Deutsche Telekom CEO Timotheus Hoettges (pictured) emphasised the importance of retaining the “human touch” and not chasing online-first companies into providing too many artificial intelligence (AI)-based customer relations services.
Speaking at a press conference on the company’s Q4 2017 earnings, the executive pointed to the need for continued investment in call centres and physical retail stores offering person-to-person advice and services.
“I don’t think we should try and copycat Amazon,” he said: “They will always be better at what they have started.”
Hoettges added he didn’t believe online-only was the correct approach for either handset or contract sales, despite the cost savings operators could make: “Having a haptic feeling, talking to someone in flesh and blood will help us to stand apart,” he noted.
In Q4 2017, Deutsche Telekom booked a net profit of €1.3 billion, up from a €2.1 billion loss in Q4 2016, due partly to the impact of a $2.2 billion (€1.8 billion) tax break in the US reported by subsidiary T-Mobile US. The German-headquartered company’s Q4 2016 figure had been hit by a huge write-down of the value of its stake in UK operator BT.
Revenue across the group in the recent quarter fell 2 per cent year-on-year to €19.1 billion, caused partly by a 4 per cent drop in revenue from T-Mobile US to €9 billion. Its revenue in Germany was up 2 per cent to €5.7 billion, while its rest of Europe division was broadly flat at €3 billion.
The company also bumped its financial forecasts for 2018 – advising a 4 per cent increase in EBITDA and an improvement in cash flow.
Alongside its financial results the company’s board announced the extention of Hoettges’ contract for another five years, but revealed CFO Thomas Dannenfeldt was set to leave for personal reasons.
Dannenfeldt will be replaced by Deutsche Telekom’s chief human resource officer Christian Illek in January 2019.
Discussing Hoettges’ performance, chairman Ulrich Lehner said the executive had “done a tremendous job” since taking on the role in 2014: “He has led Deutsche Telekom back to a growth path and to the position of leading European telco.”