5G with all its features and promises is here and lots will change with it. But what will it mean for an operator’s customer support?
Looking at use cases at the moment, there’s much buzz around higher speeds with no delays for home modems and smartphones. With 5G becoming a strong alternative to fixed internet at home we’ll likely see an even stronger integration between mobile and fixed support. Low latencies make 5G interesting for gaming and could help push cloud gaming platforms.
This will lead to more data consumption. Like a lot more. Google recommends 35Mbps for 4k gaming on its Stadia platform meaning if you play 2h a day you’ll burn through almost 1TB of data in a month. If you as an operator are not offering flat rates, support can expect some angry data plan calls. If you’re delivering 5G on high-band millimeter wave, you might also expect a rise in complaints from customers losing signal due to anything from rain to a thumb covering the phone’s antenna.
But besides that, the consumer side of 5G in the short term might not be so different from what we have now. The big changes will likely instead happen on the enterprise side. The hype around 5G is not only how it will be faster and better, but how it will change entire industries.
Right now, manufacturing is one prioritized area. Having connected sensors and robotics will increase efficiency and assure an automated factory floor running like a clock. The automotive industry with its self-driving cars and healthcare with its new sensors, video doctor appointments and even remote surgeries are other sectors much talked about. But 5G will likely come in handy for pretty much any industry. Just imagine a camera crew showing up at a sports event without a single cable while production is done live remotely over 5G.
So back to the original question here: what will 5G mean for customer support? With a big shift towards the enterprise segment use cases will be quite diverse, even if you as an operator choose to focus on only a few verticals. Many services will be business critical or even mission critical. This will put high demands on your technical support, both in terms of providing technical assistance and when it comes to availability. 24/7 assistance may be expected. Listed here are three things to keep an extra eye on for an evolved customer support.
Scaling up your support means finding new, more efficient ways to engage with your customers. With 5G, a lot of the operations is being automated and this should happen also in customer support. This means allowing customers to see their own service performance and give the opportunity for them to troubleshoot themselves at any time. With network slicing, customers will be able to activate their own services when they need to (like the camera crew mentioned before) and here it will again be key for them to monitor performance and manage their service. Moving some of the work over to the customers will obviously make your own work more efficient, but it will also be a better experience for the customer and a way for them to engage faster and more easily with their services.
Would this automation make agents obsolete? Not really. Automating a lot of the work shouldn’t mean taking away the option to engage with a person. Studies show that we as humans prefer solving things ourselves, but when things get tricky, we do want someone (and that someone not being a bot) to help us out. The questions that do reach an agent will hence be mostly the trickier ones. This puts a lot of pressure on the agents who, besides the need to be very skilled, have to have the right tools and data available to be on top of things. This means data from operations need to be made available for support, so they can accurately diagnose and help without the need for time-consuming escalations. At the same time, data from customer support can get more integrated with operations. By automatically gathering and mapping all customer support interactions, both from automated channels and agents, operations can see clearly where and when customers have concerns, even if it may not have triggered a network alarm yet.
Finally, how can an operator further help enterprise customers excel in their businesses? Besides the infrastructure, all the data available will be extremely useful since, as we all know, data is the new oil. This means not only providing data on the actual service performance and SLAs, but bringing analytics to help customers with their business. This could be by showing the whole production flow on a factory floor in order to keep optimizing the process. Or gather data from the trucking industry to optimize for safety, time and energy consumption. These types of analytics have been used for mobile services for as long as smartphones have been around, but it has mainly not been operators, but companies like Google and Facebook providing them. With 5G and the introduction of more sophisticated enterprise services this could change. Operators can be able to share unique data and insights both with groups in their own organizations, and directly with their customers.
In short, with 5G heavy on enterprises, new skills as well as demands will be put on customer support. But if done well, the predictions of how 5G will revolutionize many industries does indeed seem promising.