CSPs have been put against the ropes by the likes of Alphabet, Cisco, Facebook and Microsoft. It’s time to take our industry back… through diversity!

ECT is a company that helps CSPs (communication services providers) to offer solutions that embrace the uniqueness of their specific markets. In an industry where homogenized one-size-fits-all OTT (over-the-top) solutions have taken a big share of the telecommunications pie, we think CSPs can stand out from (and fight back against) the global competitors by catering to the diversity and differences of their local markets.

 

Everyone counts

Let’s start with a simple exercise about diversity. Using your fingers, count to three. Now, a simple question: is your thumb folded or extended? If it’s folded, chances are you were raised somewhere in the Americas. Is it extended? You might be European. Oh, but wait. Is your thumb folded and your pinky extended? Then you might be from Africa, as there are cultures prone to count starting from the pinky and all the way to the thumb. The Japanese fold their fingers instead of extending them. Oh, and there’s even an Asian method that uses thumbs to count the bones of the remaining fingers (they can count to twelve with a single hand, by the way!).

Finger-counting serves the same purpose, no matter how we do it. Can we say there is a better way to do it? There may be a faster method, or one that allows the person to count the highest, but considering all of them have been time tested by our ancestors and they are all still in use, one could argue the best way of finger-counting is the one you feel most comfortable with.

Globalization is not the secret sauce we were sold years ago. Just as we do not use our fingers the same way to count, we don’t buy the same food, nor have the same habits.

People instead of users

Just as counting with our fingers differs from country to country, our day-to-day lives are different in ways that influence our social interactions and, of course, our businesses. What works in one market may not work so well in another. Even within the same region, two business solutions might differ in their needs and tools. And that differentiation is what we see as the opportunity for CSPs.

With their ‘free’ services, global OTTs took the telecoms world by surprise, spreading rapidly from user to user, devouring big chunks of the communications market share. But that global growth and its attendant lack of regulation brought different problems, both to users and to carriers.

Users gave away personal information in exchange for services, unaware of the consequences. They became profiles to draw information from. Their habits, connections and reactions were transformed into instruction manuals for instilling ideas in them about what they needed to buy, choose, like… or even vote for. CSPs, otherwise capable providers of regulated communication services, became simple bandwidth providers. OTT companies are now so big they can only provide one-size-fits-all services for users worldwide, usually geared to the way people communicate in North America. People are left with no choice but to either adopt these homogenous products, learning to communicate like the average North American, or to be left out.

Globalization hinders diversity

Globalization is not the secret sauce we were sold years ago. Just as we do not use our fingers the same way to count, we don’t buy the same food, nor have the same habits. Globalization eliminates the idea of local markets, substituting it with the idea of a single market catering to everyone’s needs. The small coffee shop in the corner gives way to a global coffee shop that looks the same everywhere. The personalized attention from shop owners becomes a name scribbled on a cup of coffee. The regular customer becomes a faceless ‘user’. And that’s also what they want for our telephone numbers.

How many digits does a US telephone number have? Ten. North America (both the US and Canada) use a 10-digit standard that includes an area code with three digits and a 7-digit phone number. If you dial those in your mobile phone, they are structured, with the area code, the country code and the phone number clearly and neatly separated. Now, how many digits does another country use? South Korean numbers, for example, can vary between seven and 11 digits. Argentina goes always with 11. German, Irish and Italian numbers, on the other side, have no fixed length. And how do they look when you dial them? The telephone number field gets so confusing that it seems like your cell phone has turned into a scientific calculator and you didn’t even notice. The problem is that, no matter which country you come from, even the operating systems of our mobile phones expect us all to have a homogeneous 10-digit standard.

OTT companies are now so big they can only provide one-size-fits-all services for users worldwide, usually geared to the way people communicate in North America.

Embracing diversity

Because of this, we at ECT champion diversity. In an industry increasingly dominated by homogenized, one-size-fits-all global solutions, we thrive by helping CSPs fight back against global companies with services that satisfy the unique needs of their local markets. We offer cutting-edge solutions that allow a CSP to highlight the singularity of its own brand by fulfilling the unique local requirements of its customers in ways OTTs never can. Our solutions are not black boxes that cannot be altered; they are instead the fruit that comes from the understanding that individuals and cultures think differently, and thus they can accommodate the very diverse requirements of the many regions we serve.

During the last two decades, having a team with people from over 40 countries has taught us one big lesson: it’s not enough to take differences into account; you have to embrace differences. To assume we think, communicate, and feel the same way notwithstanding our context and previous experiences, is as big a mistake as assuming a one-size-fits all approach to solutions will satisfy everyone. Going back to the finger-counting analogy, it’s like assuming we all start counting with our index finger extended. Sure, people can adapt. But wouldn’t you rather do it the way it’s always felt natural for you? Because we would.

ECT

Author ECT

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