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Whitepaper: Launch Your Digital Brand


31 July 2023

Whitepaper - Circles x Evalueserve: Launch your digital brand

This whitepaper by Circles and EvalueServe examines the evolving telco demands by digitally savvy customers, how telco operators can create an edge over their competitors and build brand differentiation through innovation and agile infrastructure.

Today, telecom operators are hindered by legacy telecom infrastructure, dependencies on traditional channels, and mindset which serve as roadblocks. By launching digital brands through a ‘clean sheet approach’ (refers to developing a system in a new environment), operators are able to achieve cost-effectiveness and lean operations with faster-time-to-market, without carrying the legacy baggage of infrastructure and cultural mindset.

Exploring the Digital Frontier

Through this whitepaper, you’ll also delve into:


  1. Introduction
  2. Three Key Challenges – Know The Reality of Today’s Digital Natives 05
  3. Time to Realign Business Priorities
  4. Telecom Operators Launching Digital Brands
  5. Charting The Right Path to Launch a Digital Brand
  6. Recommendation to Telecom Operators to Build The Right Strategy
  7. Disrupting Mobile Telecom Industry With Circles X
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The smart city opportunity for telcos


28 June 2023

Circles Blog Article - The smart city opportunity for telcos

As urbanisation accelerates globally, smart cities offer solutions to resource challenges, creating significant opportunities for telecom companies in connectivity, analytics, and IoT integration.

Cities worldwide are on an inexorable growth trajectory, thus presenting numerous challenges. With burgeoning demands outpacing the available resources, urban planning will gain pivotal importance.

The United Nations projected that two-thirds of the global population will be living in cities by 2050, and at least 40 megacities will have a population of 10 million or more. Cities occupy less than 1% of the world’s land surface, but they use up to 75% of the world’s natural resources. For urban leaders aspiring to sustain liveable cities, tough decisions will be imperative. One promising solution lies in the integration of technology, transitioning conventional cities into smart cities.

To better serve their residents and businesses, smart cities need to harness digital technology to enhance the efficacy of traditional networks and services. Leveraging smart technologies and data analytics, a smart city’s primary objective is to optimise city operations, foster economic growth, improve residents’ quality of life, and conserve resources. Such initiatives include the modernisation of more advanced water supply and waste disposal systems, smarter urban transportation networks, and more effective building lighting and heating systems.

Smart cities, a multibillion-dollar opportunity

According to Grand View Research, a market research company, the global smart cities market size was valued at USD 1,226.9 billion in 2022 and is expected to register a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25.8% from 2023 to 2030. This means the market size of the industry is estimated at USD 6,965.02 billion in 2030. With connectivity forming the core of a smart city, this market trend offers substantial growth opportunities for telecom players.

Telcos are set to play a pivotal role in this burgeoning multibillion-dollar sector, which leverages new digital service layers within smart cities. The network infrastructure collectively owned by telcos is ideally suited to delivering digital urban services to future generations. In certain markets, they are optimally positioned to offer end-to-end services directly to customers, alongside the technical platform necessary for future service delivery. Beyond technological capabilities, orchestrating diverse ecosystems is a critical requirement, a task telcos are ideally equipped to undertake.

4 competitive advantages that are unique to telcos

Telecom operators are well positioned to accelerate the emergence of smart cities, applying their established expertise to expedite this urban progression. There are readily attainable opportunities these firms can seize. However, it’s crucial for them to innovate and adapt if they aspire to unlock the full potential of this landscape. This transformative journey can be a reality if telcos successfully navigate these four aspects:

  • Notably, they are significantly advanced in data management, control existing network infrastructure and platforms, and have expertise in managing public-private collaborations.
  • Besides providing high-speed connectivity – a fundamental requirement for smart cities –, telcos can expand into adjacent service domains, such as analytics, cloud, and mobility.
  • Owing to a range of key competencies, telcos are well-placed to branch into related sectors and offer data and cloud-related services to local authorities. These competencies encompass solid customer billing relationships, a substantial retail presence, and significant brand equity.
  • Additionally, telcos are well-positioned to penetrate the big data analytics market. They sit on an abundance of valuable data, and their ability to gather and integrate vast volumes of data from heterogeneous sensor networks, creating intelligent data sets, is a valuable asset. They can leverage this skill to broaden their suite of smart city offerings.

For the Internet of Things (IoT) plans to be successfully implemented, broader services offered by telco companies are vital and crucial, especially in initiatives involving smart buildings and smart cities. The fact that no one stakeholder or organisation can dominate this market is becoming increasingly clear, and telcos should be seen as the glue that binds the ecosystem’s many players together.

This article was originally published by Marcel Benjamin Tabin on LinkedIn. Like what you read? Follow us for more news and insights from Circles.

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Culture: the missing piece in digital transformations that fail?


07 June 2023

Culture - the missing piece in digital transformations that fail?

Aiming for digital transformation success? You can’t do it without an innovative culture that dares to take risks.

Digital transformation (DX) was the buzzword 10 years ago. It was roughly the same time we conceived the idea of building Singapore’s most disruptive telco – that’s when Circles.Life took shape. At that time, Circles.Life was considered a misfit. While the telco industry tried to figure out the right digital transformation strategy, Circles.Life had already built a never-before-seen customer experience so innovative that many found it incredible.

DX success highly dependent on culture

Fast forward to 2023, and as the telco industry evolved, it borrowed concepts and strategies from adjacent industries like finance, media, hospitality, and transportation. While the others grew by leaps and bounds, telcos became the laggards. Average Revenue Per Unit (ARPU) continued to decline, Net Promoter Score (NPS) challenges abounded, and capital and operating expenditures climbed to all-time highs. As business leaders braced for worsening year-on-year bottom lines, everyone wondered how to escape this predicament.

Innovation then became the go-to solution for troubled carriers. Many leveraged existing partners or vendors to fulfil this fantasy of getting a bigger chunk of the pie. Some tried building development teams within their organisations. In a lot of cases, both failed. Why? The answer lies in the same question as to why digital transformation initiatives failed for many of these telcos: culture.

How culture shapes a company’s future

There is a popular saying: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” The problem with culture is that it can never be changed overnight. It takes years to build but only a few bad hires to destroy. Culture is a living, breathing organism that takes shape as the company grows. The spirit of innovation must be carefully nurtured for the culture to breathe life into the various disruptive ideas the company can monetise in the future.

As with all future-forward projects, the company will not be able to see the outcome or benefits in the short term. Hence, it is important to keep the innovation team lean, agile, cost-efficient, ambitious and ambiguous. Significant investment is necessary to sustain innovation in the company; as such, it would be preferable to undertake fewer large projects in favour of small ones.

However, one common mistake many companies make is banking on big bets without failing fast, which we usually see in projects involving development houses or system integrators. Business models are typically constrained around delivery and not failing fast; hence, projects tend to bloat and scope creep hounds timelines.

Game-changing innovation takes guts

Successful innovation requires execution teams from commercial, product, and engineering to be able to fail, learn, and iterate as quickly as possible. There is little space for processes and formalities. This spells trouble for control freaks like telco governance.

A typical innovation flow consists of going through a couple of research and ideation stages followed by a validation stage which involves low code or no code implementation of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to prove interest among a target cohort. If the validation stage checks out, the idea will go through a series of iterations to try to reach Product Market Fit (PMF). This is when prototypes are built to test different hypotheses. Once PMF is hit, the idea then go for scaling where it gets released as a full-fledged product.

When Circles initially launched Circles X, it resembled more of an audacious innovation experiment. The team, driven by a clear problem to solve, embarked on a journey even though there wasn’t a well-defined product roadmap. Along the way, numerous products and solutions were born, only to be ruthlessly killed or meticulously evolved as we relentlessly pursued growth. This relentless pursuit of innovation not only shaped Circles into what it is today but also imbued it with a remarkable ability to adapt and thrive.

One of the challenges in adding an innovation function to a company serving live customers is how to do this with the least risk exposure. Carving out a safe environment for experimentation is required along with a creative team of motivated people to anchor the charter.

Strong attachments to projects are not allowed; out of ten projects, nine will be killed, and if the team is lucky, one will reach the MVP stage. Nevertheless, it is always fulfilling to see that one MVP change a whole industry.

This article was originally published by Kelvin Chua on LinkedIn. Like what you read? Follow us for more news and insights from Circles.

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Are your telco employees equipped for success?


18 May 2023

Discover the pivotal role of employee engagement in the telco industry and how providing the right technology tools can transform your business’s trajectory.

A digital revolution is brewing, and the telecom industry is at the heart of this transformation. Mobile operators are scrambling to adapt and thrive as customers adopt increasingly digital lives. Buzzwords like artificial intelligence, personalisation, IoT, and 5G may dominate the headlines. Yet, a closer look at these exciting technological advancements reveals a powerful truth: technology alone will not determine the victors in this high-stakes game.

Engaged employees, satisfied customers

The true differentiator between the winners and losers of tomorrow lies in the hands of those who turn technology into business outcomes and customer experiences – your employees. Employee engagement plays a crucial, long-term role in creating and sustaining competitive advantage in the highly competitive, rapidly changing mobile telecoms industry.

Research consistently demonstrates that highly engaged employees are more productive, innovative, and committed to their organisations:

In an industry where customer satisfaction and operational efficiency are key performance indicators, employee engagement must be part of any strategy to build a competitive advantage and drive profitability, market share, and customer retention. As such, digitalisation or digital transformation strategies must focus on helping employees in addition to customers.

Outdated tech bottlenecks productivity

One major cause of employee inefficiency and frustration in mobile telcos is the reliance on manual processes and outdated technology tools. According to a 2019 study by OnePoll, the average office worker spends over a quarter of their time on avoidable administrative chores and outdated ways of working, exacerbated by manual administration processes that prevent them from completing core tasks.

Many telecom operators still rely on manual and repetitive tasks for essential business functions like billing and customer service. Outdated systems can also lead to disjointed workflows, lack of real-time data access, and team miscommunication, slowing progress and decision-making.

Product managers in many telcos, for example, must navigate multiple processes and gather data from multiple systems to properly understand their customers and their products’ market performance. Even after accessing and aggregating sales, customer feedback, marketing, and product performance data, they must be able to make sense of it to identify improvement opportunities. As data is often incomplete and in different formats, getting a unified view of their customers can be a difficult, if not impossible, challenge.

After a product manager has jumped through these hoops to make decisions about their products, they need to figure out how to execute them. To launch a new product or update, this product manager might spend weeks or even months configuring product terms, pricing, and billing rules across systems and teams. This doesn’t just slow a company’s pace of innovation; it frustrates employees and monopolises time and energy that could be spent on more productive tasks.

This doesn’t just impact employees. When a company cannot innovate quickly to meet customer needs, when it cannot easily resolve issues, and when manual processes introduce avoidable time and errors into the customer experience, customers suffer. And when customers suffer, the business suffers.

Empowering telco employees with the right tech

Investing in the right technology tools to improve employee experience can yield tangible benefits for mobile telcos. Modern technology solutions, particularly Business Support Systems (BSS), can automate routine tasks, simplify workflows, and provide real-time data access.

By streamlining processes, improving data accuracy, and integrating various operational functions, a user-friendly BSS can significantly reduce errors and increase efficiency. Furthermore, these modern systems require less technical expertise to operate and maintain, as they often come with user-friendly interfaces, easier access to data, and automated maintenance.

This allows employees across the organisation to interact with business systems more effectively and focus on higher-value activities, such as problem-solving and strategic decision-making. These tech-enabled improvements to employee experience are also key components of an agile and customer-centric organisation, which are more important than ever in an increasingly competitive mobile telco landscape.

Circles X: built for operators, by an operator

At Circles, we understand the immense value of empowering employees with the right technology to do their best work in the telecom industry. As an operator ourselves, we built the Circles X platform for operators – it’s a full-stack platform that seamlessly integrates core business systems.

Circles X empowers employees to launch new products in minutes and generate a unified view of customer data, service offerings, and billing information to improve decision-making and facilitate cross-team collaboration. Telco operators can now scale their businesses efficiently with lean, nimble teams, even without deep technical expertise.

Want to learn how our people-lite approach keeps operations going with 10x fewer people? Talk to us. You’ll not only discover how innovative technology solutions can empower your employees, but you’ll also see why it’s a critical investment in an industry that has never been more challenging.

This article was originally published by Anant Gupta on LinkedIn. Like what you read? Follow us for more news and insights from Circles.

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How economic tides may shatter the illusion of consumer inertia


11 May 2023

When loyalty isn’t the reason why customers stay, what’s next for telco giants looking to improve customer retention?

This is how the history of #telecommunications could read in the near future:

Once upon a time, #telco giants reigned supreme. Their prosperity was hinged, less upon customer loyalty, than the powerful spell of customer inertia and the dreaded hassles associated with switching carriers.

Even cheaper wireless plans failed to dislodge customers from big national carriers where plans cost twice as much.

However, the sorcery of “contentment” might soon be broken as global economic changes threaten to expose the vulnerability of these wireless titans.


Echoing one of our previous articles – “Inflation’s toll: can telcos survive the shake-up?” – we discussed how telcos are feeling the heat as consumers are pressured into tightening their purse strings. That gloomy sentiment hasn’t dissipated.

With economic uncertainty casting a long, dark shadow over people’s willingness to spend, consumer inertia to switch may be approaching the tipping point sooner than later. For telcos with their sights set on long-term customer acquisition and retention, it’s no longer a question of “if” but “when” consumers will switch. Most probably to a competitor that’s newer, shinier, and, most of all, truly digital.

Digital generations want it all – and they want it now

The rapid development of digital transformation and a new generation of digital consumers are chipping away at the once impenetrable fortress of consumer loyalty. As economic conditions shift, with inflationary pressures and job market uncertainty becoming the new normal, consumers will be compelled to reevaluate their spending priorities.

This newfound frugality puts pressure on traditional carriers to adapt or risk losing market share. Millennials, who have surpassed baby boomers as the largest age group in the workforce, look set to lead the charge against wireless titans in profound ways. Joined by Gen Z, they want more than just affordability. They want it all: a smooth, seamless digital experience, personalised #customerexperience that wows them, unbeatable value, freedom to switch plans, and more. And they want it now.

Call them the “convenience customers” if you want, but this kind of digital-based shopping, social purchasing, and DIY ethos popularised by tech companies like Amazon, Netflix, Spotify and Uber no longer impresses today’s digital generation. Because it’s all they know – it’s not unique. Having a digital brand has become table stakes and operators without a digital telco are already missing out.

Focus on adding value to command a premium

Moreover, the rise of 5G technology adds fuel to the fire. In a world shifting towards lightning-fast connectivity, consumers will seek carriers offering affordable and reliable 5G services. Should the upstarts, like Boost Infinite and MobileX, deliver on quality, the giants may find themselves in a modern-day David and Goliath battle, albeit with fewer slingshots and stones involved. Traditional carriers need to find innovative ways to leverage 5G to maintain their competitive edge, perhaps through partnerships to deliver 5G-enabled experiences in the B2C marketplace.

As smaller carriers gain market share, their increased visibility and credibility will attract more customers to their cost-effective offerings. The larger carriers must justify their price premiums, especially if their lower-priced counterparts can offer comparable services and customer experiences. It’s like choosing between a posh cup of coffee and a cup from your favourite local café – both provide the caffeine kick you need, but one is significantly lighter on the wallet. In an era of economic turbulence, the temptation to switch for better value may soon become irresistible.

Make loyalty the reason customers stay

So, what can traditional carriers do to prepare for this impending shift? The key lies in adaptation and innovation. Whether through delivering aggressive pricing strategies, groundbreaking service offerings, or exceptional #customerexperience, staying ahead of the curve is crucial.

Loyalty is not just about customer retention; it’s a powerful protection against the ills of inflation. Brand preference and engagement create a sense of attachment to a company, making customers less likely to switch to competitors when prices rise. Having the power to offer value beyond just the price tag is key to keeping customers loyal. When businesses prioritise customer needs, and offer experiences that align with their values, they establish a connection that extends beyond just the transactional relationship.

The #telcoindustry is on the cusp of a revolution, with consumer inertia’s days numbered. The consequences for traditional carriers could be as dramatic as the next big tragedy on #Netflix. As consumers awaken to the appeal of more affordable, high-value plans, traditional #mobileoperators must evolve or risk becoming a footnote in the annals of telecommunication history.

Yet, with change comes opportunity. By embracing the winds of change and adapting to the new landscape, telco giants have the chance to weather the storm and emerge stronger than ever before. It’s time to break the spell, shake off the dust, and forge a new path in a world where consumers are no longer blinded by the illusion of inertia.

Let’s talk about giving power back to your customers. Email us at [email protected]

This article was originally published by Danny Huang on LinkedIn. Like what you read? Follow us for more news and insights from Circles.

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Inflation’s toll: Can telcos survive the shake-up?


27 April 2023

Between profitability and customer retention, what’s the best way forward for telcos that are under increasing inflationary pressures?

Inflation is now higher than usual throughout the world. Although global inflation peaked in late 2022, rates in 2023 are expected to remain higher than usual in many parts of the world. Following the 8.8% global inflation rate in 2022, the IMF forecasts a 6.6% rate for 2023, which is still above pre-pandemic (2017–19) levels of about 3.5%.

The perfect storm – where geopolitical unrest, supply chain problems, shortages, pent-up demand from the COVID pandemic, and government stimulus programmes collide – is causing pricing distortions for consumers, resulting in higher-than-ever energy bills. Double-digit inflation rates are common in about half of all nations. The percentages soar even higher in some countries, with inflation signals reaching triple-digit territory. Globally, Zimbabwe (269%), Lebanon (162%), and Venezuela (156%) have the highest rates in the world.

Many customers have been impacted by the drop in purchasing power, which has forced them to reduce their spending to afford basic living essentials. The telecoms industry, which is highly dependent on consumers, is among several industries to be impacted as well.

Telcos feel the heat as inflation rises

For the telecommunications industry, high inflation prices have become a serious concern. It is affecting how frequently people use mobile phone services, which limits revenue development. Customers are compelled to use less data because of the rising cost of mobile services and smartphone pricing, which limit subscriber growth.

While telecoms as an essential service have historically remained resilient, excessive inflation is tightening its iron grip on the world of consumer demand, slowing growth to a grinding halt. Mobile service upgrades, a major factor in the expansion of the telecom sector’s income, are slowing down. These elements, taken together, prompted analysts to conclude that the revenue growth of the telecom business in 2023 is probably going to be lower.

Regrettably, cost-efficiency programmes alone are frequently insufficient to appropriately manage the fast-growing cost variables to sustain profitability levels, given the current economic and inflationary trends. Price increases are therefore required to maintain profitability.

For instance, to raise revenue and earnings growth in 2022, UK carriers BT and Virgin Media O2 boosted their prices by 9 and 12%, respectively. Customer relationships and loyalty, however, could deteriorate and contribute to more churn if price increases are too extreme or the customer experience degrades due to cost-cutting or labour shortages.

Profitability or customer retention – a tough call for telcos

Telco customers are not accustomed to paying more for the same quantity and calibre of services. They are used to getting more for the same price. Introducing higher prices is particularly difficult in this situation. In fact, telco firms have begun to lose users, with some losing millions of subscribers, which they attribute to higher mobile rates and rising prices for entry-level phones.

Because telcos are unlikely to tolerate growing input costs brought on by high inflation for an extended period, operators have turned to tariff increases to enhance average revenue per user (ARPU) levels, even at the risk of losing more consumers and decreasing usage. As prices rise, telcos are more susceptible to customers switching to lower-margin products and services. Therefore, in current inflationary times, telco companies must choose between profitability and customer retention.

Inflation is expected to lower most telcos’ EBITDA margins by three to five percentage points over the next two years, according to predictions made by Bain & Company. According to the consultancy firm, the cost of staff, energy, leases, external service spending, and CAPEX, which together account for about 60% of most telcos’ spending, will be under pressure from inflation. An impending potential recession is making things worse.

Outlasting tough times with a future-forward, digital plan

Without compromising their long-term plan, telco businesses must adapt to rising inflation and cost pressure. To find their place in the future, they will need to change their value propositions, look for ways to expand, and identify new revenue streams.

For instance, Circles.Life Singapore expanded its non-telco offers with Jetpac, a travel roaming package. Launched in 2022 to provide greater convenience and experience to post-COVID travellers, Jetpac promises travel freedom for all with its fuss-free e-sim activation, unbeatable global roaming rates and travel perks. Within 4 months of launch, Jetpac achieved more than 10x growth in sign-ups, of which, more than 50% were new customers. This initiative not only earned Circles.Life the Travel Product of the Year Award from the recent Asian Telecoms Award, but also continues to help diversify the business, generate additional revenue, and pave the way forward to capture new opportunities.

Digital telco brands offer cost-effective and scalable communications solutions, enabling companies to maintain smooth operations and stay connected with their customers without breaking the bank. The implementation of a unified, simplified digital telco stack can significantly enhance operational efficiency and minimise expenses. Furthermore, digital telco providers often present flexible plans and advanced features, such as cloud-based services and remote working capabilities, allowing businesses to adapt quickly to changing market conditions.

By leveraging the efficiency and innovation of digital telco brands, businesses can mitigate the challenges posed by inflation and also continue to thrive in an increasingly competitive landscape.

This article was originally published by Marcel Benjamin Tabin on LinkedIn and published on TM Forum here. Like what you read? Follow us for more news and insights from Circles.

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Navigating the treacherous waters of strategy execution


27 April 2023

Overcoming Common Pitfalls

Strategy execution, the art of turning a well-crafted plan into tangible results, is an endeavour fraught with pitfalls. The difference between a promising strategy and its successful execution often lies in the people and leaders driving the process. In this article, we will examine the most prevalent obstacles and provide some questions to prompt reflection on overcoming them.

“Strategy is a commodity; execution is an art.” ― Peter Drucker

Here, we examine the most prevalent obstacles and provide some questions to prompt reflection on overcoming them.

The Chasm of Individual Commitments

Without individual commitments, the strategy implementation is likely to fail. People who are not committed to a strategy will not be very motivated to implement that strategy and achieve its goals. In the end, people are the ones who have to execute the strategy in order to make it a success.

People might readily pledge support for company-wide goals, but when asked to put their personal commitments in writing, many hesitate.

“Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.” ― Peter F. Drucker

Strong individual commitments serve as the foundation for successful execution. Individual commitments drive team commitments, and team commitments drive business outcomes.

You may struggle to answer questions such as:

  • What individual commitments am I making to the team and business?
  • What outcomes am I promising to deliver as part of my commitments?
  • Am I willing to do whatever it takes to deliver on my promises?

This gap in ownership can impede strategy execution. To address this issue:

  • Embrace vulnerability: Encourage team members to make themselves vulnerable by making strong individual commitments to outcomes and accepting the risk of failure.
  • Foster a high-performance culture: Ensure that everyone takes ownership of their commitments and be wary of those who shy away from responsibility.
  • Promote transparency and accountability: Have team members write down their individual commitments and share them openly with the team.

The Perils of Partial Knowledge

Organisations depend on a diverse group of individuals, including senior leadership, executive management teams, and contributing team members, to execute their strategy. We must accept that communication does not mean a complete understanding of the strategy. Partial understanding is like kryptonite that undermines the successful execution of that strategy.

People often pretend to be experts in various areas, which can lead to disastrous outcomes. They don’t question the underlying assumptions of their belief in their understanding and capabilities, erroneously assuming they possess the necessary skills to deliver on the strategy. A lack of self-awareness about what we know and what we don’t know, particularly among key initiative leaders, can result in your plans getting shipwrecked.

“Knowledge has to be improved, challenged, and increased constantly, or it vanishes.” ― Peter Drucker

Some leaders may be hesitant to acknowledge their lack of understanding due to various cultural and personal insecurities. It is essential for everyone to recognise that we don’t know what we don’t know. By admitting our knowledge and capability gaps, we can take the action required to ensure the success of the strategy execution. This awareness and willingness to learn can ultimately strengthen the execution of a strategy and contribute to an organisation’s growth and success.

When leading a mission-critical project, we must ensure we are open and upfront about our level of understanding and competence to deliver on the commitments.

You must ask yourself the following to really gain the awareness needed:

  • Do I understand the full scope of the work and the outcomes needed for the business?
  • Do I have the knowledge and competencies needed to deliver this outcome for the business?
  • Will my weaknesses hinder the success of the project?

To overcome this challenge:

  • Cultivate self-awareness: Encourage leaders to be honest about their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Embrace growth: Recognise that not knowing something is an opportunity for learning and growth.
  • Foster a learning environment: Encourage team members to admit when they don’t know something and provide resources to help them grow in those areas.

The Hazard of Not Asking for Help

When things go awry, many people are hesitant to ask for help. Fear of being perceived as a failure can lead to a “hope and forgiveness” strategy that ultimately results in poor performance. Hardworking and loyal employees may still fail to deliver results, which can be challenging for leaders to address.

It is important to understand why people don’t want to ask for help. Some common reasons:

  • Fear of being judged as a failure
  • Not understanding the difference between failing at a task and being a failure
  • Not understanding that growth & success is built on a series of failures

“I feel that the most important requirement in success is learning to overcome failure. You must learn to tolerate it, but never accept it.” — Reggie Jackson

To overcome these pitfalls:

  • Differentiate between failing and being a failure: Teach team members that failing at a task does not make them failures as individuals.
  • Encourage learning from failure: Remind employees that failure can be a valuable learning experience that ultimately leads to success.
  • Establish norms and expectations: Make it clear that asking for help is not a sign of weakness, and that leaders should be detail-oriented and process-driven.

Leader Responsibility: Turning Strategy into Results

As leaders, the onus is on us to convert strategy into tangible results. We are accountable and responsible for delivering the outcomes that drive business success. Navigating the treacherous waters of strategy execution requires introspection and a commitment to overcoming common obstacles.

“If you want to take the island, then burn your boats. With absolute commitment come the insights that create real victory.” — Tony Robbins

Self Diagnostics Tool Kit:

  1. Am I willing to make individual commitments and accept vulnerability?
  2. Have I written down my individual commitments, and do they align with team and business outcomes?
  3. Am I detail-oriented and process-driven, and am I willing to instil these qualities in my team?
  4. Am I self-aware about my strengths, weaknesses, and knowledge gaps?
  5. Am I willing to fail, learn, and apply my learnings to achieve success & growth?
  6. Can I ask for help early and often, and encourage my team to do the same?
  7. Will I do whatever it takes to fulfil my commitments and demand the same from my team?
  8. Can I create and maintain a culture of ownership and high performance?

By reflecting on these questions, you can diagnose the problems and address the pitfalls that hinder strategy execution. Leaders can significantly improve their chances of transforming a strategy on paper into a reality that delivers valuable outcomes for all stakeholders. Embrace vulnerability, cultivate self-awareness, foster a learning environment, and establish clear expectations to steer your team towards success. Only with absolute commitment come the insights that create real victory.

“Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.” ― Peter F. Drucker

Remember, as a leader, the responsibility extends beyond ourselves. It’s crucial to support your team in overcoming challenges and creating a high-performance culture. By doing so, you’ll be able to achieve the results that drive lasting success for your organisation.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn, and has been edited and reposted with permission from Dhanush Hetti.

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CX lessons telcos can learn from pop classics for growth


13 April 2023

Customer experience is key to business success. Are operators giving customers the best experience possible?

When you think of pop classics and telecommunications, you might not see an instant connection.

But hear us out – both have one thing in common: they know how to connect with people. An infectious pop song is instantly recognisable, enjoys high recall, and keeps people coming back for more – in a similar way, telco brands that truly connect with their customers enjoy higher levels of customer loyalty.

As operators continue to elevate their customer experience standards (CX), the world of music offers several valuable lessons that can help operators hit the CX sweet spot with good customer experiences, while reducing customer churn, and maximising acquisition and retention.

Think tailored messaging and creating unforgettable moments. That’s how pop music can inspire telcos to develop more exciting and satisfying customer interactions. Let’s face it, who wouldn’t want a telco provider that’s as catchy as a chart-topping hit? Here are four songs through the decades that highlight the state of your customers’ minds and what you should be doing to capture their hearts.

It’s amazing how NPS speaks right to customers’ hearts

“It’s amazing how you can speak right to my heart
Without saying a word, you can light up the dark”
When you say nothing at all (1999) by Ronan Keating


Net Promoter Score (NPS) is the gold standard for measuring customer satisfaction these days. It’s simple to calculate – just subtract the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters – and it’s a much stronger predictor of customer loyalty and business growth than other metrics like CSAT (Customer Satisfaction Score) and CES (Customer Effort Score).

Telco operators adopt NPS surveys for fundamental reasons. Not only do they measure customer experience, but high scores on NPS also speak volumes because they correlate strongly with repurchases and referrals, according to Bain & Company, who developed the NPS market research metric back in 2003.

NPS is also highly valued because it generates more honest feedback since it’s not tied to a specific interaction. As digitalisation accelerates the evolution of customer expectations, NPS 3.0 is stepping up as the improved measurement of impact-driven customer happiness.

+50 is considered a solid NPS score, and +70 knocks it out of the park. Digital-native brands like Amazon, Apple, and Netflix, typically known for delivering highly personalised CX, tend to hover around +60 points. However, the picture looks less rosy for telcos, with some NPS dipping as low as -20 or -40.

If NPS is any indication, it reveals a considerable gap between telco operators’ expectations and reality. Our digital telco Circles.Life bucks the trend with an average of +50 points, far outranking traditional telcos across APAC and Japan. How? CX is just one of our main differentiators, which enables us to disrupt the telco scene and occupy an advantageous position among huge, NPS-leading digital companies around the world.

Crazy little thing called brand love (and why it means business)

“This thing called love
I just can’t handle it…
Crazy little thing called love (yeah, yeah)
Crazy little thing called love (yeah, yeah)”
Crazy little thing called love (1979) by Queen


When former Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts coined the term “Lovemark” in 2005, he understood the power of customer engagement. When people fall head over heels in love with a brand, it’s a game changer. Brands that create deep, meaningful, long-lasting connections with customers are rewarded with loyal customers who’ll stick around no matter what. And that’s not some fluffy marketing theory – a customer experience strategy has real, tangible impacts on the organisation from a business standpoint.

Most people know that happy customers mean healthy revenues. What many may not understand is how exceptional CX drives quantified business outcomes. By following the Net Promoter Score (NPS), Circles’ digital telcos see that higher revenues can be linked to five key variables:

  • Higher Average Revenue Per Unit (ARPU)
    Promoters spend more than passives and detractors. Knowing who your promoters are helps you to be more focused and efficient with your engagement to drive higher ARPU.
  • 2X Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV)
    Promoters are twice as likely to stick with you, through the cool, crazy, and rock-and-roll times.
  • 2x referrals
    Promoters are also 2x more likely to refer someone. When customers feel your brand is doing right by them, they will be more motivated to recommend your brand to others.
  • 43% fewer tickets raised
    Higher satisfaction means fewer service tickets. With fewer unhappy customers to service, customer-facing resources can be optimised for a lower employee-to-customer ratio to drive efficiency. Workforce bandwidth can be flexibly deployed to support where it matters most.
  • Positive brand perception
    Exceptional experiences generate word-of-mouth promotion, whether from people interacting with your brand or online aggregators.

If you want to take your business to the next level, it’s time to stop settling for satisfied customers and start aiming for the big leagues: promoters. Think about it: satisfied customers might return to your business, but promoters will sing your praises, driving revenue and brand recognition through the roof. Now that’s music that any telco operator would put on repeat.

A whole new world of NPS excellence with a whole new methodology

“A whole new world
A new fantastic point of view
No one to tell us ‘no’ or where to go
Or say we’re only dreaming”
A whole new world (1992) by Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle


Circles has developed a 4-step battle-tested methodology, enabled by technology, to achieve best-in-class NPS. Let us show you what it looks like:


Taking a step-by-step approach towards achieving best-in-class NPS

The first step is all about identifying the problem. With a 360-degree view of your customers’ journeys, you can pinpoint friction points that may be holding you back. Whether it’s onboarding issues, usability problems, or other obstacles, you’ll want a clear picture of what’s causing your customers grief.

Next up is analysing the problem. By consolidating data from multiple touchpoints and visualising it on dashboards, you’ll be able to get a macro view of your subscribers’ sentiment. Using NPS, you can split them into different cohorts.

Whether they’re promoters, passives, or detractors, you’ll be able to dive into specific touchpoints and identify moments of joy and friction. This will help you to uncover actionable insights that can drive positive change.

Once you’ve got your ideas in place, it’s time to put them to the test. For instance, you might discover that network, value, and price are the top CX drivers when it comes to pleasing your customers. You could make these areas a top priority if you want to turn your customers into promoters.

Of course, that’s not to say other factors like delivery and checkout aren’t important. They are, but they just don’t pack the same punch as the big three. So, keep them in mind in the long term, but focus your efforts where they’ll have the most impact. Your customers will thank you for it.

Finally, turn your ideas into reality with prototyping. This is where a strong tech stack comes in handy, enabling you to efficiently test and iterate on solutions throughout the entire journey from start to finish. This is also where many traditional telcos stumble because of slow or incomplete digital transformation.

How Circles.Life uses Circles X to deliver an impressive NPS of +70

Circles is disrupting the digital telco industry with Circles X, a unified digital telco SaaS platform that is powering Circles.Life and digital telcos globally. To provide a delightful digital experience, we give the power back to users. You could say we’re built for operators, by an operator.

With Circles.Life, we implemented a loyalty-rewards system to increase retention and improve our NPS. Our “earn and burn” activities, which allow users to earn points for completing specific actions, and our passive earning feature, which enables users to accumulate points simply for being a subscriber, are designed to make the CX more engaging. We also added level progressions to keep things fresh and exciting for our customers.

Our efforts paid off, resulting in an impressive NPS of +70. Our analysis showed that our customers derive the most value from bill cost reduction, and we were pleased to see that 84% of our users who redeemed bill waivers opted for automatic bill offset in the future. This insight helped us to further refine our “earn and burn” initiative and strengthen our customer relationships.

All beautiful telco experiences start with a deep understanding of what customers want – get that right, and you’re set for success. Circles X helps operators launch digital telcos in a fast, scalable, and effective way. No more getting bogged down by legacy headaches because we’re asset-lite, people-lite, and friction-lite.


“And we can build this dream together
Standing strong forever
Nothing’s gonna stop us now”
Nothing’s gonna stop us now (1987) by Starship

Ready to amplify your CX and NPS? We’re all ears. Email us at [email protected]

This article was originally published on TM Forum. Like what you read? Follow us for more news and insights from Circles.

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How will ChatGPT redefine the future of telecommunications?


09 March 2023

Telcos are racing to create their own versions of ChatGPT as fast-evolving technologies like generative AI changes the game for the telecommunications sector

You have probably heard about ChatGPT by now, most likely from one of the headlines proclaiming it as the next great thing in technology.

In November 2022, ChatGPT’s developer, San Francisco-based startup OpenAI, made it available for public testing. A UBS analysis estimates that it became the fastest-growing consumer application in history in January, only two months after its inception, when it hit 100 million monthly active users.

With the help of a technology known as large language models (LLM), ChatGPT, which is supported by Microsoft, has taken the world by storm thanks to its capacity to produce expertly constructed documents like essays or poems in a matter of seconds.

LLM is part of an artificial intelligence discipline called “generative AI,” which enables users to nearly instantly produce new content, including text, music, and video, with a simple request. With its capacity to swiftly learn from and respond to further information and its design to provide conversational responses, the AI-powered chatbot is already heralded as a game-changer for several industries.

ChatGPT, a game-changer for multiple telco applications

The telecommuniations sector has taken notice of ChatGPT. The industry believes that ChatGPT has a variety of operational applications. Call centres and customer service are the most prominent examples. ChatGPT would offer professional advice to the agent, allowing for more accurate and efficient responses to customer inquiries. The platform can also help identify customer intent, summarise conversations, answer customer questions, and direct customers to resources. There is also talk of ChatGPT and other generative AI replacing customer service representatives entirely. The potential cost savings are enormous.

Telcos are also looking at ways their field technicians can use ChatGPT. With the proper training, it can help solve technical problems when experts are not available. It can also be used to manage Information Technology by helping manage data processing and decision-making, using both historical and online data, as well as figuring out the meaning of complex software code.

ChatGPT can help telcos save time by automating mundane tasks and focusing on more critical projects thanks to its advanced abilities to create human-like responses, write codes, copywriting and content creation, offer summaries or elaborations, and more.

Telcos race to create their own versions of ChatGPT

To fully reap the benefits of generative AI, some telco companies have already begun developing their own version of ChatGPT. KT is reportedly working on a product that will be released later this year. It is also based on the ChatGPT model, but it is said to have 200 billion parameters, as opposed to ChatGPT’s 175 billion machine learning parameters. SK Telecom has yet to announce a major product launch, but CEO Ryu Young-sang stated a few months ago that the company aims to realise its vision of becoming an AI company that benefits customers. China Telecom announced a few weeks ago that it plans to build an AI foundation model to develop an industrial version of ChatGPT for the telecommunications industry.

The benefits of ChatGPT as a useful tool for customer care and technical support in the telecommunications industry are obvious. The question is whether the operation of ChatGPT would cause regulators to be concerned. Telco regulators appear to be largely unaware of the entire field of generative AI at the moment. It could take years for them to develop relevant guidelines for its use in the industry.


This article was originally published by Marcel Benjamin Tabin on LinkedIn. Like what you read? Follow us for more news and insights from Circles.

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Taking a deep dive into DevOps


25 February 2023

Taking a deep dive into DevOps with Circles X

When DevOps is done right, it will lead to improved speed, quality, efficiency, and unit economics. This results in better customer satisfaction and higher reliability, as well as enhanced security and better scalability. This leads to lower cost of goods sold (COGS) and better SaaS economics for the business driving the overall organisation performance. Let’s do a deep dive into these aspects and try to truly understand what DevOps is and how to get its true benefits.

Three pillars of DevOps

  1. Software Delivery Performance: This refers to the stability and efficiency of the software delivery process. The faster and more frequently new features and updates can be released, the higher the throughput. At the same time, the more quickly issues can be resolved, and the fewer failures occur, the greater the stability.
  2. Operational Performance: This is about ensuring the reliability of the software and meeting service level objectives (SLOs) to achieve service level agreements (SLAs).
  3. Organisation Performance: This encompasses both software delivery performance and operational performance, as well as the culture within the team. Teams that have a continuous improvement mindset tend to have higher overall performance compared to those that do not.

Software Delivery Performance

Software Delivery Performance refers to an organisation’s ability to deliver software applications and updates in a timely, reliable, and efficient manner.

It is a key indicator of the effectiveness of an organisation’s software development and delivery processes.

DORA, the DevOps Research and Assessment organisation, has identified several key metrics that can be used to measure software delivery performance. It is measured by the stability and throughput of the system. Cloud adoption, CI/CD Infrastructure, and loosely coupled architectures further drive software delivery performance.

  1. Lead time for changes – the time it takes for a change to be made and deployed into production
  2. Deployment frequency – how often code changes are deployed into production
  3. Time to restore service – the time it takes to recover from a service outage or incident
  4. Number of repeat incidents – how many incidents are repeated due to lack of problem management RCA best practices
  5. Change failure rate – the percentage of changes that result in service degradation or outage

High-performing organisations in terms of software delivery performance are able to deploy code more frequently, with fewer failures, and recover faster from failures when they do occur. This can lead to faster time-to-market, improved quality, and increased customer satisfaction.

Operational Performance

Operational Performance refers to an organisation’s ability to execute its business operations in an effective and efficient manner, meeting the demands of its customers, stakeholders, and internal objectives. It is a key indicator of the health and success of an organisation, and encompasses various aspects of operations such as production, supply chain, customer service, and financial performance.

Operational performance is all about keeping promises an organisation makes to the customers in a reliable and repeatable manner.

This is measured by Reliability which includes Security and other “-ilities” as SLOs being met by teams to achieve overall SLAs. Supply chain security controls and NIST SSDF based SDLC is a part of the overall reliability of the platform/product. Investing in SRE and adopting SRE practices greatly increases operational performance.

  1. Quality SLOs – focus on the quality of the service being provided. E.g. User experience, functionality, security, compliance and other “-ilities” that represent the overall quality from an end consumer perspective.
  2. Platform SLOs – focus on the performance of the underlying platforms and infrastructure that support the service being provided. E.g. Availability, performance, incident response, data privacy, etc.
  3. Business SLOs – focus on the impact of the service being provided on the customer’s business outcomes, such as revenue or customer satisfaction.

Establishing and meeting SLOs can help organisations ensure that their services are meeting the needs of their customers and stakeholders. By measuring and reporting on SLOs, organisations can identify areas for improvement and make changes to their services and infrastructure as needed to better meet customer needs and expectations.

Organisation Performance

Organisational performance refers to an organisation’s ability to achieve its goals and objectives in a sustainable manner. It is influenced by several factors, including financial performance, operational performance, software delivery performance, customer satisfaction, employee engagement, and team culture.

Key contributing factors for an organisation’s performance is a combination of high software delivery performance, high operational performance, and team culture. Teams that recognise the need to continuously improve tend to have higher organisational performance than those that don’t.

To measure organisational performance, organisations can use a variety of metrics and indicators, depending on their goals and objectives. Some common measures of organisational performance include:

  1. Financial Performance – increased revenue, profitability, and return on investment (ROI)
  2. Operational Performance – high reliability
  3. Software Delivery Performance – high stability and throughput
  4. Customer Satisfaction – measures of customer experience, loyalty, and retention
  5. Employee Engagement – measures of employee satisfaction, retention, and productivity
  6. Team Culture – Performance Oriented (Generative)

High-performing organisations are able to balance these different dimensions of organisational performance, achieving their goals while also ensuring that they are operating in a sustainable and responsible manner. To improve organisational performance, teams need to adopt a continuous improvement mindset.

DevOps Goals: What good looks like


High Performance DevOps Teams

Setting proper DevOps goals for software delivery performance, operational performance, and organisational performance can benefit SaaS companies in several ways. Here are some specific business benefits:

  1. Faster time-to-market: Improving software delivery performance, SaaS companies can release new features and updates more quickly, enabling them to respond more rapidly to changing customer needs and market conditions. This can help them gain a competitive advantage and generate more revenue.
  2. Improved product quality: High software delivery performance and operational performance can lead to fewer bugs, better performance, and greater reliability, all of which contribute to improved customer satisfaction and retention. This, in turn, can lead to increased revenue and profitability.
  3. Lower costs: Improving operational performance, SaaS companies can reduce the costs associated with system downtime, incident response, and customer support. This can result in significant cost savings and improved profitability.
  4. Better collaboration and communication: Fostering a strong team culture that values continuous improvement, SaaS companies can improve collaboration and communication across teams, resulting in better alignment of business and IT objectives, reduced rework, and improved efficiency.
  5. Enhanced customer experience: Focusing on operational performance and customer satisfaction, SaaS companies can improve the customer experience, resulting in increased loyalty, retention, and revenue.

Overall, setting proper DevOps goals for software delivery performance, operational performance, and organisational performance can help SaaS companies achieve higher levels of organisational performance and sustain long-term success. By doing so, they can realise significant business benefits in terms of financials, including increased revenue, improved profitability, and reduced cost of goods sold (COGS).

This article was originally published on LinkedIn, and has been edited and reposted with permission from Dhanush Hetti.


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