In an exclusive interview with Voice&Data, Suman Reddy Eadunuri, Managing Director, Pegasystems India, talks about AI-powered customer engagement solutions, process automation, and challenges faced by telcos. Edited excerpts:
Voice&Data: Could the adequate use of AI and RPA in customer service & back-end operations have prepared incumbents for the Jio wave?
Suman Reddy Eadunuri: The telecom industry has begun its journey into the digital age, although it comes with legacy systems and traditional approaches to customer service and operational processes. The approach industry players need to take is to drive digital into and from the core of the organization, in such a way that true digital transformation happens universally throughout the system, not through a disconnected approach like pasting an AI chatbot on the website or installing an RPA process into the administrative function. Adopting this mantra will help in the transformation of key functions like customer service or backend processes, as they would be better placed to be market disruptors, and tackle any new entrants competing on price or digital nimbleness.
Voice&Data: How can telecom players integrate their entire front-end channels with their vast back-office operations?
Suman Reddy Eadunuri: Industry players are facing challenges on the customer and operations front: poor service based on legacy approaches, and cumbersome manual processes across the organization. To overcome these challenges, telecom players should take a unified approach with a platform that allows automation across silos and channels and offers data-driven intelligence to drive customized sales offers. Moreover, the platform has to be visual-driven, not code-heavy, and powered by technologies like artificial intelligence and robotic process automation that can derive insights from the sales process, and recommend improvements. Telecom players can benefit from the platform model, as many currently handle multiple customer requests and are grappling with process structures that have long turnaround times.
Voice&Data: In the present situation, can players drive sales numbers & improve customer loyalty at the same time by using AI-powered customer engagement solutions?
Suman Reddy Eadunuri: AI offers insights by quickly scanning through mass amounts of data and using rule-based models to come up with insights and recommendations that could be in the form of creating appealing bundle plans to persuade prospects or upsell content packages. Customer engagement solutions that combine legacy processes with cutting-edge applications can use the benefits of both to improve sales performance, create better sales strategies, and increase the stickiness factor of brands. For example, a leading global telecom giant uses our AI capabilities powered by the Pega Customer Decision Hub. It has resulted in a 50% improvement in Net Promoter Scores, and an 800% increase in customer upgrade rates.
Voice&Data: An EY Survey of telco executives shows ‘process automation’ is the prime factor for operational excellence. How can real-time AI & analytics help automation learn and improve in sales or operations?
Suman Reddy Eadunuri: We live in changing times with shifting customer preferences, rising expectations of moving to digital, rapidly developing competitor strategies, and ever-evolving regulations. Process automation that can take the shape of robotic automation or desktop automation can expedite tasks, and when combined with AI, can contextualise and adapt the automation to suit evolving requirements. Be it in sales, customer service, or operations, the same methodology needs to be applied so that tech update cycles do not fall behind customer and market evolution cycles.
Voice&Data: How is adoption of AI helping global telcos?
Suman Reddy Eadunuri: Telecom companies or Communication Service Providers (CSPs) today are undergoing a massive transformation process facing greater expectations and competitive markets. Today, digital native providers and consumer’s technology habits are pushing them to take action or become obsolete. AI is helping drive not just insights, which can lead to actions, but real-time recommendations across the organization, powering actionable insights to sales representatives or handling queries like a learn-on-the-go chatbot on social channels. The benefits are significant including revenue growth, dips in churn rates, and increase in Net Promoter Scores.
Voice&Data: What are the key challenges that the company is facing in the telecom market?
Suman Reddy Eadunuri: We live in an age where the lines are blurring between industries, especially between the telecom and media sectors. Every day brings new challenges and customers today are not just happy with good brand relations but expect proactiveness and ongoing engagement. What we are noticing in the market today are organizations that have started on their digital journey, but are only part of the way there, are noticing nominal improvements in business performance and satisfaction scores. Our experience of serving six of the top 10 CSPs in the world tell us that telecom companies in India can unlock far greater growth and potential from their existing processes and customer-facing actions by revamping the organization from their core.
Voice&Data: What role you think that the government of India should play to boost the adoption of digital technology and transformation?
Suman Reddy Eadunuri: The umbrella programs of Digital India and Startup India, Stand-up India, along with the 4 layers of India Stack i.e the consent, cashless, paperless and presence-less elements are impressive moves towards pushing the digital needle in India. They have created a platform for multiple use-cases to be enabled digitally. However, while the government’s focus on citizens has been to promote B2C aspects like digital payments or cashless transactions, the corporate side is looking for further incentives to fast track their digital adoption.
Voice&Data: How are the demands of telecom customers changing today? What are the new offerings likely to come from you?
Suman Reddy Eadunuri: For customers, value for them just isn’t in terms of the best price points but rather when they experience great engagement across their journeys with a particular brand. When it comes to brand interactions, customers expect the level of digital maturity they are used to from someone like a major retail brand. Unfortunately, they end up dissatisfied when irrelevant offers are sent to them, or if the customer service agent is unable to resolve queries because of inefficient processes.
We just announced Pega Infinity, our digital transformation suite that offers a portfolio of capabilities including Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Digital Process Automation (DPA). Pega’s continued innovation will be geared toward solving customers evolving business needs by empowering them with industry-leading artificial intelligence-driven customer engagement capabilities.
Voice&Data: What are your plans for your India centre in 2018 and beyond?
Suman Reddy Eadunuri: Our centre has just completed ten years as the primary development centre for the global organization, with more than 75% of solutions being developed from here. We are proud of the competencies developed by our product and engineering teams here, helping us rapidly move from augmentation to ownership to leadership in R&D capabilities. On the business and market side of things, we have established a strong sales presence to help engage with large telecom companies in their digital transformation journey, helping them adopt seamless, end-to-end customer engagement solutions. We are seeing interest in enterprise solutions like ours, as we only sell to the largest organizations in the world looking to transform their businesses with the power of technology. We are proud to have already bagged a coveted project with the Government of Andhra Pradesh, essentially providing the entire technology to the e-Pragati platform, one of the world’s largest digital transformation projects in the public sector. Today, the platform of our technological capabilities is helping us target large organizations in the financial services, banking, telecom, and government sectors.
Gyanendra Mohan Rashali