More telecom service providers will invest in emerging technologies that enable them to improve operational productivity via automation, and introduce new capabilities for their customers. Virtual assistant applications are emerging, as telcos start to deploy artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).
While the telecom network operators are prioritizing these virtual assistants primarily to improve customer engagements and consequently reduce churn rates, they are also positioning themselves to compete directly with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple Siri and Microsoft Cortana.
Telco Virtual Assistant Market Development
According to the latest worldwide market study by ABI Research, the virtual assistants will enable telecom service providers to save $1.2 billion on customer care management by 2022, resulting in a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17 percent over the next five years.
"The recent introduction of virtual assistants in customer service signifies the level of urgency within telcos to start emphasizing the importance of customer relationships and customer care management, something they have been taking for granted for decades," said Sarju Vasavada, industry analyst at ABI Research.
Case in point, Vodafone released TOBi, after being fined £4.6 million by the UK regulator, Ofcom, for falsely charging more than 10 thousand mobile pay-as-you-go customers for top-up credit. They also had a record-breaking number of customer complaints, before the TOBi vitual assistant was deployed.
These virtual assistants now help mobile telecom service provider customers with a variety of issues -- ranging from basic account inquiries to SIM purchases, service troubleshooting, and device settings.
Several progressive telcos are already leveraging the AI and NLP technology market leaders -- such as IBM Watson, Nuance, LivePerson, and IPsoft -- or they're custom-building these software solutions in-house.
For example, Telefónica is developing their digital chatbot, Aura for 2018, and DT’s Tinka is already averaging 50 thousand customers in Austria every month. According to the ABI assessment, more telecom service providers are keen to introduce virtual assistant capabilities throughout their markets.
As a result, ABI Research now forecasts that AI investments by telecom network operators will reach $14 billion by 2022 -- that's a CAGR of 22.4 percent.
Outlook for Telco AI Technology Deployments
The benefits of early AI investments by leading telcos are beginning to accelerate other deployments, with Orange and SK Telecom both announcing the release of their multi-talented chatbots -- Djingo and Nugu -- respectively in early 2018.
"Telcos are slowly but steadily getting ready for virtual assistant prime-time. We are bullish on telcos making this next-generation service automation leap within the next five years," concludes Vasavada.