Technology moves on, people move on and so does the recipe for success – a recipe that is certainly costing the mobile industry a great deal. The industry’s prosperity was built on the shift from fixed line to mobile, but now, the shift to digital means that it too is having to adapt and evolve to meet changing demands.

Thus, mobile operators are left with a choice: either cut costs and harvest a mature revenue stream or rebuild for digital to enter new areas. But, choosing the latter means venturing into less well-defined markets – and, because the barriers to entry are low, competition in these can be fierce.

However, mobile operators do have many advantages, namely a large customer base and well-known, trusted brands. Used wisely these could give the edge over newer companies, especially if they are able to act quickly and change their focus from the technology itself to the marketing and packaging of different services, customer service experience and loyalty programs.

After all, these areas represent the greatest room for improvement. Case in point: last year, the Better Business Bureau revealed that the mobile industry represented the largest amount of complaints filed, with 36,751 consumers unhappy about their mobile experiences. As mobile bundles and packages become increasingly complex, this number is likely to rise.

Simply put: mobile brands are beyond ‘business as usual.’ Nobody knows what will be the right mix of products and services in the future, so it’s even more important that these brands embrace agile solutions in order to quickly and cost-effectively evolve with their customers’ digital shift. This is the only alternative to a controlled decline with associated consolidation and cost-cutting.

Newer companies are able to break down silos, integrate datasets and create a single source of data for each customer, but the more established “mega mobile” businesses are still on this journey. Traditional enterprise IT systems such as ERP solutions installed during the growth years are too cumbersome to keep pace with rapid changes in product, pricing and customer information – not to mention multi-channel customer interaction, via text for example, or social media.

But without this overall view, cross and up-selling are hit and miss at best, and using ‘next best action’ marketing techniques, based on the history of an individual customer, is almost impossible. Consequently, customers become impatient with their provider’s lack of knowledge and feel more like a number than a person. Many of us have been on the receiving end ourselves in interactions with our mobile operators, where the right hand doesn’t appear to know what the left hand is doing. It’s frustrating and often the tipping point to moving on to another brand where the customer service is perceived to be better.

It’s not just about the ability to make the sale by configuring, pricing and quoting (CPQ) – it needs full order lifecycle management and a full vision of the customer’s journey from new to legacy. Telecom providers are beginning to deploy cloud-based solutions to create a lean, connected front office to enable this and ensure queries and complaints can be effectively logged and managed to resolution in a new joined-up service. But this take-up must be accelerated to help create happier customers without any cause to complain, as well as saving costs.

In such a breathtakingly uncertain environment it seems incongruous that the answer lies not only in the glamour of cutting-edge design but in establishing better processes and systems to ensure the flexibility and service needed. However, getting this right will lay a firm foundation for future evolution of the industry. Mobile operators have profited from its customers’ shifts to new technology. Now the industry needs to make its own shift to digital.