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Is low-code software the rocket fuel telcos need to accelerate their digital transformation?

(Image credit: Image Credit: Wright Studio / Shutterstock)

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, telcos were attempting to improve their customer service as a competitive differentiator. Although their customer service levels were improving, they were nowhere near robust enough to cope when the Covid pandemic hit.

As a result of coronavirus there has been a huge spike in customers trying to get in touch with their telco either looking to change their payment plan, freeze a contract or complain about a disrupted or poor service. Yet their customer service is overwhelmed to deal with enquiries across their traditional communication channels. Furthermore, employee effectiveness and customer satisfaction has decreased as organisations and employees adjust to working from home. The result: dissatisfied customers and shrinking NPS scores. Now, vulnerable customers urgently need help from their comms providers, and fast. This puts telcos under enormous pressure to respond but they do not necessarily have the resources to do so.

For telcos, this is particularly problematic because every month a significant percentage of customers come to the end of their contract, meaning the potential for churn is high, particularly given the current climate.

What is more, this problem isn’t going away. Social distancing is set to continue indefinitely, therefore digital servicing will become increasingly important as customers demand remote service for digital selling, billing inquiries, schedule payments, and right-sized service plans that meet people’s new lifestyle. Compounded by the contracting economy, customers will continue to be under financial strain for the foreseeable future, therefore the need for them to amend their service plans or billing will be of utmost importance.

All of this is putting telcos under huge pressure to fast-track their digital transformation plans. To help alleviate the strain, these organisations must seek solace in low-code software, which is sure to become a vital tool during this transition.

What is low-code?

Forrester defines low code as “products and/or cloud services for application development that employ visual, declarative techniques instead of programming.” And Gartner characterises it as platforms that provide “rapid application development (RAD) features for development, deployment and execution – in the cloud.”

In summary, these tools make application development simple. With drag-and-drop functionality, intuitive process flow capabilities and visual guidance anyone, regardless of technical ability, can build applications. This empowers certain employees, often called ‘citizen developers’, who aren’t necessarily part of the IT team, to take ownership, streamline common development tasks, increase productivity, and ultimately, take some of the burden of the overwhelmed IT and development teams.

How can telcos apply the technology?

For telcos, this means that with low-code they can rapidly create a platform that empowers the business to "self-serve" and create solutions with minimal IT support. When software is built with code, only people who understand code can build software. But with low code, business users can create or update executable applications without any coding. Business users can configure rules and models in an intuitive way, with the low-code software then automatically generates the application code. With IT teams having other issues to deal with, such as trying to secure the newly remote workforce, the fact that other members of staff can assist with application development helps to relieve that extra burden.

What’s more, telcos need the agility to adapt to this new environment at pace. Low-code helps eliminate organisational and IT silos so users can keep up with rapidly changing market

conditions and build at the speed of business. As a result, these organisations can move fast and easily make the necessary changes to their legacy systems which have traditionally held them back from digitally transforming.

In the Covid-19 age, new and previously unseen customer issues have having to be dealt with, but low-code has a vital role to play here. Because almost no coding is required to change applications used by customer facing staff, citizen developers can simply and intuitively transition from a concept to a complete application in a very short amount of time. This means users can build applications that resolve any unique problems that have arisen out of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as take advantage of any new opportunities that present themselves in the future.

Vodafone UK was one organisation already taking this approach before Covid-19 even hit. By leveraging no-code software and an Agile approach, the company empowered their citizen developers, working collaboratively with IT resources, to create a guided assurance program for their broadband customer service group called Casper. Casper provides a structured process for service reps to follow so they can focus on the customer and provide the best resolution. By harnessing this technology, Vodafone UK was able to bridge the expertise gap of business and IT and make it possible to rapidly adapt to the business’ changing needs. Telcos who take such an approach will be in a strong position to deal with any unknowns that customers come to them with in situations like the current pandemic.

In terms of coping with the sudden influx of customer queries, low-code also allows telcos to scale efficiently, iteratively, and seamlessly across web, mobile, email, and chat channels. With telcos continuing to struggle with high levels of customer calls, low code means they can easily expand their services to accommodate their customers’ needs. For example, some telcos have dealt with the crisis by launching a web-based application so they can respond to customer inquiries and requests in just days. This will have resulted in more satisfied customers because they could track the response online and rest assured that their problem was being dealt with.

Collaboration to digitally transform

Low-code capabilities also enable non-technical members of the business and IT to be more collaborative. It allows those with a greater business understanding of what makes for both a successful customer journey and a positive customer experience, in spite of people’s Covid-19 related concerns, to play a more active role in the development and improvement of existing systems, resulting in happier customers. With the worry of increased customer churn as a result of Covid-19, the need to treat customers with the empathy that they need has never been more important.

By bringing citizen developers into the IT or development teams’ meetings, the entire business can align and commit to one goal: developing the functionality that customers struggling to cope in the current crisis need most.

Accelerating digital transformation

If telcos can embrace low-code development platforms, they will be at a significant advantage to outmanoeuvre the competition with the agility to rapidly change how they serve customers in their preferred channels – whether it is mobile apps or self-service portals. In turn, they will empower their employees with the right tools to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively – even if they continue to be forced to work remotely.

Even when the crisis dies down, the pandemic has highlighted the need for all businesses to be flexible and to accelerate their digital transformation plans. Finalising these plans may seem far off but delivering normalcy for customers is achievable for telcos if they can harness the power of low-code software, which will be that rocket fuel that helps get them there.

Kevin Billings, Director and Communications Industry Principal, Pegasystems