New technology always brings exciting—and often bold—proclamations and predictions of what’s to come. And 2022 is no different. No doubt the biggest story of the year will be the dominance of new 5G networks. The big three wireless carriers—AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile—announced their plans to deploy midband 5G service from the end of 2021 through the middle of 2022. Meanwhile, J.P. Morgan estimates that 725 million 5G smartphones will be sold this year alone. The race toward the new wireless standard is on; however, the technology that makes 5G possible is only part of the story. With new tech comes new challenges—in deployment, maintenance and user adoption. Solving each will require a new focus on—and new tools for—delivering next-generation CX. Here’s a look at what to expect in the months ahead:
1. Automation will drive 5G adoption…
For all the excitement surrounding 5G, adoption rates in the U.S. lag considerably behind Asian and European markets. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, despite 5G covering 75 percent of the U.S. in 2021, only 8 percent of subscribers have a phone capable of connecting to 5G. “There’s not yet a compelling value proposition for the end user,” Dan Hays, Principal (Partner) with PwC shared in a TechRepublic interview. “What are they going to get with 5G that’s different and better than what they get with their 4G devices? For a lot of people that’s just not clear yet.”
To get that number up, carriers will need to deliver a clear, consistent message on the benefits of—and, in fact, need for—5G service. And they’ll need to do so at scale. To ensure all customers receive the same sales pitch, companies will need the help of conversational automation. Whether through targeted texts and emails, self-service messaging or live agent assistance, expect to see more 5G messaging interwoven into customer interactions automatically. That’s not to say it will be forced or “canned”. With today’s conversational AI, 5G promotion and up-selling will occur more organically, using cues based on customer intent, sentiment and emotion.
2. …and empower enterprise private 5G networks…
Promising faster performance and greater flexibility than wired networks (and even earlier wireless generations), it’s easy to see the allure of private 5G networks—particularly with more enterprise operations occurring remotely. In fact, in a joint study by Economist Impact and NTT, more than half of the organizations surveyed said they plan to deploy private 5G within the next six to 24 months. And automation will play a major part in each deployment. That’s largely due to the technology involved. Utilizing higher frequencies than 4G, 5G requires 5x to 10x more small cells to deliver the same coverage. Automation accelerates the speed to deployment and minimizes maintenance costs. Enterprises that utilize automation and AI most effectively will see the greatest return on their 5G investments.
3. …across all industries.
5G deployments won’t be isolated to just a few tech-centric enterprises. Look for 5G investments across all industries—from manufacturing and supply chain to healthcare and retail. According to a recent ZDNet article, the industries most likely to pilot—or already deploy—5G networks are energy (39%), transport (33%), automotive and manufacturing (both 25%) and healthcare and pharma (18%). The biggest competition for telecom companies in the B2B marketplace will be from the aforementioned private networks. Companies will need to offer a compelling service offering to convince clients to use a private vendor vs. doing it themselves. Digital-first CX can give telecom vendors a competitive edge, offering clients a ready, tried-and-true service solution without the hefty upfront development costs.
4. Cybersecurity will be priority no. 1.
With the rise in high-profile data breaches and ransomware attacks, cybersecurity was already a top investment for telecom companies. If new FCC rules take effect, the stakes could be even higher. If a proposal from the Federal Communication Commission’s chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel passes, telecommunications companies would no longer have a seven-day window to notify the FBI and secret service of possible data security breaches. They would also have to notify the FCC directly—even for inadvertent breaches. With even the possibility of stricter regulations, companies will look to tighten and streamline cybersecurity measures. Conversational AI offers an obvious solution. By “training” artificial intelligence to analyze interactions for FCC compliance, providers can better screen for potential data security weaknesses and oversights. The same technology can also enhance authentication protocols, using voice biometrics to ensure speakers are, indeed, who they claim to be.
5. Telecom CX will differentiate itself—on an emotional level.
Wireless subscribers are notoriously fickle, with research showing a nearly 2 percent monthly churn rate. And while customers may have been more forgiving at the start of the global pandemic—after all, they were grappling with larger concerns—evidence suggests that that that graciousness is quickly evaporating. “During the pandemic, people were more generous and patient with nearly everything as the way of life was drastically different,” said Ian Greenblatt, managing director at J.D. Power. “Now that things are getting back to normal, customer care that was considered exemplary during the pandemic now is seen as simply satisfactory. Wireless carriers need to continue to be agile and innovative to keep satisfaction high.”
Driving that agile, innovative approach will no doubt be this year’s most exciting CX trend: the rise of next-gen emotional intelligence tools. In fact, Gartner lists emotional intelligence applications among its Four Trends for CX Excellence in 2022. And it’s not hard to see why: after two years of pandemic-fueled social distancing and remote interactions, customers are increasingly stressed and starved for empathy. Companies today are taking notice, leveraging emotion AI software to create a more emotionally positive experience. This software “reads” nonverbal cues, like tone and voice quality and subtle facial expressions, for emotional information. If signs of stress or frustration are detected, for example, the technology will then prompt the appropriate response (i.e. escalating self-service to a live agent or prompting a representative to apply more empathy). And that’s just scratching the surface of what emotion AI can do. As subscriber expectations continue to climb—and competition in the marketplace increases—expect more telecom providers to lean into emotion AI as a major CX differentiator.