AT&T Beats Street, iPhone Numbers Cast Shadow on Apple

AT&T’s strong subscriber growth in its wireless business propelled its earnings past expectations, the company said, but the results were overshadowed by data showing early sign-ups for iPhone service fell short of forecasts.

AT&T, the exclusive carrier of the iPhone in the U.S., said it activated 146,000 subscriptions for the Apple device in the first two days following its June 29 launch.

That news hurt shares of Apple, which is due to report earnings — and provide additional insight into how well the iPhone sold — on Wednesday. Apple shares were down as much as 5 percent in early trading Tuesday.

Activation Numbers

The activation numbers don’t necessarily reflect how well the iPhone sold. Some users may not have immediately signed up for a calling plan for the phone, while other early buyers may have tried to resell their devices. Given the long, hype-fueled run-up to the iPhone launch, however, the activation numbers were seen as weaker than expected.

Still, for AT&T, the wireless business remains the main driver of growth and profitability. The company’s net profit rose 61 percent to US$2.9 billion, or 47 cents a share, in the second quarter compared with $1.8 billion, or 46 cents a share, a year earlier. The per-share profit beat Wall Street consensus estimates by 3 cents.

Revenue soared, due in part to the roll-up of Cingular Wireless and BellSouth into the new AT&T, with sales coming in at $29.5 billion compared with $15.8 billion a year ago. Adjusted to take all three entities into account, revenue rose about 2 percent, in line with forecasts.

iPhone Impact

AT&T also issued an upbeat forecast as it expects wireless subscriber growth to continue. Overall, AT&T Wireless — the company re-branded the unit from its Cingular name during the quarter — added 1.5 million subscribers in the quarter, bringing its total to 63.7 million.

iPhone subscriptions and new handset models, including the BlackBerry Curve, also helped reduce the churn rate — the pace at which customers leave a carrier — to 1.6 percent from 1.7 percent a year ago. Forty percent of the iPhone subscriptions were from consumers who were not previously AT&T customers, the company said.

Wireless is “a major growth engine” for the carrier, said AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson.

“Our launch with Apple of the breakthrough iPhone has quickly redefined customer expectations for their wireless experience, initial response was unprecedented, and sales in July continue to be strong,” he added. “We have good momentum heading into the second half of the year and our assets position us well for the long term,” Stephenson noted.

“The company continues to head in the right direction,” telecom analyst Jeff Kagan told the E-Commerce Times. AT&T is still redefining itself, however, trying to determine if it is a wireless company that also provides at-home services or a wireline company with a wireless unit, he added.

At the same time “the competition between AT&T and other wireless and wireline providers remains intense and will only get hotter over the next few years,” Kagan said. “This is definitely a much bigger and different company than when it was the smallest Baby Bell in the mid-1980s.”

Drawing Attention

The iPhone data drew the most attention. American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu expected 250,000 iPhone to sell in the first two days of availability, he said in a research note on Monday. Meanwhile, Lehman Brothers analyst Harry E. Blount predicted 250,000 to 300,000 units sold during that time period; Pacific Crest’s Andy Hargreaves said as many as 400,000 iPhones could have been sold on June 29 and 30.

How well the iPhone sells over the long run will prove more important to both Apple and AT&T, Kagan said, and early expectations may have been impossible to meet. Still, how well the device sells early on may determine how eager Apple is to roll out lower-priced models — a tactic that worked well with the iPod — or help AT&T decide to offer discounts on calling and data plans for the iPhone.

“The iPhone was inflated to a bigger-than-life image by incredible media coverage before it went on sale,” Kagan added. “The bottom line is the stores sold out quickly. The first few weeks and months of sales will be to people who have been waiting for six months since the announcement. The iPhone still looks like a success story for AT&T and for Apple. The only question is the magnitude, and we won’t have an answer for a while.”

Video Too

Apart from the iPhone, AT&T is being closely watched for how well it can absorb its many acquisitions — including the $86 billion takeover of BellSouth that gave it full control of the wireless unit — and whether it can fend off competition from cable companies and Internet-based startups to preserve its base of high-speed Internet customers.

AT&T had 13.3 million consumer and business high-speed Internet connections in the quarter, up 20 percent from a year earlier, with 35 percent of its consumer lines having broadband service, up from 27.8 percent a year ago.

The company also said its Internet-based video service, called “U-verse,” showed strong growth in the quarter, ending with 51,000 video subscribers, up from 13,000 at the end of the first quarter.

That project has seen millions of capital investment in recent years and is part of AT&T’s efforts to offer a broader bundle of services to customers. AT&T needs to make more gains in at-home video delivery in order to effectively fend off competition from cable companies, who are vying to switch home calling users to their VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) offerings, UBS analyst John Hodulik told the E-Commerce Times.

“The network investment has been made and the job at AT&T now is to get more customers to sign up for that service,” said Hodulik, adding that by doing so, AT&T will boost per-customer revenue and increase long-term loyalty among subscribers.

Leave a Comment

Please sign in to post or reply to a comment. New users create a free account.

CRM Buyer Channels

SPONSORED CONTENT

Knowledge Management: The Silent Star of Modern Service

Think back to March 2020; the arrival of the pandemic disrupted your home life and your work life, as public and private organizations struggled to implement virtual solutions to keep work, school, and the economy going as best it could. Daily life quickly became a transition to working over video connections, homeschooling our own children; ordering groceries online, and learning to cook became new mandates.

Even adjusting to virtual happy hours and navigating virtual-only IT help and office support were new challenges. Employees working in contact centers or service roles were suddenly sitting at home with only a computer, attempting assist customers with service issues — with no supervisor or colleagues to lean on for assistance.

Accomplishing these tasks back then was virtually impossible without the ability to find information and knowledge online. The pandemic’s impact on business operations rallied organizations to push for new and better KM solutions. Nothing like a pandemic to help us understand how knowledge underpins service operations!

Today, the start of the post-Covid business environment reveals knowledge management is making even stronger strides, strengthening hybrid approaches to working and supporting the ability to implement AI and machine learning application innovations at scale.

The Power of KM Tools

Knowledge management is a business process formalizing the creation, capture, management, governance, and use of an organization’s intellectual assets. It consumes the top of spend for AI apps for customer service organizations and it powers virtual assistant and smart bot utterances.

According to Oracle’s KM platform developers, knowledge management has shone a spotlight on the need to access what organizations know, regardless of where their employees are located, whether in home offices or regional work centers. It provides organizations with the know-how needed to support agent work processes. This includes fluidly mixing home and work lives, sharing internet connections and home space among working parents and kids in virtual classrooms.

In essence, KM helps to bring the wisdom of the office environment to the desktop. Since 2020 people have been meeting by video calls 50 percent more than pre-Covid. During that interim, close to 70 percent of full-time employees have worked from home.

Knowledge management helped make this possible in four critical ways:

  • In today’s virtual world where we cannot just ask the person sitting next to us for support, KM becomes the new foundation for service. “What we know” is available to employees regardless of “where they may sit.”
  • KM provides a single source of truth helping employees determine good information from bad. The increase of information means more data to go through to determine what is good and what is bad. The explosion of data creates 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day, making it hard to determine the veracity of the information being shared.
  • When contact centers and support services were either offline or completely overwhelmed, knowledge management came to the rescue, allowing customers the ability to solve their own issues on their own.
  • Knowledge provided the backbone for organizations to quickly spin up virtual assistants, chatbots, and AI to fill in the gaps of employee shortages.

It’s safe to say that knowledge management really is the brainpower of the organization. Oracle’s Knowledge Management platform enables the organization to “know what it knows” and enables employees and agents to flag gaps in know-how and problem-solving information knowledge underpins every customer touch point. In this new future of service, KM is the fuel to power smarter, faster, and virtually accessible information management.

New World, New Challenges

Today’s deluge of data so swamps businesses that they fail to meet their customers’ expectations and drown in $75 billion in lost revenue yearly.

To find that buried data takes some 3.5 billion searches per day. On average, Google now processes more than 40,000 searches every second.

More remote employees means more dispersed information, and more need for organizations to harness data to provide their customers and employees with a unified, cohesive experience.

Time is money. Employees spend an average of 36 percent of their time each workday searching for information. That is a tremendous impact on their workloads considering that 88 percent of the organizations worldwide made it mandatory or encouraged their employees to work from home after Covid-19 was declared a pandemic.

Given this sea of information floating around, think of the KM platform as a both rescue and a transportation vessel for billions of business bits and bytes. Oracle’s tools do more than preserve knowledge. They allow workers to quickly preview content with accurate formatting and embedded assets.

The Future

It’s become evident that virtual or hybrid work environments are likely to become standard fixtures for organizations. Knowledge management will continue to play and imperative role, as the need for collaboration and the ability to share and find organizational information virtually at any time only increases.

The growing need for other technologies such as content management, enterprise search, CRM, and IoT devices and support is increasing demand for a single source of truth which can only be offered by enterprise knowledge management.

Oracle’s knowledge is a powerful solution, which in integrates seamlessly with other technologies, allowing organizations to easily meet the demand of both employees and customers in this new workforce reality.

The future of everything is data. Oracle — as a data company — does data better than anyone; and our differentiated service automation tools — including knowledge management — empower businesses to run as efficiently as possible while creating competitive differentiations which enables organizations to drive efficiency and facilitate org growth with agility, precision, and speed:

  • Articles are tagged with essential meta data to make know-how findable by product, category, and content collection type.
  • Knowledge Search enables agents to ask a natural language question and get precise, helpful results back, easily scannable in a search results page.
  • The Article History function shows all the article versions and their respective meta data.
  • The Side-by-Side option lets authors quickly identify what has changed between versions.
  • Editing articles is proficient with the included WYSIWYG Editor that provides rich text authoring with HTML support. Comments let authors collaborate and track suggestions and edits.
  • Hierarchical Products and Categories tool helps users organize the knowledge base, while the Control Visibility option lets content creators disperse the article to ensure the information gets to the correct audience.
  • Search and Browse Knowledge provides a free-form search that agents can use to augment their product understanding and training.
  • Recommended Knowledge leverages machine learning to find articles that match the service request. Its search parameters allow agents to find more articles that help resolve the service request.

How Organizations Benefit

Now, more than ever, the ability to have a central repository of organizational know-how, assets, guidance, and learning is critical as employees must work together while physically apart. Oracle has a broad portfolio of cloud-based knowledge, content, and learning products to compose employee and customer-centric experiences that address the needs of hybrid and at-home workers.

Oracle Content Management offers comprehensive digital asset management, including video indexing and storage, while Oracle Knowledge helps manage answers to frequently asked questions, and Oracle Intelligent Advisor enables coaching, guidance, and policy orchestration that can automate a variety of organizational process flows.

Oracle Learning products (Guided Learning and Learning Management) can onboard and coach employees from day one through their exit interview. Oracle Digital Assistant offers intelligent conversational UI capability to help employees navigate their digital workspaces and Oracle Virtual Builder Cloud Service provides a low-code application development framework to deliver knowledge, content, and advice to employees when they need it, to get their work done no matter where they are working — at home, or in the office.

Bottom Line

Few organizations have been able to carry on business as usual. The pandemic’s impact on business operations rallied organizations to push for new and better knowledge management solutions. Oracle’s service solutions now provide a way to sustain momentum and accelerate growth.

Trust Oracle for a contextual knowledge and content offering that enables employees to know what they know, capture what they learn, and share that learning and knowhow and content when needed to achieve their goals.

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open-source technologies. He is an esteemed reviewer of Linux distros and other open-source software. In addition, Jack extensively covers business technology and privacy issues, as well as developments in e-commerce and consumer electronics. Email Jack.

Leave a Comment

Please sign in to post or reply to a comment. New users create a free account.

SPONSORED CONTENT

Oracle Service Empowers Organizational Growth With Automation

Automation is the key to future-proofing a company’s customer service journey. Oracle’s innovative solutions solve two inherent stumbling blocks with turn-key effectiveness.

One is providing effective customer service by having the ability to respond to every customer’s unique issues. The other requires the agility to respond to changing customer preferences and behaviors impacting your company.

With automation features integrated into your customer service platform, businesses can be prepared to manage both problems. Such as the recent global challenges surrounding the health care crisis, manufacturing delays, and skilled worker shortages.

Successful customer service organizations must go beyond answering questions and fixing problems. The service you provide must be predictive, unique, and hyper-convenient. Driving these experiences through automation will also drive growth.

Keep in mind that growth means more than just increasing revenue gains. Growth also comes from empowering employees to provide service inline with both current customer trends and employee work styles. To accomplish this goal, an organization must adopt a growth mindset.

This is where automation comes into play. In the face of constant transformation, you must drive your company to thrive and not just survive. The only way to meet both customer and employee expectations today is through automation.

Extend Corporate Reaching Power

Oracle’s service automation strategy helps win over customers and employees. This is critical when looking at current market trends:

  • Automation use is rising. By 2024, 80 percent of all service interactions, engagements, and processes will be automated.
  • Some 80 percent of consumers will view the world as all digital with no divide, according to Forrester.
  • Digital sameness drives the competition to break the digital template.
  • An increasing number of adults regularly buy from brands that align with their personal values. This spurs brands to take actions like never before considered, according to Forrester.

Also, consider that Forrester’s research revealed that 58 percent of consumers expect that companies master their digital resources in order to respond better if the country faces another public health emergency.

How Service Automation Works

Automation fabrics play a vital role in unlocking your business growth potential. Oracle’s automation approach provides essential, connected tools, each purpose-built to your organization’s goals. Oracle’s automation fabric offers several unique automation concepts, operating on one unified platform.

Let’s begin with the first five chapters:

(1) Automate advice and decision processes instantly with Intelligent Advisor, a decisioning engine with a patented algorithm created for business users to manage without heavy reliance on IT.
(2) AI and next best action guides service agents with contexts and recommendations that present different options to interact with the actionable insight through a single Insights Panel.
(3) Chatbots and self-service automation enriching digital-first engagements help to cut operational costs and can be deployed with integrations to Oracle Digital Assistant chatbot, Intelligent Advisor, agent or customer portal, and other systems.
(4) Automating event-based processes and workflows makes it simple for business users to generate, analyze, and subscribe to different events to automate actions to deliver their unique service needs.
(5) The common denominator is a business user-friendly integration framework that enables real-time deployments and adjustments across any next best action determinations. This low-code no-code consistency was built to empower business users to adapt and respond quickly to external and internal events efficiently. That lets you invest technical resources in innovation as new technology and channels evolve.

When Alice Park, senior product manager at Oracle, talks with customers who are automating, she finds they are curious, fearless, and forward-thinking in experimenting with automation. They think of ways beyond what is considered a traditional solution for solving service problems.

“That, coupled with the power of an automation-focused development team at Oracle Service, is what is driving our automation strategy to fuel the need to think differently and create a space and community for our automation solution,” she offered.

Oracle knows that the right automation solution helps organizations manage the constant change of digital transformation. It offers a long-term vision for service leaders to think about automation effective built on APS (Agility, Precision, and Speed). Its service automation is designed with native no-code/low-code integration that emboldens your use in CX, ERP, and HCM use cases across all systems in which your data is housed.

Futureproofing Made Better

Oracle’s service automation tools empower a business to run as efficiently as possible, while creating competitive differentiations that future-proof a brand.

Through the Oracle Automation Fabric, businesses gain three critical components necessary for improved customer service. First, agility lets you adapt quickly to external and internal events. Second, precision personalizes and enriches guidance to delight customers. Third, you get speed and enjoy first to launch innovation and automation experiences at scale.

Oracle’s technology improves employee and customer retention and feeds organizational growth. It is important to debunk the common misconception that service itself facilitates speed, convenience, helpful employees, and friendly service.

In a PWC-based survey, more than 70 percent of consumers rated each of these service touch points as mandatory. The research is clear: digital automation gives you a grip on unpredictable events.

Service Automation Masters Digital Customer Service

Oracle’s innovative software helps brands deliver automated digital customer service in two modes — assisted service and digital self-service. It also is a factor in realizing growth potential, according to Park.

“What is important is considering the growth mindset of imagining what is possible to automate across your business,” she said.

Assisted service uses human agents over digital channels like chat, online video conferencing, email, SMS text, and social media. The platform also supports self-service without a live agent’s help and can even switch back and forth as needed.

Advanced features bring innovations with process automation, natural language processing (NLP), artificial intelligence (AI), chatbots, and advice and decision automation. This advanced technology enhances your company’s ability to:

(1) Troubleshoot problems
(2) Explain contract and warranty terms
(3) Automatically reset login credentials
(4) Demonstrate proper assembly and usage
(5) Connect customers with expert advice.

In essence, Oracle’s service automation tools reinvent guided self-service. Remember, digital self-service is the customers’ go-to approach for finding answers and resolving issues. It lets them avoid long call center wait times and puts them in control.

Enriching CX Efficiently

Curious about how automated service helps your customers as well as your company?

Here is one example: Chatbots ask questions that steer a customer toward the best resolution. Oracle’s digital assistant, a pre-trained chatbot built with conversational AI and natural language support, is enabled with front- and back-office data allowing the assistant to take personalized actions on the customer’s behalf vs. serving just a simple means of conducting a digital conversation.

The digital assistant goes beyond a single purpose and recommends or completes tasks like scheduling meetings, checking your balance, and ordering a replacement part.

Here is another example: an online interview flow that presents a decision and a description of how that decision was reached. This last example might be the crown jewel of customer service fetes: evolutionary continuous brand differentiator driven by several fundamental tools and metrics to ensure effectiveness.

This advice and decision automation can be powered to answer any customer question that is dependent on a set of rules that affect the personalized output.

Oracle’s guided self-service strategy includes key capabilities that make service automation attainable. Knowledgebases provide information about your products and services. They are often supplemented in frequently asked questions, white papers, video tutorials, and more. Imagine if you could combine a chatbot, interviews for decision-making, and knowledge articles for a completely differentiated experience.

From an agent perspective, automation can help agents gather customer intelligence and analyze customer information. This data includes their purchase history, behavioral data, or details to provide personalized support.

Decision automation technology can also guide the agent, similar to guiding a customer, through a series of questions delivering personalized agent-facing information and advice.

Automated proactive engagement based on customer activity drives chat pop-ups, suggested knowledge base content, or contextual knowledge options to speak to a live agent.

Fine-Tuned Digital Options for Growth

Providing automated digital customer service is essential to satisfy the preferences of today’s customers for choice, control, and speed. Not all customer service is one size fits all. Oracle’s solutions take this need for customization into consideration.

“It provides automation practices that are unique to their business needs,” noted Park. “Whatever those needs, Oracle’s automation software empowers growth.”

One major consideration is realizing that not all automation is a universal fit, she cautioned. The automation process is not always a one-size-fits-all adoption.

For instance, digital assistants are popular among Gen Z customers. But not all classes of customers will readily use them. So, Oracle’s service automation encourages more customers to use digital channels by providing options that reflect their needs and preferences.

Oracle’s service tools support digital channels at all steps of the customer journey. This means your customers can receive an entire brand experience at any moment.

It gives companies options to make the best use of their resources. These options let customer service leaders establish a threshold to govern when customers can escalate requests to a human agent. As more options and channels to engage with organizations open up, Oracle’s service automation is built to work all together as one single solution, so the customer has no idea what has even been automated.

The ultimate goal is to empower growth. Oracle’s approach to implementing automation does precisely that, added Park. By unlocking new digital experiences, servicing more customers, and creating a framework that can accommodate the changes in customer behavior and preferences, the implementation of service automation can have a huge impact on any organization with a growth mindset.

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open-source technologies. He is an esteemed reviewer of Linux distros and other open-source software. In addition, Jack extensively covers business technology and privacy issues, as well as developments in e-commerce and consumer electronics. Email Jack.

Leave a Comment

Please sign in to post or reply to a comment. New users create a free account.