Microsperience

Peter Bowen looks at the relationship between profitability and customer centricity - sparking a debate on the importance of customer centricity and what it really means

 

File:Forcella, Nicola - Dans le souk aux cuivres - before 1868 (hi res).jpgNicola Forcella
Dans Le Souk Aux Cuivres

Before 1868

 


 

“What are you complaining about it’s the same for everyone!” – taken from a conversation between a CSR at a CSP with a customer complaining about a service outage.  I understand the customer apologised for calling.

 

I have long held the belief that putting the customer first was the best way of securing a long term profitable relationship.  However, whilst working for a large multinational I found management were more focused on short-term profit than the customer.  

 

This approach was somewhat echoed in a recent discussion I had on what it means to be customer centric.  One of the participants in this discussion stated that to be customer centric you had to do what was best for the company ie make a profit. 

 

I then came across an article in MIT Sloan’s Spring 2014 magazine http://sloanreview.mit.edu/art...stomer-satisfaction/ It covered a study that looked across industries and the correlation between companies’ customer-satisfaction levels for a given year and the corresponding stock performance of these companies for that same year. On average, it argued, satisfaction explained only 1% of the variation in a company’s market return. 

 

In the same publication it mentioned a 2013 article in Bloomberg Businessweek entitled “Proof That It Pays to Be America’s Most-Hated”.  The magazine reported that “customer-service scores have no relevance to stock market returns … the most-hated companies perform better than their beloved peers … Your contempt really, truly doesn’t matter … If anything, it might hurt company profits to spend money making customers happy.”

 

The authors did admit that the above examples represented an overly simplistic examination of the relationship between satisfaction and stock performance and that you would expect customer satisfaction to impact performance over time, as simply looking at satisfaction and stock performance levels for the same year would not accurately capture the complete relationship. Whilst this may well be true, could the 'putting the company first' approach explain the phenomenon of individualsthat do a dreadful job in one company only to do the same in many other organisations?   

 

Perhaps there is something to ‘company first’ after all.

 

Hold on a minute, this can’t be right. Sure there are people out there who are natural victims and have a capacity to forgive or blame themselves for having selected the service provider in the first place; but this must be a minority.  I, like the majority of people, don’t think about changing a supplier unless there is an incident that causes me to re-evaluate the relationship.  Normally, this would happen at contract renewal. Providing the CSP has not done anything untoward and the new contract looks OK, I simply renew.  However, I had a broadband provider who proved incompetent at installation, provided poor quality service, had staff who were poorly trained and a customer complaints process that equated to “we don’t care”.  I cancelled.   

 

The cost of providing poor service, dealing with my complaints and then losing my contract far outweighed any potential profit they may have made in the period, so if most people are like me then keeping us happy really does pay.  This said, it may not be in the customer’s best interest if the company does not make a profit, as it will simply go out of business. So the challenge is how to be profitable and be customer centric at the same time.

 

Before leaping to the conclusion that efficiency is the answer I should point out that you can be operationally efficient without being customer centric. 

 

For example, I was on assignment in Bangkok and went into a burger franchise. When I placed the order, the guy serving placed a stop clock on the counter and said “if we don’t serve you in less than 1 minute we will give you a free drink”.  I got my order quickly but there was no “so how are you today – based on passed orders you might like to try our special”. 

 

If I go to my favorite Italian restaurant it’s “how are you, how’s your mother...you should try this we think you will like”.  The service is great and I feel as though I am a valued customer.  However, if I have my annual urge for a burger I would probably go back to the same franchise; maybe not in Bangkok.

 

I concluded that for some organisations being efficient is all that is needed, whilst others need to be both efficient and really get to know their customer and use the information to provide a better experience.  Those that seek short-term profit will ultimately pay the price.  As for the ‘victims’ who put up with poor service – it’s time to ‘man up’ accept that you made the wrong choice and move on.  

 

Telesperience: operational efficiency, commercial agility and a better customer experience

 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 1 (Last: Teresa Cottam · 6/2/14 12:21 PM)

Nokia's Jane Rygaard continues the debate on CEM and SON, she argues for the importance of a 360 degree view of the customer and that what's required is a hybrid approach to SON.

 

 

John William Waterhouse - The Soul of the Rose, 1908


 

With a wink and a nod to Jane Austen: it is a truth universally acknowledged that an operator in possession of a good customer must provide an exceptional experience. Call it pride, or maybe I’m just prejudiced, but after reading recent posts, I feel the need for a spirited debate around some of the views expressed on CEM and SON. 

 

If I consider my own experience with my mobile operator, it’s a combination of touch points that defines my overall experience. So, yes, I agree that when I use my smartphone, I expect a given level of coverage, and naturally expect a high quality mobile broadband service. But I also judge my operator on customer care, the different service bundles, as well as on the complicated art of charging and billing in an easy to understand format.  So I would expect my operator to understand my overall experience as a customer, and what matters the most for me.  And I don’t think I’m alone here… check out the key customer experience management (CEM) drivers here as confirmed by our 2014 customer acquisition & retention study.

 

Limiting CEM to only one part of the network feels a bit one-dimensional (kind of like Mrs Bennet if you’re keeping score with the Pride and Prejudice analogy). For CEM, we need to take the blinkers off and ensure a full 360 degree view of the customer. We know network and service quality is an important driver for customer retention, but what determines network and service quality? As a mobile broadband customer, my quality of experience is equal to the sum of what’s happening in the network (operator scope) + the applications I’m using + my personal experience with whatever smart device is in my hand. Hence, my operator must consider end-to-end service quality.  

 

Therefore, the service model must include the radio, core, transport and IT networks to give the quality overview related to experience. This is why I feel passionately that customer experience insight and action has a home everywhere in the network, and beyond.

 

In order to deliver the optimum quality cost-effectively, we need to automate our operations. This leads me to the matter of SON and the discussion about whether it should only be centralized. In today’s world, where real-time is king, we should be able to add the decision-making power where it makes sense. For example, some optimizations should occur at the edge of the network, without the added delay of asking a centralized algorithm what to do.  Sometimes we need the umbrella view, where we can utilize CEM insight to optimize the network the right way for the right customers.  In other words, the best SON option is hybrid: employing a decentralized SON functionality in the network for speed, combined with the power of centralized algorithms where insight from CEM and e2e network and service quality factor into the decisions. Call me proud, call me prejudiced – but of this I am certain!

 

Agree? Disagree? I’m love to hear your opinion and continue the discussion.

 

 

Telesperience: operational efficiency, commercial agility and a better customer experience

 
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Our inside man, Snowden Burgess, looks at how company culture impacts on the customer experience CSPs deliver. He argues that company core values must be lived, not just written, and explains why trust is so important for both employees and customers.

 

File:Millais Rescue.jpg

John Everett Millais, The Rescue, 1855

 


 

 

Does the culture of a company impact the experience received by customers? Does the way leadership and management act, and the way they treat their employees, reflect on the customer experience the employees provide?

 

The answer to both questions is definitely yes!

 

The company culture surrounding your employees and the way your leadership and management teams act and treat staff has a direct impact on, and relationship to, the experience being received by customers.

 

I have read a lot of articles over the years about company culture and 'engaged workforces', and most if not all allude to the fact that customer experience is impacted by a poor company culture and a disengaged workforce: yet many organisations do little or nothing to address this issue.

 

When an organisation becomes more focused on reporting what its employees do on a daily basis, and/or driving internal targets focused on a silo mentality, the results are a foregone conclusion. They build a culture of distrust and fear, which will be passed on to their customers.

 

This type of organisation becomes so internally focused they forget the importance of the customer and their needs, and management behaviour damages both the company culture and employee engagement.

 

Consider core values: these are intended to guide how all employees at all levels should act. Take a look at the core values of your organisation. I can guarantee they will contain words such as 'Respect', 'Integrity', 'Accountability', 'Responsibility' and 'Customer Focused'.

 

Those companies that abide by their corporate values are normally companies whose leadership team lead by example: they talk the talk but they also walk the walk. They not only understand the values but passionately believe in them.These organisations usually have a far more engaged workforce and provide a better customer experience.

 

Unfortunately, there are a lot of organisations that have core values which are drilled into employees but ignored by leadership and management. I regularly encounter, and have worked for, a lot of organisations that have well-documented values but whose leadership have little respect for them. Instead, they tend to believe in the concept “Do as I say not as I do”.

 

If the leadership and management have no respect for their staff, their staff will have little or no respect for them; ultimately they will have little or no respect for their customer base either.

 

Let me explain how this works. An organisation may begin to restrict travel & expenses for employees on the premise of saving money; but at the same time leadership travel in corporate jets and hold champange breakfast meetings. Or an organisation may have a policy of respect and anti-bullying only for their leadership and management teams to shout and scream at direct reports, or use micromanagement, excessive monitoring and threat of redundancy to drive employees to work excessively long hours.

 

In the worst cases leaders and managers drive internal targets that directly impact the end customers, but encourage or instruct staff to ignore customers or, worse still, deliberately provide a poor experience simply to meet an internal target or milestone.

 

As a culture moves into one of distrust it becomes increasingly internally focused - driving internal departments to move into a silo mindset. This ultimately results in managers driving local optimisation (the changing of Process and Procedures to meet a single department's needs, with no consideration for the impact on the end-to-end process) to hit their latest targets. These organisations build a Big Brother culture, with checkers checking the checkers!

 

Whilst all of this is going on, the impact on the customer experience is being ignored. Distrust is passed on to the customer base, and once you lose the trust of customers, you lose your customers!

 

Core Values are the soul of an organisation. As leaders and managers we need to not only follow them but believe in them; we need to follow these values even when no one is looking. And we need to ensure that company targets such as revenue, profit and share price don’t drive us to put them to one side.

 

Ultimately successful companies believe in talented peoplewho build a trust culture that unites them around a customer-centric mission to which they hold themselves accountable. Revenue, Profits and increased share price will follow.

 

At a basic level, customers buy from companies they trust. Loyalty is driven by trust and belief in core values, and by the respect of customers. If your organisation is running a retention program aimed at reducing the amount of customers leaving, it's already too late! You're now just fire fighting and are focusing on the symptom not the cause.

 

Snowden Burgess is the pseudonym for an executive within the telecoms industry. His blogs tell you what's really going on behind the PowerPoint, as he shares insights that no-one else dares share.

 

More from Snowden Burgess

How Internal Politics destroys Innovation, Change and Success

Internal politics and the impact on customer experience

Customer experience: the negative effects of fire-fighting cultures

Why efficiency can lead to a poor customer experience

 
 
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Christian McMahon gives us some great pointers on common pitfalls of outsourcing. He argues that outsourcing is often blamed for things that are really due to poor sourcing/IT strategy and tactics. And explains why a more diligent approach to outsourcing is essential to successful outcomes.

 

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e2/Pearl_of_Grief.jpg

Rembrandt Peale, Pearl of Grief, 1849

 



Once upon a time, when asked what the main benefit of outsourcing was, the response would have been cost savings based on labour arbitrage. Today that answer would be superficial and incomplete.

I believe the main benefits of outsourcing are now access to scarce skills, expertise and the latest technology, cost reduction, transforming capital expenditure into operating expenditure, and the opportunity to concentrate resources on core business objectives.


If you think about outsourcing in this manner, you will not only start to recognise areas within your IT organisation that would benefit from adopting it, but also ways as a strategic leader you can add further value to your entire organisation.

 

The first big error people make when considering outsourcing is looking to resolve a problem through outsourcing without first looking to do so in-house. But a problem remains a problem, no matter where it sits.


Sensible outsourcing providers will often sniff this out during the RFP or other stages of the bidding process, but others may look to take it on, hoping they can fix the issue(s) as a calculated risk whilst trying to win the business (the fact a vendor accepts this huge risk should really start ringing alarm bells for you as you both know there’s an elephant in the room).


Those that don’t take the business (and hopefully this is the majority) are likely to make you go back and fix the problem before retendering. Those who take it on will only delay the inevitable: leaving you not only with a larger problem downstream but also with the added bonus of a whole heap of complex contractual issues to sort out (which I imagine you will now discover were also not properly agreed or worded up front).


Many take this approach and get their fingers burnt with outsourcing, vowing never to return, which is a real shame, as outsourcing done in the right way is an extremely beneficial way to add to the value you provide to your organisation.

 

The second biggest error people make when considering outsourcing is to engage with, and select, a vendor by only having had a few live sales meetings/conference calls, with just a cursory glance over (vendor) provided case studies. They won't have visited the operating/service centres to see the outsourcing company in action in a live environment, or have met the staff who will be working with their team.


You wouldn’t do this if you were hiring permanent staff or running the project in-house, so why do this when exploring outsourcing? It makes no sense.


This often occurs, however, when a company decides to outsource a small project or a portion of it to see if outsourcing works for them in an operational sense.

 

In this case, the vendor is often chosen just on labour arbitrage alone, and because of this the work is often performed in Asia or Eastern Europe. The ‘project’ is then left with the vendor with scant and seemingly erratic communication, and only poured over in detail once the deliverable is returned with obvious errors.

 

The result is the project often has to be redone in-house - blowing the project budget, causing delays and delivering red faces all round.
Outsourcing is again blamed as the enemy: the lack of communication and poor vendor selection/interaction issues are conveniently swept under the carpet.

 

So, in summary it may be that outsourcing is not for you; but you owe it to yourself and your organisation to try everything that you can to add value to what you deliver. Outsourcing executed properly can provide real value when opportunities are identified, structured, communicated and managed correctly, so what are you waiting for?

 

Christian McMahon is Founder and CEO of three25. Christian founded three25 to provide his award-winning services as a leading global IT and Digital executive, innovative thought-leader & trusted advisor. He has over 20 years' experience in delivering commercially-focused, world-class multinational IT organisations. He is a recognised blogger and respected expert in the IT sector, with significant reach & engagement across social channels.

 

More information can be found at www.three25.com

And you can follow him on Twitter at: @christianmcm

 

Telesperience: operational efficiency, commercial agility and a better customer experience

 
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Nir Asulin, CEO of FTS, outlines the important role policy control and charging has in the commercialization of Wi-Fi services. He describes how operators can move from just offloading to ensure QoS to creating an additional way of generating money.

 

File:Henry Charles Bryant08.jpg

Market Scene, Henry Charles Bryant (1835–1915)


 

Policy Control is Central to Monetization of WiFi Offloading

A popular way to ease congestion on a cellular network is to make optimal use of WiFi, as it is a very cost-effective and efficient means of offloading large quantities of mobile data traffic.  This is feasible because WiFi is ubiquitous. It allows the operator to provide affordable, always-on data connectivity, which ensures the lucrative provisioning of a variety of new services with appealing subscriber-directed packages.

 

That being said, the idea of making money from WiFi offloading has yet to be universally accepted. This is probably because operators still don’t believe monetization of the concept is feasible.

 

The implementation of a complete solution – one that supports the integration of an offloading mechanism together with a BSS solution (policy control and charging) – enables an operator’s marketing team to introduce policy and charging rules that switch the user from the mobile network to the most highly available WiFi networks based on a variety of easily configured parameters. This even includes, for example, the type of traffic that can be offloaded and that which will be left on the mobile network.

 

Sounds too good to be true? Ultimately this is exactly what a smart policy control and charging (PCC) application – integrated with a third-party WiFi offload platform – should provide. Policy control gives an operator’s marketing team the ability to easily and rapidly introduce or modify policy and charging rules that transparently switch the user from the mobile network to WiFi networks.

How Policy Control is used to Monetize WiFi Offloading

So how does policy control help monetize WiFi offloading? Firstly, an operator’s back-office team can now implement the most innovative ideas originated by marketing. This enables them to go far beyond the scope of standard BSS configurations to deliver flexible and fully customizable marketing packages. Here are just a few ideas that can easily be implemented using an integrated policy control and charging solution within the shortest possible time to market:

  • Offloading video only and leaving VoIP or VoLTE services on the reliable cellular network.
  • Providing incentives such as data credits (additional free megabytes of data usage) for customers who are willing to move certain types of traffic to WiFi (video, music, gaming, etc).
  • Charging the subscriber per transport layer (WiFi or cellular), and not relying on a standard charging model, eg lower rates for data transferred over WiFi (eg each MB is calculated as if it was 0.5 MB).
  • Offering smart routing so that a customer is able to choose between WiFi and mobile usage based upon required quality.
  • Combining seamless WiFi and 3G/4G data transfer with a cap on total data volume.
  • Proposing low-cost Wi-Fi services for new subscribers who have yet to implement a mobile data plan.
  • Offering low-cost Wi-Fi data services during the hours of the day or days of the week when users are usually away from home or the office (train stations, shopping malls, parks, etc. in which hotspots are available).

 

Using an integrated offloading and policy control solution, specific packages for customer segments can be created using simple rules:

  • A rule for quality based upon a subscriber’s preferences (eg the best quality network at premium prices or decent quality as much lower rates).
  • A rule that rejects WiFi leaving the user only on a cellular network.
  • A rule that puts the user only on trusted WiFi networks or the operator’s own hotspots, such that the service will not kick into WiFi if the network in question does not meet predefined standards.
  • A rule that transparently switches a subscriber from a cellular to a WiFi network, when available, no matter what the circumstances are.

 

All such scenarios are very easy to achieve using specific profiles transferred to routing and offloading platforms on a per-subscriber or group basis. If an operator looks not only to reduce the mobile network load, but also commercialize this capability, then additional new packages that include WiFi offloading can be sold with bonuses and incentives for subscribers who are ready to offload all or certain types of traffic.

 

WiFi can also be marketed as a value-added service with the combined data package being positioned as an elite item, thus generating even more revenue.

 

Another possibility is to further enhance the WiFi offering with agreements with WiFi hotspot providers (such as airports, universities etc). Further monetization is achieved in this case, by implementing smart revenue-sharing mechanisms, enabling innovative business models within multi-partner, complex value chains.

 

The successful deployment of WiFi is a question of marketing and should not be regarded as a billing issue. Service providers’ marketing teams deal with customer experience rather than network and billing problems. Modern billing and policy management tools should provide the operators with the ability to launch new services at the speed of marketing, enabling the commercialization of network-related issues such as WiFi offloading.

 

With more than 15 years of experience in the telecom and software industries, Nir has led FTS's operations since 2012. Nir joined FTS in 2003 and moved from managing the Quality Assurance group to leading the Professional Services and Projects Delivery groups - eventually becoming the VP of Global Operations within FTS in 2009.  Nir has both technology and management experience in billing & customer care, CRM and policy control software, having previously spent several years at Amdocs’ Professional Services group, holding several positions at large European and American telecom operators. 

 

You can follow FTS on Twitter @fts_billing

 

Telesperience: operational efficiency, commercial agility and a better customer experience

 
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Amdocs's Liron Golan argues that central product catalogs offer service providers the opportunity to escape 'the circle of silos'. He says they offer greater flexibility when defining offerings across multiple lines of business, and create a single source of product truth within the service provider organization.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/76/Ferdinand_Laufberger_Blinde-Kuh-Spiel_1865.jpg

Das Blinde-Kuh-Spiel, 1865, Ferdinand Laufberger

As a service provider’s business evolves and grows, it deploys thousands of complex products and services using different technologies across networks and business sectors. To keep up with the quick pace of the market and effectively compete with traditional competitors and over-the-top (OTT) players, greater effort is needed so pockets of product information are up-to-date and synchronized. Failing to do so will, more often than not, result in slow time to market, adversely affecting product quality and weighing down service providers trying to launch themselves into a new era of telecommunication services.

To address this evolution, service providers must ensure a unified business support system (BSS)-operational support system (OSS) environment across all lines of businesses, networks, devices and customer personas. However, today’s existing silo architecture limits service provider flexibility.

 

One way for service providers to free themselves from the circle of silos is to combine all product data into a single centralized container – an enterprise product catalog – which holds all aspects of product data in one canonical information model, to provide a single source of “product truth”. To make this a reality, service providers need a centralized catalog that fits different systems and supports the product structure that corresponds with business needs. Data model flexibility allows easy adaptation to business needs on one end and is synchronized with the needs and abilities of the BSS/OSS on the other.

 

Not insignificant is the aging of legacy systems, which has become more apparent in recent years. Many legacy systems are unable to support new business models and services. Adding to the challenges are the additional silos that are built on the side of these systems to support new services, new business models and are often adjusted to enhance the abilities of legacy systems. Modernization and replacement of these legacy systems is needed, but replacing them in one ‘big bang’ operation may not be appealing to all service providers. This is where an enterprise product catalog can really help.

 

Enterprise product catalogs help service providers optimize revenue generation by providing greater flexibility when defining offerings across multiple lines of business. This is possible due to sophisticated and complex product and service bundling, discounting plans and promotion mechanisms, which provide service providers with the ability to tailor their offerings to match the specific needs of each customer segment.

 

Since modern BSS/OSS follows a well-defined business process that is driven by an enterprise product catalog, service providers can gain additional benefits and strengths.

 

For example, the enterprise product catalog can store and point each product, offer or bundle to the relevant business process or sub-process, as well as provide parameters, attributes and every other aspect of the product definition needed for corresponding business processes, such as order-to-cash or catalog-driven provisioning.

 

Since hard-coded processes are not needed, changing existing business processes, introducing new ones and determining the way products are handled is placed in the hands of product managers and marketers, enabling them to quickly respond to the most updated business requirements without tying them down to system capabilities.

 

By streamlining the business processes associated with the introduction of new products, enterprise product catalogs can reduce the product development cycle, as well as greatly increase service providers’ agility - ultimately increasing customer loyalty and profitability. An enterprise product catalog allows service providers to respond to changing market conditions and introduce new initiatives quickly and efficiently, providing a much-needed competitive edge.

 

Liron Golan heads up Amdocs cloud marketing. He is responsible for defining the marketing and business strategy for Amdocs’ telco cloud solutions, which include cloud brokerage (cloud enablement) and BaaS (BSS as a service).

Follow Liron on Twitter:@liron12G
Follow Amdocs on Twitter: @amdocs
File:Jimi hendrix tallstig saachi.jpg
BOSSfest14

Portrait of Jimi Hendrix,
oil on canvas,
by the Swedish artist Tommy Tallstig
 

Telesperience: operational efficiency, commercial agility and a better customer experience

 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 2 (Last: Liron Golan (Amdocs) · 5/27/14 7:50 AM)

In this post, MDS's Andy Peers looks at why business innovation has become so important to CSP success. He argues that CSPs need to look outside the industry for inspiration and highlights an example of recession-busting pricing success that CSPs can take inspiration from.

 

File:Joachim Beuckelaer - Marché avec l'Ecce Homo vers 1561.jpg

Marché avec l'Ecce Homo, Joachim Beuckelaer, 1561


 

In telecoms we like our innovations.  But while we’re constantly talking about innovation, we usually think of it as something comprised of either wires or code – something technological.

 

But innovation has many forms. It doesn’t have to be revolutionary, it can be quietly incremental; it doesn’t have to flow from developed to developing markets, but can flow in the opposite direction; and it doesn’t have to be technological, but can be business innovation.

 

Arguably, of all the varying forms of innovation, business innovation is where CSPs struggle most today – particularly in the fields of business models and pricing. Many CSPs don’t even associate the concepts of innovation and pricing – paying little attention to the role pricing can play in increasing the appeal of a product or the health of a business. Yet better pricing strategies are a great way for CSPs to differentiate themselves from competitors, while creating a different commercial relationship with their customer by understanding what the customer actually values in their products and services, and then meeting that need.

 

Typically, CSPs build networks and then figure out how they’re going to price the connectivity and any other value-added services they sell on top of it. This “build it and they will come” approach is coupled with a “cost-plus” mindset, which means they expect a certain return from their investment, and price accordingly. Yet more sophisticated approaches to pricing have been used to build product, business and industry success for many years. Henry Ford, for example, began the automotive revolution with the concept of price: he was going to build a car that was affordable for those who couldn’t previously afford cars. The product definition, manufacturing and business processes stemmed from his desire to build a car “so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one.”

 

In fact, telcos can gain new pricing ideas and innovative approaches by looking outside their own industry. While telecoms companies in developing markets have had success designing products to fit price niches – for example, Vodafone offering prepaid cards in denominations as low as Rs10 in India - designing products to fit price niches is something that retailers, in particular, are extremely adept at. A great example of a retailer who has used this pricing approach successfully is UK retailer Poundland, which is now owned by Warburg Pincus. How did Poundland enter a crowded retail market and transform itself into a 528 branch, £1 billion, recession-beating success story, with over 10,000 employees and four million weekly shoppers, of which more than 1 in 5 are now staunchly middle class (A,Bs)?

 

The answer is a very clever – if very simple - pricing strategy. The pricing strategy actually defines the brand: Poundland is a shop where everything costs £1. The beauty of it is that customers understand the pricing and buy into the concept; Poundland alters the product to fit the pricing, rather than varying the pricing to fit the product.

 

The company began by selling an idiosyncratic assortment of homeware products, end-of-line chocolates and biscuits, and products destined for export that got left on the docks. Now it sells a much bigger range of products – including fresh food,  toys, stationery, reading glasses, gardening goods and make-up. It’s the UK’s biggest seller of Toblerone, and sells 14,000 pregnancy tests a week.

 

It has such buying power, that it can go directly to the biggest manufacturers and get bulk deals and special-sized packs which are designed to meet its £1 price point. It can also offer clearance for manufacturers that find they’re overstocked or need to liquidise stock quickly.

 

Poundland terms its ability to design a product to its price point as “re-engineering” – this means if the cost of a product goes up, it shrinks the amount it offers to maintain the £1 price point.

 

It’s also really good at marketing its bargains. Many packs will come with a flash pointing out the extra value (“3 bars plus 1 free&rdquo. Shoppers like this tactic because it’s pointing out the value and reassuring them they’re getting a bargain.

 

Gorkan Ahmetoglu a consumer psychologist at Goldsmiths, University of London, advised the Office of Fair Trading on a recent pricing study. He says bargains and offers stimulate a biological change in customers’ brains that “trigger a reaction which says 'This is a reward’.” Ahmetoglu points out that it’s a very effective strategy to encourage consumption.

 

Another Poundland strategy that CSPs would do well to take note of is that its own-brand goods are retailed under a variety of different names. Retailers call this “phantom” branding. Thus candles are supplied by Coley and Gill and the minced beef by Fenback Farm. This strategy caters to the bargain-hunt mentality, with names carefully chosen to make consumers think either they are higher worth than the £1 being charged, or to evoke an emotional response or piggy-back off the expensive market-building marketing of others. Fenback Farm, for example, sounds quintessentially English, making us think of small scale production, free roaming cows and old world values.

 

It’s notable that Poundland does not use its own brand because it wants the brand to stand for “cheap” and “value”, while its phantom brands stand for “expensive” and “valuable”. It reinforces this effect by mixing own-brand goods with marketing-leading brands that draw shoppers in.

 

There are many clever tricks in Poundland’s strategy that CSPs can learn from, adapt and re-use. Simple pricing has some history in telecoms – SMS, for example, was partly successful because the pricing was simple for customers to understand. But simplicity of pricing is an underutilised strategy, with CSPs retrenching from AYCE bundles to more complex pricing. The nadir of this approach is possibly volume-based pricing, which customers continually communicate their frustration with. (What is a megabyte of data exactly? What value does it offer in the real world?)

 

Using a multi-brand strategy to convince customers they’re getting quality products for keen prices, sourcing cheaper products and raw materials to create “bargain sales”, and designing to a price point are all tactics that CSPs could utilise effectively.

 

I’d argue that in future, business innovation is going to be just as important in this industry as technology innovation, if not more so. To tap into pricing and business innovation, CSPs need to analyse the best that’s happening in our own industry and shamelessly copy and adapt; but also look outside our industry for new sources of inspiration.

 

For more on this topic

Ensure you reserve a copy of the new Telesperience issues paper we’ve commissioned on Pricing Innovation, and sign up for our upcoming free webinar.  Send your contact details now to contact@mdscem.com and we’ll keep you updated.

 

File:Jimi hendrix tallstig saachi.jpg

 BOSSfest14

 

Portrait of Jimi Hendrix,
oil on canvas,
by the Swedish artist Tommy Tallstig

 

Andy is VP Product & Services Strategy at MDS and has over 25 years industry experience.  He talks regularly to customers about their business challenges, and pricing and innovation is a recurring topic. 

 

Telesperience: operational efficiency, commercial agility and a better customer experience

 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 1 (Last: Teresa Cottam · 5/23/14 9:22 AM)

A conversation between Rob Rich, managing director of insights research at TM Forum, and Annie Turner, editorial director at TM Forum, about customers, net promoter scores and big data analytics.

 

File:Auguste Renoir Conversation.JPG

Renoir, Conversation


 


AT | We’ve talked a lot about improving customer experience. Why does progress seem slow?

RR | Progress has been slow because, firstly, some service providers have struggled to cope with the expanding breadth and complexity of the market. Secondly, the urgency has only become apparent as markets have matured; margins and revenues have fallen; and device, app and web companies have distanced service providers from customers. Finally, organizational and cultural issues have certainly come into play, particularly for some ‘traditional’ service providers.


AT | Has your view of customer experience changed in the last five years?

RR | The fundamentals have changed little. For the customer, it’s still about usefulness, convenience and trust. But, nowadays, the diversity of devices, channels and services, plus the volume of usage, have exploded, meaning that customers are more in control.


AT | Should there be more focus on providing excellent coverage and connectivity – and the agile IT infrastructure to enable it – rather than net promoter scores (NPS)?

RR | I would argue that fundamentals like coverage and service performance heavily influence NPS. If your service performance is poor, is that useful for end users? Convenient? Does that increase trust? The best way to increase NPS is to do the basics well – determine what’s really important to your customers, prioritize that and your NPS will likely improve.


AT | What are we trying to achieve with big data analytics?

RR | There are many areas where ‘big’ and ‘small’ data can help, and service providers have a huge opportunity to improve customer experience, develop attractive products and offers, and lower costs.


AT | What are the most important areas big data could help service providers with?

RR | Several service providers are using network and customer data to learn the habits of their most valuable customers – for example, which geographic locations they favor. They also use network data to determine overall usage in those locations. By comparing the two, they can drive support for future network investments that will improve network performance and boost customer satisfaction. Another example might include improving recommendation engine performance by adding unstructured and semi-structured data to the analytical mix. Another could be social network analysis to identify influential users’ propensity to churn. It all depends on what the service provider views as most pressing.

 

AT | When will big data analytics deliver in the communications industry?
RR | Big data analytics is still in its infancy and will continue to develop over at least the next decade or two. But for service providers approaching it with the right strategies and resources, it’s already delivering value right now!

 

Annie Turner is Editorial Director at TM Forum. She has been researching and writing about the communications industry since the 1980s, editing magazines dedicated to the subject, including titles published by Thomson International and The Economist Group. This article is excerpted from TM Forum’s Perspectives publication. Topics such as customer experience, analytics, digital services and IT transformation are the focus of TM Forum Live!, June 2-5, Nice, France.

 

Telesperience: operational efficiency, commercial agility and a better customer experience

 
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Amdocs' Tanya White looks at how the widespread introduction of self-optimizing network (SON) features within the radio access network (RAN) means customer experience measurements are rapidly shifting toward the more relevant metric of active customer experience improvement. She argues that operators who've implemented SON, and especially centralized SON (C-SON), have seen impressive gains in their network performance resulting in enriched customer experiences.

 

File:Anders Zorn Omnibus.jpg

Anders Zorn, Omnibus, 1891/92


 

 

The widespread introduction of self-optimizing network (SON) features within the radio access network (RAN), means customer experience measurements are rapidly shifting toward the more relevant metric of active customer experience improvement.

 

The day-to-day customer experience of most subscribers is very straightforward. Every day, subscribers make and receive phone calls, have missed and dropped calls; they check Facebook, Twitter, email and the Web, in good coverage and bad. Essentially, their experience comes down to whether they have good voice and data coverage. The customer experience is therefore intimately tied with the success or shortcomings of the RAN.

 

This year, according to IDC, sales of smartphones overtook sales of feature phones globally for the first time.  As an industry, we know that when people start using smartphones they use more data, and then start to rely on that data being universally available. As proof of that, a recent global survey by a major network equipment provider found that Internet access quality has become a deciding factor in the choice of networks in mature markets, with voice quality being key in developing markets.

 

The survey goes on to explain that the likelihood of subscriber wastage (defined as losing a customer unnecessarily through inaction) has increased by over 20% since last year.

 

This tells the story that even with a renewed emphasis on connection quality, and data connection quality in particular, expectations are not being met by many operators. So if voice and data coverage are primary factors, how can operators best address those requirements to improve the customer experience and reduce strategically important aspects of market share loss?

 

In our experience most operators have moved beyond the thinking that LTE rollouts are a panacea. The most advanced operators understand that they need to manage the performance and behavior of their resources better, regardless of network access technology.

 

So it's not surprising that many of the world's largest and most advanced mobile operators have started to look seriously at self-optimizing network (SON) technology.  SON is arguably one of the few mobile technology trends over recent years that has delivered upon its initial hype, with immediate, meaningful and long-lasting improvements both for mobile operators’ businesses and subscribers’ daily experience.

 

Operators who have implemented SON, and especially centralized SON (C-SON), have seen impressive gains in their network performance resulting in enriched customer experiences. They have seen greater than 15% improvement in capacity utilization and over 20% improvement in dropped call rates, typically within a few hours or days after SON installation. And this all happens while substantially simplifying network management complexity. 

 

But not all types of SON are born equal. There are two main flavors of SON: C-SON and distributed SON (D-SON). D-SON typically applies to a single node or a small localized cluster of cells, and does not allow for significant coordination across diverse infrastructure vendors' equipment. Because of these limitations, there is some concern that D-SON is already becoming an obsolete technology. C-SON, on the other hand, allows the whole network to be self-optimized because it focuses on solving quality, capacity and coverage issues across the entire network.

 

Another benefit of C-SON is that, as a technology, it was built to be much closer to the subscriber than many types of customer experience management tools. When operators try to measure the customer experience, very rarely does it include device-level measurements, which is where the action happens as far as the subscriber is concerned.

 

Simply put, they are not really measuring the subscriber’s de facto experience. Most of the time operators are measuring how their own network is performing, and from there extrapolating the impact upon their subscribers. Modern C-SON systems, like those from Amdocs, are already processing tens of millions of events daily in live HetNets in some of the world’s largest megacities, and are able to take every single subscriber’s actions, movements and experiences into consideration when adjusting network parameterization.

 

With SON, the management of everyday customer experiences is entering a new and more exciting phase. Instead of the relatively incomplete definition of customer experience management, SON provides the much more relevant proactive customer experience improvement.  Customer experience management as a term is not going away, but as an industry, if we are a little more pragmatic and grounded about what we need to achieve, we can see that the home of customer experience improvement is in the RAN – and it always has been.

 

Tanya White is responsible for product marketing in the Amdocs Radio Access Network (RAN) division. She has over 13 years of telecommunications experience in marketing, strategic planning, and marketing analytics.

 

Read more blogs from Amdocs at their blog Insight Fuel

You can follow Amdocs on Twitter at @amdocs

 

 

Telesperience: operational efficiency, commercial agility and a better customer experience

 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 1 (Last: Teresa Cottam · 5/31/14 10:11 AM)

Affandy Johan, Senior Product Marketing Manager  from InfoVista looks at the importance of understanding quality of experience, and how CSPs can leverage subscriber-aware data to optimize network performance and deliver a consistently high QoE, thus preventing dissatisfaction and churn. 

 

File:Lesser Ury Leser mit Lupe.jpg

 

Lesser Ury: Leser mit Lupe, c1895

 


 

As mobile penetration around the world continues to creep higher, most mobile operators have shifted their focus from customer acquisition to customer retention. Mobile operators are no longer working to “grow the pie”; rather, they are trying to gain a bigger slice of the existing one. With that shift in mind, mobile operators are increasingly realizing the importance of delivering a consistent, high quality of experience (QoE) to satisfy and maintain their relationships with subscribers.

 

Yet, many are still using the same legacy tools and key performance indicators (KPIs) that they’ve always used to report on mobile network performance and quality of service (QoS). While KPIs provide relevant data to benchmark network-wide performance, this gives a broad portrayal of service levels, presenting many challenges in optimizing the individual customer experience. However, in order to guarantee quality of experience (QoE) to prevent customer churn, mobile operators require more granular, customer-centric views into network performance.

 

Having access to subscriber-aware data, such as call trace information, is essential for mobile operators. Collecting this data doesn't cost mobile operators anything, and provides powerful insight into the real behaviors and distribution of subscribers on their mobile networks. Additionally, by collecting call trace data, mobile network optimization engineers can better measure and understand events such as dropped and blocked calls in order to address QoS issues and prevent them in the future. Therefore, the priority becomes troubleshooting network faults experienced by individual users and optimizing the network to best serve high-value subscribers.

 

In addition to monitoring and managing individual users’ service performance, mobile operators can leverage the same data to identify the equipment or applications contributing to a poor QoE. While operators may or may not be able to reduce this negative impact on network performance, the insight enables them to offer concrete recommendations to subscribers in order to boost their network QoS.

 

Finally, call-trace information can dramatically reduce the need for time-consuming drive tests, saving mobile operators significant resources and speeding up the data collection process. Call trace data is much more cost-effective to collect and can be applied to a number of network optimization tasks, including cell troubleshooting, area-wide optimization and VIP call monitoring. And, if mobile operators have real-time capabilities to collect this call-trace data, the impact on QoS is much more immediate because network optimization engineers can quickly drill down to improve the areas that are known to have quality issues.

 

Mobile network conditions are constantly fluctuating. Even within the same mobile cell, some subscribers may have positive experiences, while others may not. Mobile operators must, therefore, be able to access reliable, accurate and up-to-date performance data at any given moment to ensure the best possible QoS for their subscribers.

 

Historically, service assurance has been reactive for many operators; this can no longer be the case. By becoming more aware of individual subscribers’ QoE, mobile operators can mitigate or avoid potential network performance issues and proactively reduce customer dissatisfaction before they churn.

 

You can read more great OSS content on Infovista's blog Proactive Network News.

 

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 BOSSfest14

 

Portrait of Jimi Hendrix,
oil on canvas,
by the Swedish artist Tommy Tallstig

 

Telesperience: operational efficiency, commercial agility and a better customer experience

 
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Steve Hateley, head of marketing at Comptel argues that communications service providers (CSPs) are at a crossroads, forcing them to reconsider their approach to software provision and look seriously at the Cloud.

 

 

In the Tyrol, Albert Bierstadt


 

For years, business models and network architectures have remained relatively stable. But, faster than you can say “WhatsApp,” everything has changed.

 

The influx of mobile devices and usage of data services, the increasing competition from over-the-top (OTT) providers and the pressure to cut costs and improve efficiency have forced CSPs to seriously reconsider their approaches. Now, businesses are looking less at hardware, and more at the cloud, to automate, scale and simplify infrastructure and operations management.  

 

Recent research shows that the majority of C-level executives are thinking about this – 64% of CMOs and CTOs/CIOs are working to incorporate cloud-based technology into their OSS/BSS systems this year, and 58% believe their OSS/BSS systems need to be modernised and consolidated.

 

By going ‘virtual’ with software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV), CSPs can become more agile and more responsive to market demands than ever before. They will be able to innovate personalised service packages to fulfill consumers’ infotainment desires, provide and win from more dynamic, contextual marketing offers and, ultimately, achieve more cost-effective operations - bridging silos throughout their organisations. 

 

SDN and NFV have been big focuses at conferences lately, as well as the topic of conversation among industry thought leaders. But how do these technologies work together? And what implications do they have for OSS/BSS systems?

 

The SDN/NFV Partnership

While NFV and SDN are different technologies, they are, in effect, two sides of the same coin.

 

NFV focuses on the consolidation of proprietary parts of the network, such as hardware-based routers, and brings those functions to a virtual environment. Meanwhile, SDN works to centralise command and control capabilities within a virtual environment. By decoupling network control and data planes found in network equipment, SDN creates a central layer of control between infrastructure and applications.

 

When the physical network no longer has to be managed to introduce new services, or adjusted to fulfill complex customer requirements, opportunities will quickly emerge.

 

The agility that SDN and NFV enable will usher in a new era for CSPs. Provisioning and activation across the network will be more accurate and consistent, allowing for seamless service rollouts and more streamlined inventory management. SDN/NFV won’t just improve operational efficiency and allow for faster time-to-market - these technologies will also help establish partnerships with OTT providers, too, creating a dynamic, virtual layer that will enable a whole new ecosystem of potential service and monetisation opportunities. 

 

Consolidation and Clouds

To maximise these benefits, OSS/BSS systems have to be consolidated and modernised. Currently, a CSP’s operations team can be working with more than a dozen different systems, trying to piece together information from another dozen silos to build a coherent picture of the network and customers’ needs.

 

Things won’t change radically – OSS/BSS systems will still work to collect customer, network, service and other important data – but SDN and NFV will play an important role in streamlining the data collection, analysis and business decision-making processes. Additionally, SDN/NFV opens the door for automation across the business, whether CSPs are interested in increasing efficiency across the network, operations or charging and billing.

 

This will mean big changes for OSS/BSS vendors, but the change is likely to be an evolution, rather than a revolution. Instead of creating software that’s based on proprietary hardware, the new OSS/BSS programs will live in the cloud, with software that can integrate with legacy systems and provide new efficiencies. This will ultimately lead to more options for CSPs, because each system will be able to work across any virtual environment.

 

In this case, modernisation will have to start with consolidation. Once all of the network and customer data from legacy OSS/BSS systems has migrated to a central platform, SDN and NFV technologies can really get to work, and CSPs can finally move infrastructure from the ground up to the cloud.

 

You can read more from Comptelians at the excellent Comptel Blog.

You can follow Steve Hateley on Twitter @shateley

 

 

 

File:Jimi hendrix tallstig saachi.jpg

 BOSSfest14

 

Portrait of Jimi Hendrix,
oil on canvas,
by the Swedish artist Tommy Tallstig

 

 

Telesperience: operational efficiency, commercial agility and a better customer experience

 
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In this post our inside man Snowden Burgess analyses another reason why CSPs are slow in transforming their customer experience. He looks at the fire fighting mindset, and how it encourages and incentivises the wrong behaviour from both CSP staff and customers.

 

File:Joseph Mallord William Turner, English - The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons, October 16, 1834 - Google Art Project.jpg

The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons 16th October 1834
JMW Turner, 1884/5


 

 

We have all heard the term Fire Fighting or Fire Fighting mode, but what does this really mean and what impact does it have on the overall customer experience?

 

Many organisation's fire fight and, used in the right way, it can be a very effective tool to rally the troops and tackle a difficult or serious problem within your organisation or within a specific customer account. Basically fire fighting is effective & targeted troubleshooting to resolve a specific issues or problems.

 

But organisations frequently drift into a structure that promotes fire fighting as the normal process for day-to-day activities, creating a culture of pressure, stress and disruption as each new fire is dealt with, while whole processes and procedures are adapted to facilitate the requirement to fire fight. Staff become unconcerned about the fires and dangers, as these become commonplace, which means that now fires need to be bigger and more dangerous fires before they attract the attention of the fire fighters within the organisation.

 

Teams and departments now organise themselves around the need to fire fight; managers and leaders target staff not on the day-to-day running of the business but on how many fires they deal with. This promotes the need to fight fires.

 

As the engine room of the organisation strives for operational excellence, they reduce head count to meet declining revenues, but this merely creates further fires within the organisation and customer base.

 

Recruitment now starts to focus on recruiting more fire fighters (heavy-hitting troubleshooters) to fix the internal problems, but they are quickly consumed by the raging fires around them.

 

The cycle continues and most fires never really get put out; they're just brought under control for limited periods of time, before the fire fighters are pulled away to the next inferno.

 

As the organisation drifts into the fire-fighting culture, both staff and customers realise that the only way to get the attention they need is to start fires or at least to dial 999/911 and claim there is a fire.

 

This is mainly due to the fact that key staff become far too focused on the latest fire, giving little time to the day-to-day activities that keep the lights on in an organisation. But a lack of attention to these items, simply sparks them into smouldering issues that quickly take light into the full-blown fires of the future.

 

As the fire-fighting culture starts to take hold, the key fire fighters within the organisation start to thrive on the excitement and adrenaline of fighting fires, along with the prestige and focus that comes with taming the latest fire. Senior management and customers reward those assisting with the fires and ignore those driving the day-to-day activities of the business.

 

By this time the organisation is in the tight grip of the fire fighters, with little or nothing getting done unless it’s a blaze: the false impression is created that only *they* can sort out the problems. Likewise, the argument arises that they simply don’t have enough fire fighters, and the myth is born "fire fighters are critical to the success of the business!”

 

"The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic." John F Kennedy

 

 

In the midst of the fire fighting all organisations have their 'fire prevention teams' - otherwise known as 'Customer Experience', 'Service Improvement', 'Process Development' and 'Operational Improvement' teams. Unfortunately, fire prevention is slow, boring and unexciting, with little chance of winning any awards or fame.

 

Resources and funding allocated to fire fighting far out-reaches that given to fire prevention. Where the culture is really bad, fire fighters actively push back on fire prevention trying desperately to maintain the status quo.

 

“Status quo is Latin for, 'The mess we're in.”

 Ronald Reagan

 

So what does this mean for customer experience, which is ultimately at the centre of most fires?  

 

An organisation that has a culture of fire fighting is inevitably internally-focused, with most decisions based around what is needed by the fire fighters to either fight fires or, worse still, measure how many fires they can put out! The customers are forgotten, with the belief that by putting the fires out you will improve customer experience; everything is about the short term with little attention paid to any long-term planning that is in place.

 

Ultimately customers only get the attention they need when they dial 999/911, and only for as long as they keep the fires burning!

 

Fire fighting is a critical tool and skill, but organisations need to take a leaf out of the book of the world’s real fire fighters, who know that a day sat at the station not fighting fires is a good day!

 

Snowden Burgess is the pseudonym for an executive within the telecoms industry. His blogs tell you what's really going on behind the PowerPoint, as he shares insights that no-one else dare share.

 

 

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 BOSSfest14

 

Portrait of Jimi Hendrix,
oil on canvas,
by the Swedish artist Tommy Tallstig

 
 
 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 2 (Last: Snowden Burgess · 5/23/14 6:35 AM)

Sanjay Kapoor, CMO at Nominum, looks at the hidden power of DNS and how CSPs can unleash its potential to provide immediate impact on their customer experience and commercial agility.

 

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/db/James_Ward_-_An_Overshot_Mill_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

James Ward, An Overshot Mill, 1802-1807

 


 

 

The age of CSPs focusing efforts on attracting new customers fuelled by the launch of an increasing number of feature-rich smartphones available on subsidised 48-month tariffs is coming to an end.

 

In an era characterised by growth in consumers buying handsets outright and shopping around for the best SIM-only deal, retention has become the new priority in response to market pressures.

 

Unfortunately, most CSPs are currently not ‘engaged’ with their customers. If you ask the average subscriber how they feel about their mobile or landline provider, the answer is likely to be either negative if they have had any recent problems, or apathy if everything has been running well. This is a common response to any service provider who supplies a utility with little attention to brand loyalty or customer interaction. They provide their service and billing, but that is where the engagement ends.  

Nowhere in the chain do subscribers feel they get a personal, tailored service or additional value from being a customer of their provider. Compare this to the way Google or Facebook users engage with the brand, and we can see CSPs clearly have a long way to go in terms of achieving strong, two-way relationships with their customers.

 

However, help is at hand – all that is needed is a change in perception from CMOs and for them to realise the power of the data they already have at their disposal.

 

All CSPs who offer an internet connection have access to a wealth of data already stored within their networks which can help protect their customers, increase engagement through more targeted marketing and even open new revenue streams through third-party advertising. This doesn’t need to be a large marketing analytics platform, but something much simpler and intrinsic to their operations – the DNS.

 

The DNS is one of the building blocks of the internet and is used to direct each query to the correct website. Nominum servers alone process 1.5 trillion queries each day. By using analytics tools on opt-in data derived from the DNS, CSPs can acquire insight into users’ internet activity data in near real-time without needing to resort to intrusive technologies such as third-party cookies.

 

By offering services which add value to subscribers, such as relevant discounts for products and services they use on a regular basis, CSPs can secure the opt-in of customers and increase the engagement and trust needed to become a more meaningful brand in their lives. Building this level of trust and engagement will enable providers to supply a greater range of value-added services to customers, creating upsell opportunities and opening new revenue streams.

 

An engaged subscriber is a profitable subscriber and also one less likely to churn. Using DNS data, operators can identify which customers are displaying the key behaviours associated with dissatisfaction, including visiting competitors’ websites and performing speed tests on their internet connection.

 

This knowledge can empower them to engage with subscribers quickly with a relevant offer. In this scenario, no other data collection method is as timely and relevant as DNS. In fact the first time the operator is likely to be aware that this is an unhappy customer is when they cancel their contract, by which time it is already too late.

 

Operator margins are being squeezed by an onslaught of OTT players eroding key revenues and introducing new services on operators’ existing network platforms. The cost of retaining a customer is far lower than acquiring a new one, and so operators need to look very closely at their engagement with subscribers and how they can utilize their existing infrastructure to improve the service they offer and ensure they offer value.     

 

About the author

Sanjay Kapoor is CMO at Nominum. As the Marketing and Business Strategy leader, Sanjay is responsible for shaping Nominum’s growth and product strategy. Sanjay is a frequent speaker on Customer/Marketing analytics and new advertising business models for telecom operators at industry conferences and events worldwide. Prior to joining Nominum, he spent over 20 years in a variety of leadership roles spanning strategic planning, general management, marketing and product management.

 

 

File:Jimi hendrix tallstig saachi.jpg

 BOSSfest14

 

Portrait of Jimi Hendrix,
oil on canvas,
by the Swedish artist Tommy Tallstig

 
 
 

Telesperience: operational efficiency, commercial agility and a better customer experience

 
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Amdocs's Liron Golan says SMBs are increasingly looking for suppliers that will provide a converged communications technology suite, including traditional communications services such as wireless, broadband and wireline coupled with cloud-based services. In pure terms, SMBs are prolific and provide a wealth of opportunity for the astute service provider.

 

File:'Mountain Peak with Drifting Clouds', oil on canvas painting by Caspar David Friedrich.jpg

Mountain Peak with Drifting Clouds
Caspar David Friedrich, 1835


 

Initially embraced by enterprises, small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are making a decisive move towards cloud-based services. At the heart of this move are the challenges many SMBs face just trying to keep up with today’s rapidly changing technology landscape.

As technologies continue to converge, SMBs could increasingly look for suppliers that will provide a converged communications technology suite, including traditional communications services such as wireless, broadband and wireline coupled with cloud-based services. In pure terms SMBs are prolific and provide a wealth of opportunity for the astute service provider. With SMB reliance on service providers becoming more important than ever, the cloud has the makings of a win-win situation.

Cloud adoption gives SMBs access to state-of-the art technology at a fraction of the cost, provides greater flexibility and the ability to keep up with technological changes, while enabling commercial and financial benefits.  But as the market develops, will SMBs look to their primary services provider to provide cloud-based services? How should a service provide approach a SMB? What criteria will underpin success and what channels should be used? How fast will the slower adopters move to the cloud? Is convergence even an issue for traditional SMBs across the globe? These and many other issues were the basis of the latest Amdocs-sponsored SMB research program.

Research reveals

As expected, cloud computing is growing rapidly and adoption is global. Results from the recent Amdocs SMB survey, conducted by Coleman Parkes Research, found on average 57 percent of SMBs around the world subscribe to cloud-based services. However of the SMBs who are currently “cloudless”, 44 percent are in the market for cloud solutions. To capture the lion share of the available SMB market, service provider need to:

  • Educate SMBs on cloud adoption benefits using a multi-channel strategy
  • Heavily promote cloud-based services through country- and industry-specific initiatives
  • Bundle cloud-services with existing communications services and provide a consolidated bill
  • Address security and cost concerns
  • Tailor cloud-based services and offerings to meet SMB-specific needs.

Interestingly, our research also found that SMBs with low overall cloud consumption subscribe to a greater range of cloud services. Focusing on SMBs with the highest consumption (e.g. Brazil) and comparing their cloud subscriptions and usage with the lowest consumer (e.g. Germany) reveals that countries with high cloud consumption may not necessarily mean SMBs are more astute about cloud services, nor are they greater investors in cloud-based services. This could be a result of current state laws and regulations that affect economic performance and private investment, which are in place to protect users from cybercrime. It is believed that once a secure platform has been developed, we can expect significant cloud computing growth.

In fact governments around the world are already incentivizing businesses to use the cloud, as they recognise the economic benefits of small business growth. Additionally, economic performance and private investment share a positive relationship; when economies become stable and/or growth is recognized, investor confidence will improve and small businesses will be provided with the capital they need to grow. We are already seeing positive signs that growth in cloud computing will significantly rise in the near future.

Cloud benefits are being realized, but service providers could do more

Of the SMBs that currently subscribe to cloud computing, many are realizing the benefits the cloud has brought to their business. This clearly highlights that cloud-based services are seen as important, therefore supports the investments that have been made and will continue to be made as well as escalate. SMBs are highly engaged in cloud solutions and demand is high, but to drive cloud computing to the next level service providers need to take the lead on helping SMBs make the move.

Liron Golan heads up Amdocs cloud marketing. He is responsible for defining the marketing and business strategy for Amdocs’ telco cloud solutions, which include cloud brokerage (cloud enablement) and BaaS (BSS as a service).


You can follow Liron on Twitter @liron12G
You can read more Amdocs posts at their blog Insight Fuel
 

 

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 BOSSfest14

 

Portrait of Jimi Hendrix,
oil on canvas,
by the Swedish artist Tommy Tallstig

 

Telesperience: operational efficiency, commercial agility and a better customer experience

 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 1 (Last: Teresa Cottam · 5/21/14 3:26 PM)

Miia Toivola, Head of Customer Experience Management Marketing at Nokia looks at the increasingly popular use of loyalty scores by operators. Measuring customer loyalty and satisfaction brings in the voice-of-the-customer to various departments of the operator organization. However, it may sometimes be tricky for operators to figure out which factors impact their loyalty scores the most, so that they could take action to improve the customer experience where it matters. This blog summarizes some of Nokia's key learnings from recent discussions with operators.

 

File:Fair. Kustodiev.jpg

Boris Kustodiev, "Fair" (1906)


 

Asking customers whether they would recommend their mobile operator to friends and colleagues has become increasingly popular among operators, through both SMS sampling and end-user surveys.

 

The use of loyalty scores may have started as a management initiative for the organization to become customer focused, or due to customer care wanting to measure customer satisfaction following helpdesk calls. Today, however, the use of loyalty measures (such as Net Promoter Score) infiltrates the operator’s entire organization, ensuring the customer’s voice is truly heard in order to improve service and hopefully loyalty and profitability.  

 

Measuring customer loyalty and satisfaction brings in the voice-of-the-customer to various departments of the operator organization, allowing them to serve customers better and improve loyalty and profitability.

 

Sounds good, right? Well, in practice it’s not always easy to understand what customers are trying to say. The tricky part for operators is to figure out which factors impact loyalty scores the most, in order to improve the customer experience where it matters. Here’s what Nokia has learnt in conversation with operators recently.

 

1. Loyalty scores are here to stay

While loyalty scores, such as the Net Promoter Score (NPS) are often first implemented by management and marketing functions in an attempt to gain greater visibility of customer satisfaction, over the years they have expanded into company-wide tools for measuring employee success in becoming customer focused. 

 

Low NPS scores serve as a signal for management attention. NPS is also a commonly used measure for paying out bonuses. In fact, one European operator told us that half of their personnel have selected their achievements to be measured based on the operator’s overall NPS score.

 

Not surprising really, as NPS makes it easy to prioritize subscriber satisfaction and, interestingly, it has also become a comparable benchmark between operators, and even across different service industries.

 

When we asked employees why they chose this measure, the answer was that it is simple and easy to understand. One European operator shared that they see clear linkage between an improved NPS and an improved bottom line. This correlation is exactly what makes NPS such a strong and stable loyalty measure.

 

Bottom line: No operator has ever reported trying and failing with NPS. Loyalty scores are clearly here to stay.

 

2.  Do employees lack visibility to the factors behind NPS and the means to improve the score?

With loyalty scores like NPS growing in popularity, and bonuses often tied to it, it’s no longer enough to just reveal the magic number on a quarterly – or even weekly – basis. Employees want to know how it is calculated and how to change it.

 

In an operations team of one European operator, everyone receives the updated NPS score on a regular basis in addition to some survey results. However, the results are often not granular enough to be of value.

 

For example, the learnings from an anonymous group of unsatisfied subscribers experiencing poor voice quality is not actionable insight. There’s  not enough information to analyze what exactly has gone wrong, when, where and why.

 

Bottom line: No operator has reported having full visibility to the factors which drive NPS, including network and services experience.

 

3.  A loyalty score like NPS is not that useful without insight into the network and service experience impacting it 

Operators are in the business of delivering mobile services.  Globally over 40% of subscribers say operators MUST offer excellent network and service quality, even if it costs more (Source: '2014 Acquisition and Retention Study Report' from Nokia).

 

One European operator reports that for the customer segments experiencing bad network or service quality, their NPS can drop well below 0 into negative numbers. If a score of -40 is equated to a temperature, it will take quite an effort to warm up those subscribers and bring them back to the 'sunny' promoter zone.

 

In contrast, for those customer segments that have enjoyed good network or service quality, positive scores tend to fuel positive word of mouth interactions, making it easier to recruit more subscribers like them.

 

Operators tend to measure NPS at various touch points, including customer care, retail shops, enterprise services or network services. It seems customers are happy when visiting retail shops, and receiving good customer service at the helpdesk, although they tend to be  far less satisfied with the network. Depending on the operator network and services, the issue can be dropped calls or non-working data applications.

 

Bottom line: No operator has told us that their strategy is to compete purely on price and let customers churn who feel the network isn’t good enough

 

 

 

Miia Toivola is the head of Customer Experience Management Marketing at Nokia. For the last 15 years, she has held a variety of positions in the ICT industry from business development to portfolio management. With this track record, Miia is convinced that it is customer focus that makes operators outperform their competition.

 

You can find Miia and other Nokia staff blogging at the excellent Nokia blogsite.

 

 

 

 

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Telesperience: operational efficiency, commercial agility and a better customer experience

 
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Telesperience Chief Stategist Teresa Cottam is an expert on both the customer experience and how to utilise this to drive business value. In this post she look at the difference between satisfaction, loyalty and engagement, and why over-automation can undermine customer experience goals.

 

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Kulikov Fair in Murom 1910-12



 

A truly great customer experience is just that - an experience. It's an experience in the way people go on the holiday of a lifetime and say "what an experience!"; it's an experience in the way you have this great day one summer doing something you love and you just know you'll always remember it; it's an experience like the first time you tasted olives or drank red wine.

 

I clearly remember those times when a person working for a business I'm dealing with has gone out of their way to ensure I got what I needed and wanted - a spontaneous display of human kindness and engagement that went beyond policies or processes. When that happens you experience delight, surprise and a warm fuzzy feeling that is highly memorable.

 

All of these experiences have the same thing in common - they involve emotional engagement. And this is not something that can be manufactured or processed, it does not derive from systems or processes - it comes from people.

 

The trouble is in telecoms we like our automation, our standard processes, rules and systems. (see Why You Need To Avoid Automation Annihilation.) On one level there is nothing wrong with this if it makes things happen efficiently. But there's a problem with efficiency; efficiency is not emotional.Efficiency doesn't create a warm fuzzy feeling and it doesn't, in itself, generate loyalty (another attribute which is fundamentally about emotions).

 

This doesn't mean that technology doesn't have its place - of course it does. It just means that even if you have an efficient process, you do not necessarily have an engaged or loyal customer. You may have a passive customer, or at best a satisfied customer, but you don't have engagement.

 

To understand the difference we must first understand that satisfaction is not the same as loyalty or engagement. Satisfaction is actually the lower level of these three: it's relatively passive and based upon functional matters. A satisfied customer - traditionally what CSPs aim to achieve - is going to stay with a brand if it's easy to do business with them. By offering them just a little more than they expect - a small reduction in cost, a small increase in value within a bundle - they stay with the brand, because on balance the "cost" to them of moving (inconvenience and hastle) is greater than the "cost" of staying.

 

CSPs aim to achieve - and often fail at achieving - this basic level of customer satisfaction. To achieve satisfaction they measure and manage things such as:

  • "customer-friendly" policies
  • how they present themselves (website, highstreet shops, collateral etc)
  • how quickly the customer is responded to (time to answer, time to resolve), and how they are responded to (politeness, accuracy, fairness)
  • how the product is performing, and whether it's performing as advertised and as expected by customers

 

The best performing brands also pay attention to the customers' needs and wants on a macro scale, capturing these and attempting to meet them. It's all about meeting the needs of the "average" customer, or of certain personas the CSP has identified as "typical" customers.

 

However, the level of engagement with a satisfied customer is relatively low. Many CSPs therefore wish to move the relationship to one of loyalty, or beyond that to true customer engagement. They know that loyal customers churn less often, give you the benefit of the doubt when things are not so great, and refer your product or company to others. This is the experience and category of customers that Net Promoter Score (NPS) was designed to measure.

 

At this stage of experience innovation, CSPs begin a lot of measuring, as well as proliferating their processes and policies. They seek to understand (quantitatively) the customer experience, analyse what's happening, and focus on improving what isn't.

 

There's nothing wrong with this approach, but at this level the focus is still upon the CSP's view of defining what the experience should be and not upon measuring the real experience or discovering how the customer thinks the experience should be. There are attempts to better segment customers, and maybe to provide some kind of targetted experience.

 

While the CSP seeks to exceed customers' expectations, it focuses on finding ways to "reward" loyal customers - this in itself is a novelty because historically the emphasis has been on rewarding new customers, not loyal ones. The CSP begins to open a limited dialogue with customers, and staff are trained around customer centricity. The business begins to analyse the areas that are having the biggest impact on customer loyalty or disloyalty, and assigns resources to promote or fix these - thus loyalty becomes a driver of investment. The CSP starts to adopt technology that helps them analyse behaviour, feedback and performance (of staff, systems, products, processes). The aim of this stage is to manage, measure and then, using a rational and analytical approach, increase loyalty.

 

As I've said, many CSPs are struggling with this level of experience - despite the wide range of technology there to support them. Very few have moved beyond this stage to true engagement, because the problem is that engaging customers requires them to be irrational - to understand that rationality does not drive the majority of customer behaviour. "Feelings" are a little bit too New Age for the average CSP - staffed as it is with intelligent, rational people (largely men) who have been educated to distrust things you can't analyse and measure.

 

All very well, you say, but why should I bother to engage rather than just focus on satisfaction or loyalty? Well the evidence is that engagement delivers hard, positive business results. We have seen how well Apple utilised engagement to drive up its value; studies have quantified this effect.

 

For example, Gallup calculated that engaged customers are worth 23% more (spend more, are more profitable) than satisfied (average) customers. Disengaged customers are worth 13% less than average, satisfied customers.

 

Emotional connections with engaged customers thus drive powerful and profitable relationships. But this requires activity - inertia is not an effective customer retention or loyalty strategy in a competitive market (see CSPs Still Using the Inertia Approach to Loyalty). Denise Lee Yohn recently succinctly described this:

 

"If your customers aren’t happy with your brand but they stay with you because of hefty switching costs, they’re not sticking with you—they’re stuck with you. Nobody wants to be held prisoner, so if your company’s customer-retention strategy relies on making it difficult for people to leave, you’re not building brand loyalty—and you’re not building a great brand." Denise Lee Yohn

 

Yohn gives some great pointers as to how CSPs can build emotional connections (See: Great Brands Aim for Customers' Hearts Not Their Wallets), but ultimately in my view it all comes down to making customers feel like they matter to you. 

 

At the engaged level customers become brand advocates - as we saw with Apple Fanboys. Engaged customers not only churn less and buy more products, they're also willing to pay more for those products. 

 

At this level, CSPs will have put considerable thought into what motivates and drives customers to do business with them (many elements of which are emotional, not rational) and they focus on these elements. They are now truly customer centric - not presuming what customers want, but seeing the experience through the customers' eyes, listening to the feedback they're getting, and understanding how the company is connecting at an emotional level to its customers.

 

They are far from inert or reactive, but are proactive and engaged in two-way interactions with customers. The CSP is now delivering personalisation, contextual relevance, special moments and world-class customer service tailored to the individual customer. Delivering this world-class service is about "good" automation - using technology to do the heavy lifting, but using people to deliver the magic moments of engagement that drive the formation of emotional connections. For example, Alex Chruszcz, head of insight and pricing at Asda (the UK's second biggest supermarket chain, and part of the Walmart group) advises: "Be pragmatic in terms of technology and analytics, they aren't a silver bullet. Use these tools and combine them with the experience of your team."

 

Engagement does not require the CSP to be perfect: people don't expect perfection. (Indeed The Eastbridge Consulting Group says that 70% of complaining customers will do business with you again if you resolve the complaint in their favour.) But if you treat customers like they really don't matter to you as an individual, then they'll expect a purely transactional relationship and when you fail to satisfy them they'll churn without a second thought.

 

That's all very well in the sexy world of B2C, I hear you say, but my area of business expansion is enterprise and SME/SMB.

 

Think this only works in the B2C world? Think again. Research suggests that to be successful, B2B brands need to drive even greater emotional connections with their customers than B2C brands. When a consumer has a problem then it may matter to them, but the cost of any mistake is usually relatively low (for both the CSP and the consumer). However, for businesses the stakes are much higher.

 

The manager that signs off on a million pound/euro/dollar investment could lose his/her job and reputation if the investment goes wrong. The small business owner for whom the communications service is not working risks going out of business.

 

To overcome this risk the business decision-maker needs to feel confidence in the brand and thus a substantial emotional connection with both the brand and its staff. Businesses are not staffed by robots, but by people, and CSPs forget at their peril that ultimately the purchase decision - and repeat business decision - comes from a human being.

 

What are businesses looking for then? Cheapness? Maximised business value? More on this in my next post on unforgettable experiences, which will look at how to sell to businesses and what customer engagement in the B2B market looks like (see How to maximise business value in the B2B market.)

 

 

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Telesperience: operational efficiency, commercial agility and a better customer experience

 
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Small cells need to be carefully planned and located accurately, to maximize the service providers' return on investment. Amdocs's Phil Bull looks at how misplaced small cells can result in a waste of time and money. To locate them accurately, service providers need to identify where the high-value customers are, and what kind of experience they are having.

 

File:Robert Delaunay - Rythme, Joie de vivre.jpgRobert Delaunay, Rythme, Joie de vivre, 1930


 

For a number of years now service providers have been rolling out macro cell sites and their associated backhaul networks with conventional planning and project management tools.

 

In some cases, even spreadsheets have been sufficient to plan and track projects but everything is about to change with small cells. With the huge demand for more network capacity driven by the insatiable appetite of mobile data users, service providers are planning to roll out thousands of public access small cells. These are small cellular base stations which improve capacity, coverage and user experience, where it is needed. However, the old methods of network planning and project management are no longer adequate for large-scale small cell deployment.

 

Besides the choice of small cell (indoor, outdoor, single technology, multi-technology  etc), small cell networks add further complexity to the rollout problem due to the wide variety of possible backhaul technologies, services and third-party providers to connect the small cells to the core network.  This can include new last-mile fiber, point-to-point or point-to-multipoint millimeter microwave, free space optics, existing third-party broadband infrastructure and so on. It is this complexity, coupled with the sheer volume of small cells, that make this a daunting task.  Small cells require a lot of rapid decisions to be made for each cell in order to meet the time and cost targets for the rollout project to succeed.

 

Public access small cells need to be carefully planned to ensure that they are located in exactly the right location to maximize return on investment. Due to their small coverage area of 50-100 meters, a misplaced small cell can result in a waste of time and money.

To locate small cells accurately, operators need to identify where the high value VIP customers are, and what kind of experience they are having. We call this “experience hotspot identification.” If the experience of the customers who generate the majority of the service provider’s revenue is poor, then they are most likely going to take their business elsewhere.

 

Smart Cell Placement is an approach which identifies experience hotspots by gathering key business data from a number of sources, such as radio planning tools, billing, CRM and ERP systems. Using data analytics, it calculates the corresponding business value of each hotspot. This can be visualized on a ‘heat map’ and a prioritized list of candidate cell sites can be generated automatically and imported into the rollout workflow tool. Now the cells can be deployed in the correct order, based on business return. This allows the service provider to reap the highest gains sooner.

 

Phil Bull is a product marketing manager for Amdocs OSS. He has over 25 years in the telecoms industry, including 15 years in management software and operations systems.

 

 

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Telesperience: operational efficiency, commercial agility and a better customer experience

 
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Dominic Smith, Marketing Director at Cerillion, says CSPs must stop selling technology and look to the Clouds to really understand what

makes a great customer experience.

File:'Study of Clouds with a Sunset near Rome', oil painting on paper by Simon Alexandre-Clément Denis, 1786-1801, Getty Museum.jpg

Simon Denis, Study of Clouds with a Sunset Near Rome, 1786-1801


 

 

 

A recent Infographic that caught my attention states that 95% of people have used the Cloud but don’t actually realise it. What a great statistic to be able to quote?!

 

Ergo the vast majority of people using Gmail, Dropbox, et al, don’t actually know (and probably don’t care) that they are using a cloud service. And why should they? Customers just want services that work.

 

So what is it with the Telco sector? The industry seems to be continually sucked into technology-led thinking and positioning. Remember the fanfare when ‘3’ launched as a newly licensed 3G operator in the UK on 03/03/03? And we are now in the midst of a frenzy over ‘4G’ with, for example, EE in the UK branding their network as ‘4GEE – the biggest, fastest and most reliable network’.

 

Inside the industry it seems we are also technology obsessed – all the news and events are about NFV, SDN, HetNets, VoLTE, and so on. Aargghhh! I recently spotted a headline proclaiming the deployment of the “World’s First” Commercialised SDN Service in China. And having read the story, I’m still none the wiser about what it will actually do for the customer experience?!

 

Don’t get me wrong, technology is absolutely fundamental to the industry, but customers don’t need to know how their service is delivered, but what it does and why it will benefit them. BSS/OSS applications provide the how for service innovation, but consumers don’t need to know if something will be ‘realtime’, it just needs to work when they need it. It also needs to work seamlessly on all devices, every time. And if there is a problem, they need to know it will be fixed without being passed from department to department.

 

Dare I say it, publishers and the media are probably to blame – they need to put a badge on something to promote it. Big Data is one of the most recent marketing phenomena, with a whole series of dedicated events and publications inflating the bubble. But do you hear Google talking about Big Data? Not a chance, because they know that customers don’t want to know how their search engine works or how Google Now helps them to manage their lifestyle.

 

In recent weeks I’ve travelled around the UK quite a lot and the most noticeable ‘experience’ I’ve had from my communications services provider (CSP) is a massive variation in signal strength and the performance of my smartphone. Applications have stopped working and the battery life has been very poor – is there a problem with my phone? Not directly.

 

As an industry insider, I know it’s the network – the data speeds have frequently dropped to 3G, Edge and often GPRS. Have you ever tried using the Facebook app over GPRS? Forget it, it is unusable. And when the signal strength has been low (sometimes non-existent), the battery is drained much more quickly as the phone strains to gain a better signal. But try explaining that to an ‘outsider’!

 

Customers want services that work, and services that either solve problems or make life easier or more entertaining. Over the past 6 months I’ve had a number of calls from my CSP trying to upsell me to their ‘4G’ service. Will this solve the problem of no coverage when I visit family and friends in Lincolnshire? No. Will I notice any difference when browsing the web or looking at my email when I am in London? No – HSDPA+ is plenty fast enough when I’m on the go and the rest of the time I am using WiFi anyway. So I think I’ll save that extra £5 a month they were hoping to extract from my wallet.

 

CSPs do need to be expert engineers to provide a seamless network experience for their customers, but if this is their only selling point then they are on the slippery slope to network provider only status. If they want to become real service providers, they need to take a leaf out of the book of their Cloud counterparts by dropping the technobabble and delivering more lifestyle-oriented and aspirational services that ‘just work’. And our role as BSS/OSS providers is to supply them with the underlying technology that helps them do it.

 

You can follow Dominic Smith on Twitter @domtsmith

 

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Telesperience: operational efficiency, commercial agility and a better customer experience

 
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Chief Strategist Teresa Cottam looks at the thorny issue of monetising WiFi and argues commercialisation should be a higher priority for CSPs.

 

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Paying the Tax (The Tax Collector), Pieter Brueghel the Younger, 1620-40

 


 

 

One of the interesting things that's fallen out of our WiFi research is that while CSPs are committed to rolling out more WiFi, and three-quarters believe that WiFi has significant monetisation potential, there is an unclear and bumpy road to WiFi-revenue-land.

 

Alarm bells always sound in my head when CSPs predict revenue (or investments) that's two or three years away - these rarely materialise and seem to slip forever off the tips of their fingers, or the ends of their to-do lists. These revenue "genies" are insubstantial creatures - appearing mighty, magnificent, money-generators, but frequently turning out to be nothing more than hot air.

 

In telcoland we simply cannot afford the luxury of another 3G rollout though: by which I mean a "build and they will come approach" that takes years to monetise.

 

It *is* heartening to me that more CSPs are beginning to identify the customer experience aspects of WiFi commercialisation, which are now in second place in their priorities (see Figure 1). However, we need to see a far greater emphasis on revenue. Of course, some CSPs - particularly in Asia and developing markets - are monetising WiFi effectively; but too many CSPs in developed markets are approaching WiFi as a purely operational strategy, or a strategic land grab, without any clear sense of where their revenues are going to come from. After all it's no good grabbing land if it's costing you money but not generating any return.

 

I am sympathetic to the revenue optimisation arguments of how WiFi can save us money- through lower build out costs and increased customer loyalty, for example - but would counter this argument with the necessity to prop up our revenue roof as core revenues falter and fall. We need to move from revenue optimisation to revenue maximisation and CSPs should not need reminding that as fully paid up members of the capitalist club they need to show me the WiFi money and ensure monetisation is higher on their list of priorities (see Figure 1).

 

Figure 1  Drivers of WiFi strategy

Ratings are on a scale of 1-5
Where 1=not important and 5=vitally important

 

Telesperience 2014

 

 

Find out what CSPs think will generate them money, how they intend to invest in terms of infrastructure and processes, and much more in our WiFi Commercialisation Report. Please enquire about this report via editorial@telesperience.com

 

 

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Telesperience: operational efficiency, commercial agility and a better customer experience

 
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Telesperience Chief Strategist Teresa Cottam looks at the problems of maintaining policies, convergence, and service mobility.

 

File:Royal Street Antique Shop 1918 Harry Armstrong Nolan.jpg

"Royal Street Antique Shop"
1918 French Quarter of New Orleans
by Harry A. Nolan

 


 

 

Over the last few years many CSPs have bought PCRF and PCEF solutions for a variety of reasons. The basic driver is to create agility around business rules (aka "policies") to promote operational efficiency, create new revenue streams and support customer experience.

 

Policy "control" was initially promoted as something of a silver bullet to CSPs; but problems quickly emerged. Certainly, for the first generation of policy solutions problems included cost, lack of agility, vendor dependence, lack of convergence and scalability problems.

 

Policy vendors set about refining what they offered and fixing the problems. This resulted in technology that was lower cost, more agile, more scalable and started to become more convergent. Vendors began to promote the ability of CSPs to regain control of their policies.

 

We can argue how close we are to fixing these problems, but fixing them is merely creating other issues. That's because, the easier you make it to create and change policies the bigger the problem that policy maintenance becomes. 

 

The fact is that business policies are usually not static, and some are user-defined. This means they have to be monitored, and updated frequently, and this brings a new set of issues. What if changes are not applied? What if the user or business 'forgets' to update policies such as user-defined controls or caps? What if the price of updating policies is considerable because change is vendor-dependent and costly? How much time will be eaten up by maintaining policies? What if policies conflict and cause revenue cannibalisation, sub-optimal experiences or other negative outcomes?

 

One of the biggest issues occurs because of the increasingly convergent world we live in. Customers want connectivity wherever they are, but they also expect "service as normal" to apply irrespective of the network they're using.

 

Against this "service as normal" desire, telecoms companies don't measure well. For example, the EU may now have a set of measures to minimise billshock for customers roaming within Europe, but it doesn't cover every service type and the range of coverage confuses customers lulling them into a false sense of security. (Which countries are in, and which are out?)

 

For British people, travelling abroad literally means "going overseas" - crossing water is a hint that roaming charges may apply. But mainland Europeans can roam accidentally just by travelling close to a border; and even British people have incurred roaming charges on the south coast of England without ever crossing water because their phones accidentally connect to French masts. (see The Cost of Data Roaming Inside the UK) If roaming within Europe is problematic, roaming beyond Europe is still the Wild West for customer experience.

 

Whilst roaming, service is not "normal" because often policies, entitlements and preferences cannot be applied due to incompatibilities between systems.

 

But international roaming is just one facet of this problem. "Service as normal" isn't achieved either when moving between network types (different flavours of mobile and WiFi, for example), and not always when using the same connectivity account but a different device. Making a service work technically (eg extending core mobile services to WiFi) is not the same as making the experience seamless.

 

BroadForward's Steven van Zanen comments that while roaming is primarily perceived as a technology and pricing issue to enable traditional carrier communication services across similar networks, in the last two years WiFi-to cellular ‘roaming’ has been added to that understanding.  He says: "In an all-IP multi-service world, carriers have to deal with a new paradigm called 'services mobility'. Services mobility is about the service, the technology and the user experience all rolled into one. Roaming from a technology and regulatory perspective is therefore merely a part of that larger challenge".

 

Another challenge is that making policies easier to create and change delivers a policy overhead that has to be managed and applied across everything. We no longer want policy silos, but want policies that apply consistently everywhere. And the currency of policies also creates problems, because if they're out-of-date they can also lead to negative consequences. Here we also need to distinguish between the legal/regulatory responsibility, and the responsibility that derives from being a "good", ethical business - let's call this customer responsibility, something we're doing not because we have to, but because we should. This latter responsibility is not about legal duty but about ethical duty and is linked to brand values. But it's also rooted in good pragmatic business sense: if the customer is annoyed they'll complain or churn, costing you money.

 

As an illustration of poorly maintained policies and the problems they cause, consider the case of businessman Tom Galanis who was recently billshocked during a trip from the UK to the US. This could just be another £2.7k billshock story from data roaming - bad enough but hardly news. But there's more to Mr Galanis's story than that.

 

Galanis isn't a dumb consumer - he's a reasonably sophisticated business traveller. He was well aware that mobile data charges can stack up, which is why he decided to update his software while connected to WiFi (via his laptop). The problem happened when the WiFi signal dropped and his phone reconnected to 3G and began using data. Vodafone alerted him to high usage, but only once the usage had reached £270 and then rapidly thereafter £495. At this point he switched everything off and the session had lasted no more than 20 minutes. But the speed of the network meant that in those 20 minutes his phone had gobbled up 885Mb of data, delivering a £2.7k bill.

 

The usage was entirely unintentional: lawyers would argue this means there was no contract between Vodafone and Mr Galanis to purchase data access. Legal debate to one side, Galanis believed that Vodafone owed him a duty of care not to billshock him to this extent.

 

Vodafone investigated the nitty gritty of what had happened. They discovered that one of the problems was that Galanis had lifted the spend cap on his phone in 2010 when it had been a business phone, and although he had subsequently changed plans to personal use (to a PAYG and then a new pay monthly account) the cap - or lack thereof - had been simply transferred with the number and not reviewed.

 

Vodafone said: "This wouldn’t happen now as we have improved our processes – we now re-set data caps when customers move from PAYG to Pay Monthly. We’ve looked at this carefully, and on the basis that he wouldn’t have had this experience under our new process, we have decided to waive these charges as a gesture of goodwill.”

 

Well done to Vodafone for getting it right in the end; but this case clearly illustrates that setting policies isn't the issue any longer: managing, maintaining and consistently applying them is. For us to get to the "service as normal" experience that customers desire, we need to ensure that everything works whatever the network we're connected to not just from a technical perspective (ie we can connect or interconnect), but also from a customer experience perspective (consistency of rules, protection, preferences and so on). This is what Steven van Zanen means when he talks about services mobility.

 

Of course, CSPs can choose simply to comply with the very lowest level of responsibility, but if they want to build trusted, valued brands and all the positive things that go with that, then they need to consider how they deliver against their ethical responsibility to customers. Galanis sums this up succinctly: “How is it acceptable to offer any customer £2,670 of credit in this day and age, in such a short space of time, without even informing them. Hardly responsible lending, is it?”

 

Steven van Zanen explains that in contrast he was pleasantly surprised with his recent experience roaming on E-Plus. His service provider didn't just comply with EU regulations, but proactively advised him to prevent unpleasant billshock before it reached a level when the customer was unhappy. "With a simple text message I was warned that I was quickly building up out-of-bundle roaming charges. In this case the amount which triggered the warning was a mere 5 euros and low enough for me to cut my losses and switch off roaming altogether. A big difference from the European legislated threshold of 50 euros - a significantly higher number to invest in a roaming lesson. In my case I was roaming from Dutch MVNO Telfort onto E-Plus in Germany, both liaised with KPN".

 

Service mobility

Steven van Zanen, speaking at last week's roaming conference, talked about the concept of service mobility. He explains this as the scenario where the service, technology and the user experience are rolled into one. He says service mobility has to enable:

  • Mobile profile portability (ability to enforce policy, provide support independent of access networks and location)
  • User group specific QoS, SLA, Security etc
  • Personalisation for more target groups such as subscribers, MVNx’s, enterprises, machines, OTTs etc
  • Interworking across 2G, 3G, 4G/LTE
  • Multi-play across, mobile, Wi-Fi, Fixed.

 

Van Zanen argues that this offers a whole range of new value propositions that will need to be monetised quickly before roaming as a premium revenue stream in Europe runs dry. He says his company BroadForward is now working with CSPs to enable out-of-the-box support for service mobility scenarios.

 

You can follow Teresa Cottam on Twitter @teresacottam

You can follow Steven van Zanen on Twitter @stevenvanzanen

 

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