentient Telecom Operations. Thanks to our producer, Katherine Burdette, and the entire knowledge Institute team. And until next time, keep learning and keep sharing.
About Anurag Sinha
Anurag is the Communications Media and Entertainment Industry Head at Infosys. He helps clients increase profits by leveraging innovative technology solutions. After working with telecom and media companies across the globe, Anurag returned to the US in 2015 — bringing a unique insight into this digital transformation.
Having lived all over the world exploring new places, experiencing new cultures, and trying different cuisines, Anurag understands that cognitive diversity is essential to innovation. That’s why he heads the diversity and inclusion council at Infosys — to provide executive leadership support, influence, and visibility to our efforts to create a more diverse workforce.
About Anand Santhanam
Anand Santhanam is the Head of Sales and Strategy and is leading the sales and business development initiatives for Infosys in the Americas for the CME industry. He has 23 years experience in Infosys, with a Telecommunications industry specialization. In his role he defines the market positioning, client engagement and go-to-market strategies apart from consulting to a leading set of Cable and Telcos.
Prior to this role, he was based in Singapore and headed the market development initiatives for Infosys in the SE Asian Market across Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines and HK. He was the founding member of International Association of Outsourcing Professionals (IAOP) Singapore chapter.
About Olu Adegoke
Olu is a partner and co-founder of the communications, media and entertainment practice within SOURCE, and currently co-leads its North America offerings. Over the past 20 years, he has advised senior industry executives in the communications, media, entertainment and high-tech industries on new business launch and digital transformations, focusing on launching digital products, digitization of customer interactions and enabling organizational agility. He has worked with clients in the U.S. and Europe, spanning from Fortune 100 and Global 2000 companies to start-ups. Olu has helped his clients to successfully design and launch new businesses, including a mobile payments company, two wireless service providers and two competitive local exchange companies.