Telcos should capitalise on billing skills for content provision

Telecommunications companies are undercapitalising their expertise with billing systems in their negotiations with content providers

Telecommunications companies are undercapitalising their expertise with billing systems in their negotiations with content providers, according to research.

The State of Readiness study looked at how communication service providers (CSPs) and media companies could prosper in the digital age amid rapidly changing consumer behaviour.

Oracle Communications' director of European marketing Gordon Rawling said this second annual review showed both sides were hindered by a lack of insight into customer behaviour, but that telcos' billing systems left them better prepared for a market where the ability to use micropayments would become crucial.

"There is a continuing gap between the desire and the ability to offer customers individually tailored services," Rawling said.

More than 80% of respondents said customising offerings was a major focus. Improving information security was a priority for 80%, with building value-added services around content important for 70%. Nearly seven out of 10 said they wished to provide "a compelling, intuitive user experience" (68%), and 68% planned to deepen their expertise in core areas.

In the next three years, 76% intend to deliver content personalised to each individual, while 70% plan to provide content based on users' behaviour and preferences, the report found.

But there is a big gap between plan and delivery, Rawling said. Just 12% can run detailed analyses of customer behaviour to spot trends and identify customer segments, he said.

"Only 16% are able to provide detailed insight into individual customer behaviour, and only 44% can track marketing and loyalty programmes across all channels for specific customers," he said.

Only 46% could provide recommendations to customers based on the context of their current interaction, as Amazon does, he said.

Rawling said CSPs had a chance to "orchestrate the dance", as customers searched for novel items. Last year's report said the future would be noted for partnerships between CSPs and media companies. This year it found almost 80% of CSPs planned services to support consumers in navigating the vast range of content.

The research also showed growth in content partnerships. More than half of CSPs (54%) had partnerships with mobile apps developers and 84% plan to. Slightly more (58%) had internet portals, with 78% planning to.

Just over half (52%) had partnering deals with media and entertainment companies, with three-quarters planning to. About 40% did content aggregation and 76% planning for this.

Just 38% of CSPs had deals with social media companies but 76% planned to. The ratio of CSP that were going to develop relationships with creative consumers or "pro-am" would rise from 24% to 62%, the report said.

Despite these ambitions, CSPs were being let down by their legacy systems, Rawling said. "At least 40% of telecoms firms are unable to process micropayments, 28% can't cater for subscriptions and 12% are unable to process one-off payments," he said.

A simultaneous survey of 50 media companies showed that telcos were on the whole more agile. Some 86% of telcos could respond to rapid change in business models in weeks, compared to 72% of media companies, it found.

Six in 10 (62%) of telcos could allocate revenue from content sales to partners and different areas of the business within one week, compared to half of media firms.

Two-thirds of CSPs are developing billing systems to collect and allocate payment for value added services, compared to 46% of media firms, the survey said. "Just 20% of telcos are wasting resources by manually integrating information across multiple customer management systems compared to 30% of media firms," Rawling said.

But media firms led in using social media channels to support customer engagement by 64% to just 34% of telcos.

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