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Straight Talk Service Provider

Ovum view

Mobile World Congress always paints an exciting vista of the future. In 2019, the promise of 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things triggered many discussions about new enterprise services.

Communications service providers are not certain about exactly which 5G services will drive enterprise revenues. But how CSPs will sell them seems a done deal, particularly at the lower end of the B2B market.

The triple-A combo of automation, analytics, and AI will inoculate CSPs from client ills. Streamlined, automated processes will reduce purchasing to a few clicks, while analytics will suggest what to serve as AI anticipates issues like client dissatisfaction and potential churn.

Stay grounded

It's a seductive vision, but CSPs need to stay grounded: they must recognize how far they must change, and not ignore the persistent value of human conversation to close a sale.

Today, barely a third of technology buyers in micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises prefer to interact with a CSP through a digital channel, according to Ovum's latest end-user research.

This is not because these B2B customers dislike buying or interacting online. It's because digital interactions with CSPs are so poor.

Almost half of telcos' public B2B websites are functionally ineffective, according to an Ovum benchmark of 130 communication service providers across 75 countries. They are failing to create leads, let alone turn leads into cash.

Humans still matter

While two-thirds of CSPs operate some form of chatbot, to call them intelligent is a stretch for now. But that's not the real issue: CSPs are thinking about such tools more in terms of job substitution, instead of using them to empower their human workforce.

SME technology buyers fear that buying online can prevent them from obtaining the guidance and validation that dealing with a live person can offer. In practice, human and digital channels are equally valued, whether the buyer is young or old. The solution is to offer seamless choice – and this is where CSPs have considerable work to do.

It's time to recognize the important role of CSPs' inside sales teams. As 5G enables new service creation, these employees will have growing importance. Buying higher-value B2B services requires a conversation – for inspiration, education, and validation – even if the buyer journey started online. This won't happen unless inside sales has the appropriate tools and the right intelligence about who they're talking to. A 5G future is emerging for enterprise services, but don't forget who will be getting their hands dirty to nurture it.

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