By Ajong Mbapndah L
Africa is on the brink of a digital revolution that will transform the lives of hundreds of millions of people says Andreas Jörbeck CEO and Co-Founder of Subtonomy. Founded in Sweden in 2012, Subtonomy’s ML-driven Network Experience Platform provides unprecedented real-time insight into the experience of customers on any network (2G, 3G, 4G, 5G NSA, 5G SA, broadband, and gigabit fiber).
Its easy-to-use applications utilize this rich data to enable customer support teams to isolate and resolve problems faster; operational teams to prioritize fault fixing and network build according to actual customer needs; business teams to up-sell to both business customers and consumers, and wholesale teams to understand the service they’re delivering to clients.
“Countries such as Kenya, Morocco, Senegal and South Africa are expected to reach US levels of internet-driven GDP by 2050, and Africa as a whole already has more smartphones than the US. The creativity, energy and enthusiasm that tech is unleashing in Africa is incredible and game changing. We’re excited to play our small part by helping ensure that customers enjoy digital confidence – safe in the knowledge that if they experience a problem their telco will have their back and fix things as rapidly as possible,” says Andreas Jörbeck.
Subtonomy recently made its first foray into the African market with a strong showing at AFRICOM in South Africa which ran from the 8th to the 12th of November 2022. The pleasant experiences at AFRICOM makes Andreas Jörbeck to believe strongly that Subtonomy will be appositive addition to the growing African tech industry
Could we start with an introduction of Subtonomy and services it offers?
Andreas Jorbeck: Subtonomy is the leading service assurance provider in the Nordics. Our network experience platform collects data from any type of network (2G, 3G, 4G, 5G, traditional broadband and full fibre) and combines this with business data to create a real-time 3600 view of what customers are actually experiencing on the network. If there’s a problem, this data helps call center agents instantly see where the problem lies, helping them solve the problem faster. The same data can be fed to digital self-service and even chatbots, enabling customers to find out what’s wrong and resolve most inquiries themselves. This means less queues for customer service, happier customers and more productive, less-stressed support staff.
For how long has the company been in business and what is its geographical spread?
Andreas Jorbeck: Subtonomy is based in Stockholm, Sweden and in 2022 celebrated 10 years of successful operation. Our core markets are the mobile-first countries of Northern Europe (the Nordics) and we’re proud of having a satisfied and loyal customer base. In all the years we’ve been operating we’ve never lost a customer. We recently took the decision to expand our offer into the Middle East and Africa (MEA), due to increased inquiries from the region, and we’ve opened a new sales office to support this expansion. As telcos in MEA roll out new networks and innovate their service offerings, they’re looking to learn from other mobile-first markets, such as those in the Nordics.
The company was a finalist in the 2022 World Communications Awards for Customer Experience, what is unique or what makes Subtonomy stand out from the services it offers?
Andreas Jorbeck: Subtonomy was really proud to be shortlisted in the Customer Experience category for the Word Communication Awards, which reflects our ongoing, long-term commitment to helping our clients provide premium, cost-effective and efficient support to their customers.
A lot of telcos struggle to provide efficient support because they can’t pinpoint what’s wrong. Either their support staff are juggling multiple tools, or data is fragmented, incomplete, inaccurate, out of date or insufficiently granular (meaning they can see how their network is working on a macro level but not individual network experience). This inflates the cost of support, disappoints customers and leads to long queues for assistance.
Our solution enables telcos to see exactly what each and every customer is experiencing, so that problems can be identified and resolved faster. But that’s just the start. Not only do we help telcos react more quickly to customer inquiries and complaints, but they can identify and begin fixing problems even before the customer is aware of them. That’s paradigm changing.
The same data that enables support staff to resolve problems faster can also be used to empower digital self-care and even used by other departments – breaking down organisational silos and opening up a whole range of new business dialogues and opportunities.
For the first time, Subtonomy came to the African market and with an attendance at the AFRICOM in South Africa from the 8th to the 10th of November 2022, why the interest at this point?
Andreas Jorbeck: We really enjoyed the AFRICOM show and the invaluable opportunity to talk directly to African telcos who are determined to improve their support operations. They tell us that not only are customer expectations rising in Africa, but they’re challenged with scaling support to deal with millions of new customers and need to find ways to increase their efficiency to meet customer expectations and keep costs down.
We’ve already been through many of the same challenges with our Nordic customers and therefore have the experience to help African telcos take customer support to the next level. There’s a great opportunity – a win-win – for us to help boost African telcos performance in this area.
How was the experience like for you and your team like at Africom?
Andreas Jorbeck: It was a fantastic experience, and we were incredibly busy. Not only did we have some really valuable conversations, but we were able to share our insights and learn more about the pressing issues that African telcos are facing today. Each country and telco is at a different stage of development and has different challenges, but one common issue that many are encountering is with their data sources. They have a wide variety of probes, probes that are no longer supported by the vendor, or even a lack of probes. We were able to reassure visitors that we could help them tackle these types of problems because our platform can extract data from any source, meaning it isn’t necessary to change their probes (which is an expensive undertaking) but, if and when they do, we can easily accommodate that as well.
From the experience and the potential that you see in Africa, what difference will the presence of Subtonomy make in the continent?
Andreas Jorbeck: African telcos need to support customers through a period of rapid technical change, increased service complexity, the transition to smartphones and the roll out of new digital support channels. Not only can Subtonomy help the deliver world-class digital customer service today, but our platform is flexible enough to insulate them against change. But the best thing about Subtonomy is that all of this can be delivered without having to undertake a costly and disruptive digital transformation project. Our platform can pull data from any existing data source and put it into a single data repository where it is pre-analysed and made instantly available through our easy-to-use applications. This massively reduces costs and disruption and means the telco and its customers can see results far quicker. It also means that even smaller telcos (tier 2, 3 and 4) can afford to overhaul their support infrastructure.
As you make check out the African market, are you concerned about competition from potential rivals?
Andreas Jorbeck: Subtonomy sees itself as a non-disruptive solution and everyone’s best friend. We add value to what’s already there without the need to change probes or swap out billing systems. You can even display our data in existing call center applications if you wish. This means telcos can squeeze every last bit of value out of their legacy equipment and solutions while still delivering a step-change in customer support. With Subtonomy you don’t have to compromise – you can have quality support 24/7, roll out new digital channels, transform the efficiency of customer support and do all of this cost-effectively and non-disruptively. And our scalability means that not only can we help the very biggest group operators in the largest and most mature mobile markets, but we can also help smaller operators in less populous markets who traditionally haven’t been able to afford this type of technology.
We think that puts us head and shoulders ahead of any competitors.
Based on your knowledge of the continent and the potential you see, what parts of the continent will be ideal for the continent to start and if we were talking of a timeline, how soon before Africa starts benefitting from the services of Subtonomy?
Andreas Jorbeck: Each country and each telco has different problems they are wrestling with. Some are moving from 2G to 3G; others from 3G to 4G. They might need to support customers upgrading from feature phones to smartphones, or they might be experiencing rapid development of their digital economy with businesses going online and the advent of new digital businesses. Whether they’re trying to support consumers, small businesses, native digital businesses or large enterprises, we have a range of easy-to-use applications to help them transform their support operations.
One of the reasons for opening our new African sales office though is that we’d already received a number of serious inquiries from all parts of the continent. While it’s too soon to make any announcements just yet, we hope to be able to share more news with you in 2023. So, watch this space!
Overall though we’re very pleased with how this expansion is going for us. One of our unique selling points is how fast Subtonomy is to implement. From signing with us to seeing improved results can be a matter of weeks. When your market is moving so fast, you can’t afford to wait around for a year or more to see results. With Subtonomy you don’t have to.
What are some of the things that the Swedish government does to boost engagement with Africa and facilitate the expansion of corporate interests like yours?
Andreas Jorbeck: Subtonomy’s expansion into Africa is funded solely by us and is fundamentally commercial. However, as a country, Sweden does provide support to African businesses and organizations. Earlier this year, for example, the Swedish government announced an additional SEK4.67 billion ($450 million) to support a regional strategy for Africa and boost cross-border co-operation. That’s extremely important in an industry such as telecoms, which is all about interconnectedness.
Any last word as we round up this interview,what makes you hopeful for the future of ties between Subtonomy and Africa?
Andreas Jorbeck: Africa is on the brink of a digital revolution that will transform the lives of hundreds of millions of people. Countries such as Kenya, Morocco, Senegal and South Africa are expected to reach US levels of internet-driven GDP by 2050, and Africa as a whole already has more smartphones than the US. The creativity, energy and enthusiasm that tech is unleashing in Africa is incredible and game changing. We’re excited to play our small part by helping ensure that customers enjoy digital confidence – safe in the knowledge that if they experience a problem their telco will have their back and fix things as rapidly as possible.