Up until now, most telcos have saved their best smartphone or service discounts and incentives for new customers. However, GlobalData analyst Emma Mohr-McClune predicts that telcos will start turning that traditional paradigm on its head in 2023 by, instead, offering their best discounts and rewards to existing customers that use digital e-care and sales tools that do not need a human agent support.

This prediction was made as part of research by GlobalData’s technology team, which notes that telecom operators have tried for years to encourage customers to voluntarily adopt digital, self-service tools, apps, and platforms — such as chatbots and e-care apps — as opposed to seeking human support in retail shops and hotlines. However, this strategy has thus far failed to reach the levels of participation that operators are looking to achieve. 

Most operators have yet to hit the 50% digital-to-retail sales mix, and only a few have succeeded in getting over half of their customers to download and regularly use their telco e-care app for all their query needs,” Mohr-McClune said. “This so-so success is largely because the adoption of such tools has been presented as purely voluntary: a ‘smart convenience.’ Yet, consumers continue to think of digital tools as lower grade and unsatisfactory, in comparison to traditional, human-based lines of support.”

GlobalData highlights that the weakening macro-economic environment, combined with rising operational costs, is spurring telcos to go back to the drawing board and come up with new ideas to accelerate the “customer digitalization” effect. 

Promotions for customer digitalization could take many forms, from rewarding eSIM self-onboarding customers to offering discounts to customers that have had no exchanges with a human agent over a specific period of time,” mohr-McClune said. “In addition, one-time fees for such human support may be introduced. As telcos look to raise prices again in 2023, we may even see some make exceptions for customers that have demonstrated a good adoption of digital tools, or even reward such customers with exclusive offers.”