The uberization of technical support is under way! [1/2]
“Uberize”. This word is on everyone’s lips. It even made its way into the 2017 edition of the Robert French dictionary! But what are we really talking about? And how can this concept be applied to the telecom industry?
First, let us return to the origins of uberization: the collaborative economy. This new economy was born in the late 90s with the spread of eBay. Its principle is simple: an online platform connects 2 groups. One provides a good or service, the other buys it. Over time, a vast array of new services has emerged: Couchsurfing (2004), Blablacar (2004), Lending Club (2006), Airbnb (2008), … As for Uber, it began as a start-up in 2009. It is now valued at approximately 65 billion dollars, despite the staggering losses recorded by the company last year: $2.8 billion. The meteoric rise of this transportation platform led to the coining of the verb “to uberize”, as well as the common noun “uberization”.
A growing trend affecting multiple sectors
Entire sectors of the economy have already “endured” this process of uberization. “Endured”: the word may sound strong, but uberization sounds to some people like a particularly destructive type of disruption. This is particularly true in the taxi sector, which was the first to rebel against this new economic system. The subject is a thorny one in most of the countries in which Uber operates. In Barcelona, for example, Uber very quickly ceased operating in the face of unrest among taxi drivers. The drivers are in the midst of a battle with Uber: a dispute dating back to 2014 could set a precedent in Europe; Uber would be forced to comply with national legislation governing taxi operations. The verdict will be announced this fall.
Conversely, there is a demand for this new type of service. PwC estimates that the business volume of this new economy will increase 20-fold in just 10 years. Other sectors are also prey to this new economy: the hotel industry for example, because of Airbnb, etc. Hoteliers see this as representing a loss of turnover and cities are seeing an upsurge in investment in rental accommodation, to the detriment of locals.
Could the Telecoms sector be “uberized” too?
This change in our consumption patterns is becoming more pronounced and is affecting a growing number of industries. I doubt that the core business of a telephone company – providing the fixed or mobile network – will ever be disrupted. Or more accurately, at the time of writing, no technology would allow this to happen. On the other hand, the risk of uberisation is very real across all of the support services provided by an operator. I am thinking in particular of the installation of equipment in the home, support for the use of a device, the objective choice of equipment adapted to a need, etc.