Swedish Startup Is Helping Telia Automate Device Care for Customers

Iain Morris
9/8/2017
50%
50%

Sweden's Telia is rolling out a new software application that predicts when a smartphone is about to malfunction and advises the customer to take remedial action.

Developed by a Swedish software startup called eBuilder, in which Telia has taken an undisclosed stake, the technology uses machine learning to identify problems at an early stage. Based on analysis of customer data and preferences, it can also make tailored recommendations to customers about device upgrades.

Telia reckons the technology has the potential to improve customer loyalty and lower operating expenses by reducing the number of calls made to its customer service centers, each of which costs between €5 ($6) and €10 ($12), says Gustav Berghog, the product and commercial director of Telia's Swedish business.

It could even lead to new revenue opportunities for Telia in a highly fragmented device repair market potentially worth about 2 billion Swedish kronor ($250 million) a year, says Berghog.

In a related move, Telia has already bought a device-repair specialist called LanMaster focused on Apple devices and is partnering with another company that services Android devices.

Under its own branding, Telia has been offering the eBuilder app to customers only since the beginning of this year and has so far seen about 100,000 app downloads.

Although that represents only a tiny fraction of its overall customer base -- with Telia serving more than 6 million mobile customers in Sweden in 2016 -- there are already some positive indicators, says Berghog.

While Telia's net promoter score (NPS) averages 1, for example, it is up at 29 among users who have downloaded the app, on a scale where 100 means outstanding and -100 is appalling.

According to data that Telia and eBuilder have released today, app user "engagement," measured as the percentage of push notifications to which customers respond, is about three times the industry average at a "click through rate" of 67%.

What is also striking is that customers of other Swedish operators are thought to account for about 10,000 of the app downloads so far. Berghog sees an opportunity for Telia to play the device-repair role for those customers, but the app could also help the operator to lure subscribers from other networks.


For all the latest news from the wireless networking and services sector, check out our dedicated mobile content channel here on Light Reading.


Like various other telcos, Telia is under some pressure to slash operating costs at its customer service division through the automation of processes. In the first half of 2017, its Swedish operation cited pressure on earnings, with net sales falling 2%, to about SEK9.1 billion ($1.15 billion), and operating income down 7.1%, to around SEK2 billion ($250 million), compared with the year-earlier period.

eBuilder's technology could make a difference if it can drive enough subscribers toward "self-care" solutions instead of traditional customer-service channels.

"It's too early to say we've seen clear proof of decreased costs," says Berghog when quizzed about the cost-saving benefits. "But when this is industrialized and within our automated marketing systems I see possibilities -- we need to scale it more before we see more."

According to Morgan Curby, eBuilder's chief commercial officer, data suggests that about 60% of Swedish customers would rather try to fix problems themselves than rely on external support.

Even so, Telia's ambitions in the device-repair market could force it to maintain some kind of bricks-and-mortar presence throughout Sweden.

By contrast, some operators in other parts of the world have been trying to close stores as their customers increasingly turn to Internet sales and customer-service facilities.

One such player is Russian mobile giant MTS, which has been in discussions about using eBuilder's technology.

eBuilder is also exploring arrangements with Telia in other Nordic markets, including Finland and Norway.

It will not pursue deals with other operators in Sweden, says CEO Leif Bohlin. "Exclusivity right now is more about the Telia investment and that was always part of the strategy," says eBuilder CEO Leif Bohlin. "We needed an anchor customer to start with and in that case we didn't see any problems because the operator market is global and there are enough [potential customers] out there."

Now several years old, Stockholm-based eBuilder currently employs about 150 people, says Bohlin.

One potential opportunity in future is to provide support for other types of device, such as smart TVs, he says.

— Iain Morris, News Editor, Light Reading

(0)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Featured Video
From The Founder
John Chambers is still as passionate about business and innovation as he ever was at Cisco, finds Steve Saunders.
Flash Poll
Upcoming Live Events
June 26, 2018, Nice, France
September 12, 2018, Los Angeles, CA
September 24-26, 2018, Westin Westminster, Denver
October 9, 2018, The Westin Times Square, New York
October 23, 2018, Georgia World Congress Centre, Atlanta, GA
November 7-8, 2018, London, United Kingdom
November 8, 2018, The Montcalm by Marble Arch, London
November 15, 2018, The Westin Times Square, New York
December 4-6, 2018, Lisbon, Portugal
All Upcoming Live Events
Hot Topics
5G & Industrial Automation: Creating the Factory of the Future
Gabriel Brown, Principal Analyst, Heavy Reading, 6/11/2018
Big Telcos Have Slashed 107K Jobs Since 2015
Iain Morris, News Editor, 6/11/2018
Comcast's Bid for Content, Growth & Whatever Comes Next
Phil Harvey, US News Editor, 6/13/2018
Ciena CTO Says No to Skynet, Advocates Adaptive Networks
Kelsey Kusterer Ziser, Editor, 6/14/2018
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

A CSP's digital transformation involves so much more than technology. Crucial – and often most challenging – is the cultural transformation that goes along with it. As Sigma's Chief Technology Officer, Catherine Michel has extensive experience with technology as she leads the company's entire product portfolio and strategy. But she's also no stranger to merging technology and culture, having taken a company — Tribold — from inception to acquisition (by Sigma in 2013), and she continues to advise service providers on how to drive their own transformations. This impressive female leader and vocal advocate for other women in the industry will join Women in Comms for a live radio show to discuss all things digital transformation, including the cultural transformation that goes along with it.

Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed