Telkom: How Telcos have adapted to the pandemic and the role of WDS in supporting the customer journey

An interview with Gavin Eagles, Service Operations Executive, Telkom

Telkom SA serve a large range of business and residential customers, and have all the key components of true convergence, enabling them to offer integrated voice, data, fixed, mobile, IT and data centre solutions. The partnership between Telkom and WDS has been in place for over 10 years.

With the rise of the pandemic last year, Telcos worldwide were impacted by the increase of remote working and had to ensure the infrastructure was in place to support additional capacity – Read our interview with Gavin Eagles to learn how Telkom adapted to the pandemic and how WDS is helping the company to support a Telkom customer’s journey.

What role does WDS play in supporting the journey of a Telkom subscriber?

Historically our knowledge assets were not simple to interrogate, and stored in documents and spreadsheets, inhibiting self-service.  As part of our partner eco-system, WDS plays an important role by enabling us to surface knowledge that is appropriate to customers in the context of the journeys they are in.

Considering our digital aspirations, we have identified contextual knowledge as a foundational aspect of a positive experience in an unattended channel. In order to apply contextual information, we need to easily interrogate and extract the assets that are applicable to a use case and present it appropriately to the audience, whether it’s a customer, or a contact centre agent.

How has Telkom adapted to the pandemic that you know?

The telco industry both in South Africa and globally, have not done too badly in terms of managing the customer demand for data with consumers working from home. On the flip side, new customer acquisitions are obviously more challenging, driven by consumers who are more cost-conscious because of the impact on some of the other verticals.

From an internal lens, our leadership team have been proactive around the security and the safety of our staff, and therefore opted to have everyone work remotely. Essentially, we have pivoted to a hybrid work model where we have both telecommuters and permanent office-based employees – I believe this to have been rather well-managed considering the driver for the change. From risk management perspective, we have minimised the level of exposure of staff to COVID. Additionally, we have found that our staff tend to be more productive because of the ability to integrate home and work life more seamlessly. Typically staff pop out during the day when they would potentially be in the office and deal with a school run to pick up kids and then in the evening they come back online and complete the tasks to compensate for the idle time during the day.

I think it has resulted in personal load balancing exercises for many of our staff. The irony is that we have found a pendulum swing where you could probably question how productive people were working conventional office hours in comparison to working from home to a point where there is probably not enough separation between home and work life. A trigger to introducing initiatives to create awareness of the importance of establishing boundaries.

What kind of trends of using with respect to engagement from subscribers in across digital channels?

It has been a global phenomenon; that is customers flocking towards digital channels, which bode well for our lofty aspirations of migrating customers towards our digital channels. With the initial COVID19-induced lockdown in March of 2020, in South Africa, our contact centre capacity was diminished due to staff being forced to stay home. We had customers gravitating towards the non-voice channels because there was an appreciation that many companies were looking after their staff and therefore customers expected contact centres to be less accessible.

We have always taken a lot of care to make sure that once we get a customer into a channel, it works, and we do not reduce the customer satisfaction or introduce additional customer friction.

The customer expectations however became the pull to establish a high-quality digital alternative. To use some numerical references – from a base of 85% voice and 15% non-voice interactions, with incremental improvements leading up to the pandemic, which triggered an aggressive acceleration of our digitalization roadmap to ensure decent service standards. The resultant impact being a step change from an 80/20 split (the initial incremental improvement) to the current mix of 60/40, on the back of our drive to promote our digitally led strategy as part of our broader segmentation model.

I assume that many organizations may have come to the same conclusion as we have, in that the COVID pandemic, has been the catalyst to drive our digitalization forward.

How do you view the partnership between Telkom and WDS Mobile?

We have a long running partnership, around 10 years. The partnership is best characterized by flexibility, experimentation and iterative deployments. The broad range of offerings WDS has deployed reflects this – encompassing the core knowledge offering, to scaling the API based capabilities and then to WDS being our core partner for device settings.

As an organisation, we have found the WDS leadership teams to be responsive to feedback as well.

How insightful is the data WDS Mobile make available to Telkom across all the solutions that we provide?

We receive device intelligence reports from the WDS platform reflecting the distribution of devices which exist on the network. This serves as an input into the decision making with regards to how we make decisions that impact our customers, from a service perspective.

Notably we also leverage the device information in the WDS platform, by serving it to customers when attempting to self-solve via our website and directly with customer service agents to support troubleshooting efforts.

Although not strictly from the WDS mobile platform, a couple of years ago we had the WDS QA teams come in and do some great analysis on the contact centres, the quality of the insights and actionable recommendations was good. Specifically, the ability to analyse information and present it back in a meaningful way.

What are the advantages of the integrated solutions that WDS provide to Telecom?

The attributes we value in partners are flexibility and agility, and more importantly the ability to leverage it to overcome problems faster. We experienced this in action as WDS worked with our technical teams to overcome challenges during exploratory deployments and solutions. The teams worked to deliver the benefits of cost optimization and business continuity during the transition process.

You have helped us manage our cost more effectively and provided continuity moving from a partner to another partner, WDS. When you link that to achieving business outcomes, you know it can only be good.

 Thank you so much Gavin for your time today.

 Really appreciate it and thank you as well.

If you would like to learn more about our solutions and the value WDS can bring to your business, contact us directly.