Consumers may be misguided in turning to operators for digital services given many telco CEOs question their own digital awareness, two new surveys have found.

Telcos are among the top three providers customers would look to for intelligent devices such as smart thermostats, home surveillance and in-vehicle entertainment systems, according to a global study of 24,000 consumers by Accenture.

Further, 79 percent of consumers said they would prefer a single provider to manage all of their communications and entertainment products, with a third saying their CSP would be their top choice for handling all their personal data.

However, four in 10 telco CEOs think they are either equal or weaker than rivals when it comes to digital awareness, a separate report from the Economist Intelligence Unit revealed, suggesting that operators lack leadership at a time when the number of connected devices and the services they bring is forecast to explode.

The report also revealed that consumers aren’t at the forefront of executives’ minds when it comes to evaluating new technologies for investment: less than half of CEOs said consumer desires were as important as return on investment.

Charles Ross, Editor of the EIU survey, which canvassed over 200 C-level and senior telco executives, said: “To avoid being marginalised many telecoms firms are creating a central digital role for themselves by building digital ecosystems which involve partnerships with innovative companies. This digital transformation requires bold leadership; anxiety at the top could be a bar to progress.”

[Read more: Operators need to take more risks to get back amongst innovative elite]

But Tom Loozen, the MD and Global Communications Industry lead at Accenture, believes the rewards for those who do succeed will be great.

He said: “The complexity of the digital ecosystem is creating opportunities for CSPs to claim a holistic role as customer-centric digital facilitators, backed by their inherent strengths in local distribution channels and building and running high-performance networks.

“CSPs who establish themselves as trusted providers, enabling customers’ products to function effectively within this ecosystem, are not only providing a valuable service, but helping drive digital for mass adoption.”

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