|Issue:||Europe I 2012|
|Topic:||Convergence as a differentiator|
|Title:||President and CEO|
Didier Bellens has been President and CEO of Belgacom since 2003. Before joining Belgacom, MrBellens held various positions at the Brussels Lambert Group, and served as CEO of the RTL Group.
Customers want to benefit from the multiple trends towards convergence – in media, telecoms, and entertainment, and in behaviours, devices, networks and content. Satisfying these customer needs should be the primary concern of telecom operators. By constantly increasing the level of service while simultaneously making things simpler telecom operators can differentiate themselves from the competition.
Convergence is becoming a more concrete reality and an important aspect of differentiation for operators such as Belgacom. Convergence is continually being driven between networks and devices. Increasingly, convergence becomes much more than offering packs to consumers. It has diversified into new possibilities of offering them access to any content, on any device, anywhere.
Concretely, this means that customers can use a tablet on a fixed connection indoors and continue on a mobile network outside, or can watch TV on a laptop. They have this ease of access because they have a broadband line and WiFi into their house, and 3G coverage outside. This wide possibility of choices is made possible thanks to fixed and mobile networks, via adapted bundles. And all bundles have the same fundamental aim: to make sure that every segment of our customer base has the best possible access, and the right support to take advantage of it. To match customers’ expectations, the right service is offered to them, thanks to search and recommendation engines which are expert at predicting what customers want to find.
Growth potential in the telecommunications sector is huge. One rich field is in broadband penetration: today it stands at around 70 per cent of Belgian houses, and our ambition is to raise it to 80 90 per cent. Convergence is not just delivering broadband to more customers. It is about developing new services that compel customers. The greatest potential for the future comes from the new realm of personalized solutions. As the frontiers fade away between networks, applications and content, innovative solutions can be developed that are customized to meet the needs of each customer. Telecommunication companies do not sell technologies. They sell solutions and applications. They are delivered through networks and platforms. This must be done while maintaining costs under control.
New applications, new challenges, new fascinating opportunities
For years now, customers have taken for granted the separation of their phones from wires. Increasingly they want their other devices such as tablets and computers to be independent of wires, too. And now customers want devices that allow them, wherever they are, to make calls, send messages, access data and emails, look at photos and films, or play games and listen to music. Driven in part by technology, and in part by customer expectation, a real revolution is underway, and is accelerating. It is continuing to transform the world of telecommunications in ways unimagined – and unimaginable – less than a decade ago.
People now want total connectivity. They want their houses, their cars, their streets, their towns to be connected. They no longer accept barriers – between places, devices or services. And they expect operators to provide products that are ever more rapid, more effective, more creative, and at the same time, more simple to use. The widening miracle of convergence has not only brought together voice, data and entertainment on a single device. It also opens up the prospect of customers enjoying seamless access across what used to be separate channels. The ever-closer links between phones, computers, and television permit customers to focus on the content, the applications, and the facilities that they want in a multi-play environment.
An ever smarter consumer
Customer needs are changing fast. Customers are better informed, they want more, and they want it simpler. They use more devices than before, and they want to be connected any time. The result is that they need not only quality products, but also flexibility and high-quality support and services. The customer wants simplicity of use in ever-more complex and integrated products and services. So offers must be designed for the customer to enjoy intuitively. And because the market is so competitive, with a wide variety of advantageous multi-play packs, successful offers must provide good value for money.
The customer also wants to benefit from the multiple trends towards convergence – in media, telecoms, and entertainment, and in behaviours, devices, networks and content. The customer doesn’t see it as convergence. What is of interest to the customer is the freedom to secure the services he or she wants, from any device, within the most adapted network. So convergence means much more than bundles – it is a genuine integrated service of ‘any content on any device’ – a true Any3 revolution: anywhere, anything, anytime.
Cloud, M2M and enterprise mobility
Convergence between fixed and mobile and between telecom and IT is key for the future. Cloud computing started to make an impact in 2010 and will soon become a significant factor in market development. Now the world is on the brink of seizing significant new opportunities in cloud computingand in machine-to-machine business. It offers freedom, flexibility, safety and choice, and for a level of interconnectivity that will soon see more machines connected to one another than people. All those changes will lead to new connections, new collaborative models based on unique combinations of assets. It is an exciting time to be a provider in this rapidly-evolving world. It is also demanding. A successful operator must be able to meet expectations amidst this complex multiplication of content and applications. A leading operator must be able to meet expectations faster and better than its rivals – and must be able to stay ahead of expectations, too. The potential is limited only by our creativity.
Customers’ needs are evolving and expanding fast and new development areas – such as cloud services and Machine to Machine (M2M) – will offer new possibilities and provide high value. Technology will cut the costs of devices and of handling data and software for companies. The services that we deliver ease the burden that companies currently have to carry in paying for hardware and software, and in carrying out maintenance and security operations. We allow them to concentrate on their core operations that generate revenues for them.
The fast consumer adoption of smartphones, tablets and its applications, is now also driving enterprise mobility decisions.Endusers are increasingly selecting consumer technologies for use in their professional lives (aka the ‘consumerization of business’) and enterprise IT decision makers are under heavy pressure to adapt faster to these mobile technologies. Employees want to bring their ‘own’ smart devices into the company IT infrastructure, which come with new challenges in the domains of mobile device management and security. Business decision makers, with an objective to come to fast productivity and efficiency gains, see great potential in mobilizing business processes for sales force, field service engineers and logistics staff. Due to the complex fragmented landscape of mobile platforms (Android, Apple iOS, Blackberry, Windows Phone7/8) and the need for fast time to market, they will look for end-to-end managed mobile service providers who can help them with cost predictable ‘pay-as-you-use’ cloud connected mobile solutions. New ecosystems and alliances between telcos and independent software vendors will arise here.
Focusing on the customers builds the basis of trust to open the future. The basis of customers’ trust is built by satisfying their needs, simplifying their lives and communicating in a transparent way. Not only for the future, but already today. Customer centricity should be priority, and everything the company does must take the consumers into account. Customers want new applications, faster speeds, and new content and new products. They want things to be easy to use and they want their contacts with us to be efficient. This is why the level of service has to be constantly increased and, at the same time, things have to be made simpler. That is how companies in the telecommunications industry can differentiate themselves from the competition. By making improvements in services, and by making ambitious commitments, companies can do great efforts to win the confidence of their clients.
In the telecommunications sector there is tough competition. New operators are entering consumer and business markets, and there is still the longstanding battle with cable operators. As a leading company, you must be able to reinvent the company, listen to customers and change the way you work: in the service provided, the content offered, the innovations introduced, and the partnerships built. Telcos need to make the transition from a telephone company to a service-providing company.
The combination of customer centricity, corporate responsibility and innovation is taking convergence to its next stage: a telecom company that adapts to each customer in a more open and flexible way, by responding to each customer’s wishes and needs. Customers are at the center of a telecom company’sbusiness, customer satisfaction is the top priority.