“Big data monetisation” is the fastest growing challenge facing the telecommunications industry, followed by churn, customer experience and the need to reduce fraud.

These are the findings of an international survey by Experian, conducted among 80 senior executives in 45 telecommunications companies covering 22 countries including South Africa.

Executives were asked to provide insight into the most pressing issues. A similar survey was conducted last year and the results have been compared to identify leading trends in the major issues affecting telecommunication companies over time.

The main findings from the survey include:

* The number of respondents citing big data monetisation as a major challenge for telecoms operators has increased by 150% compared to 2012, making it the biggest riser compared to other challenges.

* 37% of respondents said end-to-end customer relationship management is their most significant business challenge. This is compared with to 2012 when also 37% of respondents agreed suggesting that this challenging issue remains a tough one to solve.

* 32% of respondents said that reducing churn was the most critical factor in improving margins (this compares with 26% in 2012).

* Selling additional services to existing customers is also identified as important (29% versus 19% in 2012).

* Winning profitable customers (24% now compared with 21% in 2012) is also a priority highlighting the trend away from a pure revenue (ARPU) view of the world to incorporate Average Margin per user (AMPR) and Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).

* Almost two fifths (37% in 2013 compared with 30% in 2012) said improving the quality of decision making throughout the customer lifecycle will provide the greatest benefit to their organisation, along with using external data to enhance their understanding of customer’ value relative to their potential risk.

* 10% of respondents felt combatting fraud posed a growing challenge in the run up to 2014.

* 7% of respondents said automating a greater proportion of customer decisions and interactions continued to be of importance.

Michelle Beetar, MD of Experian SA, says: “One of the key areas highlighted was end-to-end customer relationship management – from originations right through to collections. Collection of overdue accounts and recovery of unpaid debts in particular is a key focus for local telecoms companies.

“Many South Africans are facing increased financial stress and continue relying on credit to meet their general living costs. Deteriorating credit health of South Africans is on the rise with the number of impaired accounts having increased during previous quarters and evidence of increasing default levels on unsecured credit.

“These trends have resulted in local telecoms companies finding it challenging to collect overdue accounts. It highlights the need for an effective strategy to determine which customers are likely to default in the longer term, which is not only necessary for maintaining long term profitability but for improving customer service and lowering attrition,” she adds.