According to the director of O2, the Czech customer has changed a lot in the last five years. “I would say he’s going through an evolution—he’s spending a lot more time with technology. According to statistics, we look at our mobile phones 150 to 200 times a day. Mobile phones and the Internet have become an integral part of everyday life,” says O2 boss Jindřich Fremuth in an interview for the program Agenda SZ Byznys, adding that the next trend is simplification. “The customer does not want to deal with technological parameters, he does not want to count GB and minutes, so he moves to unlimited tariffs. Voice and data,” he adds.
Are plans without data even sold today?
Exceptionally. We put some portion of data in practically all tariffs, because today more than 90 percent of the phones in the customer base are smart phones.
And how has data consumption grown?
Dramatic. Over the past five years, data traffic in the fixed network has increased by 150 percent, while in the mobile network it has increased by 600 percent. It grows by about one hundred percent every year. This is of course an average consumption. There are customers who use data minimally, and then there are those who have unlimited tariffs and use many times more.
The debate about data and non-data services is slowly dying down
600 percent more data in five years. Where will we move next?
Today, the debate about data and non-data services is slowly ending. Data traffic today also represents the majority of voice traffic. We have to adapt our portfolio to this, so that the customer’s service works without any interruptions 24/7, which the customer rightly takes for granted. But it is not quite as trivial as it seems at first glance.
If technology plays an increasingly important role today, will you need fewer employees and fewer branches?
This is a seemingly simple question, but there is no clear answer to it. What will certainly change is the structure of employment. The type of people we employ and the activities these people do will change. We are advancing in automation, robotization, AI. We will leave the repetitive activities with lower added value to robots, and people will devote themselves to activities with higher added value.
The structure of our people is changing
So there will be the same number of people, but will they be more qualified? At banks, we see that the number of employees will decrease with digitization.
The number of our employees has been quite stable in recent years – 3,800 to 4,000 regular employees. We have hundreds of other people who work with us on contract or as suppliers, but as I said – rather, the composition of people is changing radically. If it ends up leading to fewer employees? We’ll see, in some areas maybe. And as far as the branches are concerned, we still serve a segment of customers with less affinity for technology who require personal service and will receive it.
But these customers will be fewer and fewer…
There will probably be fewer of them. We also try to educate customers – some things can be solved faster and easier online. I often hear the question, “Should I be afraid of AI taking my job?” I heard an interesting quote about this, perhaps from AI itself: “You shouldn’t be afraid of AI taking your job. The one who knows how to work with artificial intelligence will take your job.”
What are you going to use AI for?
There are two areas. In interactions with customers and then for internal use. In internal use, it is several levels. I will give an example. By converting the call to text, we can analyze the telephone conversation with the customer in a sophisticated way as an exchange of information between us and the customer. Make a structured summary out of a totally unstructured call. We can extract data that allows us to improve the product and also serves to control the quality of the interaction with the customer. That’s a huge possibility.
Virtual Eva for all mobile phones
In the interaction with the customer, you have a virtual assistant Eva. Will she one day serve as a personal assistant in every phone? What is Siri like?
We have had Eva as a virtual assistant for several years. It develops and improves dramatically. We use it as a chatbot in the web interface, a voicebot on infolines and a chatbot in the application. It has completely replaced the signposts in call centers – you don’t hear in the vast majority of calls today that you have to press number one to connect with this and that. You tell Eva what you want and she connects you to an operator.
The customer generally has much less tolerance for mistakes made by the bot. He does not tolerate mistakes. We cannot come up with a solution that is not one hundred percent. It’s a very big temptation, but we can’t implement technologies that aren’t 100 percent.
So when will Eva be on every phone?
Working on it. Technically, Eva is not on phones, but on our servers and you interact with her via phone or screen. The most important parameter is the knowledge base from which the language model draws. Basically, we’ll start by moving from the current state to more and more sophisticated scenarios. Over time, we will begin to turn it into more common communication. I’d say we’re a low unit of years away from that. But if we will get to the stage where it completely replaces live interaction in three years or five years, I don’t dare to guess right now.
Several mobile operators operate on the Czech market.
Among the dominant players are O2, T-Mobile and Vodafone. In addition to them, there are a number of smaller ones that do not have their own coverage network.
Rights to Czech football? It’s worth the money
Let’s go to O2 TV. You have recently won the tender for the rights to the Czech football league. Is it worth the 300 million you offered?
There were moments when I questioned that too. It is roughly 300 million and we are talking about the rights to broadcast the first football league for five years. O2 TV has a relatively long history, it was the first IP television on the Czech market. Today, it has 700,000 active customers, and its number is constantly growing as customer preferences and tracking methods change.
We believe that investing in sports makes sense, this is how we profile ourselves. Sport is specific to us. We have no ambition to become a full-fledged television and create content. We cooperate with content suppliers. In addition, sports are one of the last types of content to be watched live. Today, people already watch more than 50% of the content backwards or with a time lag, which for obvious reasons does not make sense in sports.
That is also why it makes sense for us to have more control over the quality of sports broadcasting. Today, at one moment and in real time, you can choose from five to eight different sports matches, switch between them and see them all at once, which was not possible a few years ago.
And your next plans for television?
We will continue to improve the platform. Investments in broadcasting rights are in the order of hundreds of millions of crowns, investments in technology are hundreds of millions of crowns lower.
Will we see more tie-ups within the PPF group like O2 and Air Bank now? It is offered by O2 and TV Nova…
Nova is one of the important suppliers of content to our television. Synergies are already underway, strategic, cost and the like. Without revealing more than I want now, I can say that the synergies will deepen. And there will certainly be synergies in terms of content strategy.
You can watch the entire interview in the introductory video.
A quarter of an hour about business first hand. Interviews with top Czech business leaders, company founders, experts.
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