CSP Reinvention: Operating in Digital Time

By: Brian McCann

The market for digital services is constantly evolving. Today, consumer standards are at an all-time high. They expect not only advanced technological solutions to address complex problems, but also innovative and personalized experiences to enhance their lives. Yet, there is no shortage of companies vying for consumers’ attention at the exact moment they have a perceived need.

Within the video streaming market alone, the proliferation of choices from Netflix to Hulu and a range of other third-party services that sit on top of Communication Service Providers’ (CSP) networks are priming consumers to expect a highly personalized, seamless experience wherever and whenever they want. Whether this comes in the form of suggesting a movie similar to the one the viewer just watched, or an auto-play function that allows subscribers to automatically move from one TV episode to the next, untraditional players like web scale companies and over-the-top (OTT) providers have entered new territory that once was a market owned by legacy CSPs.

This increased competition from non-traditional players, coupled with the availability of increased intelligence about their customers, is causing the immediate need for service providers to differentiate themselves in a crowded market. As a result, CSPs are shifting the way they interact with customers to operate in “digital time", where each moment is a critical opportunity to deliver an exceptional experience, increase loyalty, and ultimately, create a new way to monetize services. Operating in digital time means being able to act just before the moment, in the moment or immediately after the moment that a customer is at a point of inflection in their interaction with the service provider. This is when the opportunity to win or lose the customer is the greatest—and operators must learn to proactively detect, create, and guide these moments.

A perfect storm

The concept of digital time is a modern one, having entered the lexicon of the communications industry just in the past decade or so, rising proportionally with the proliferation of intelligent data being gathered through various sources. By leveraging advanced data collection and predictive technologies — including mobile device usage data, behavioral data on the kinds of information customers access and location data—CSPs now have a host of new possibilities for creating memorable, more enriched digital experiences for their customers.  

As an example, a digital moment could look like a well-timed pop-up alert from a service provider as the user is watching their favorite TV show from a smartphone, notifying them that their data plan is about to run out. Rather than charging the customer overage fees for exceeding their monthly data plan, which results in a negative customer experience, a CSP could instead use this opportunity to give customers an easy option to add a few extra gigabytes to their plan in real time so that their program will not be interrupted.

If a CSP can strategically engage with a subscriber in the middle of watching an episode, or at the climax of a movie they’re glued to – the exact moment they have a need for more data – the easy transaction not only meets the customer’s needs in that moment, but also allows the service provider to monetize this service, as well as increase customer loyalty and trust.

Part of this involves anticipating customer needs based on data about their interests and behavior. Another part is personalization. And yet another relies on ensuring delivery of the right experience and information in the right moment. These lightbulb moments can come from the competitive landscape and as a result of industry developments, such as when a newer player fulfills a previously unknown market need or introduces a new offering.

While opportune moments can be triggered by customer experience and acted upon reactively, service providers must also be proactive agents in identifying new ways to serve customers and fully capitalize on digital moments. To do this, CSPs must tackle operational and technological roadblocks preventing this shift, using some of the following strategies. 

Ditch the long-term business case

With increased data about customers constantly flooding in from various channels, various competitors in the industry are working to analyze this data as fast as possible and turn it into valuable, actionable insights before the others do. Here, cutting-edge digital service providers must embrace the Silicon Valley adage: move fast and break things. 


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