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Snowden Burgess, Telesperience's 'man on the inside' talks about why too much focus on efficiency can actually harm the customer experience, and why CSPs need to face up to the brutal truth.


File:George Andrew Reid - Women Operators.jpg

George Andrew Reid, Women Operators, 1919



Customer Experience is not the easiest of concepts to define and quantify within the telecommunications industry. In short, there is no defined standards or approach.


The one consistent approach across most telcos and service integrators is that they accept how important customer experience is to their success. They then allocate limited funds and resources to actually support any consistent or structured approach to improving it.


After more than 20 years in the industry, though, I have seen at first-hand multiple attempts at improving the customer experience across several organisations, but have yet to see any real improvement in how we treat our customers. The truth is, most programmes are launched with considerable pomp and marketing, but little internal resources, authority or funding to back them up.


In one of my previous roles I was responsible for customer experience improvement within a major telco. I was advised that I had the full support of C level executives. So I met the challenge head on and started immediately to formulate a plan to identify and then tackle the internal issues that caused poor customer experience and perception. Many of these were re-occurring problems that are common throughout the industry, including:

  • late and incorrect delivery of services
  • inaccurate and late invoicing
  • poor data integrity within internal systems
  • poor service assurance and an inadequate escalation process
  • inefficient processes and procedures.

It became clear to me very quickly that I only had the full support of the leadership team so long as I didn't actually change anything. Even when critical changes were approved by senior executives though, disseminating this change into senior and middle management was nearly impossible. I rapidly came to the conclusion that while I had all the responsibility, I had little authority to make any necessary changes.


Let's be clear: this was not because these teams did not want to provide a good customer experience or improve the way in which they worked. It was simply because they were targeted on the wrong things.


Teams were targeted on metrics such as throughput and quantity, but not measured on key metrics that really mattered such as quality or accuracy. (A key take away from this being the importance of targeting the right behaviour.)


This led to most internal teams becoming very efficient, as they improved the actions they needed to take to meet the targets they were given. However, becoming efficient in the wrong things means that at best the current customer experience remains the same (ie unimproved) and at worst declines.


What's the point in dealing with more complaints per hour (volume) if the complaints are not actually being resolved adequately (quality)? Or better still the virtuous circle is not being completed so that lessons are learned, and changes made to prevent mistakes of the same type reoccurring in future?


The focus on efficiency has shifted most CSPs into a fire-fighting mode, rather than a fire prevention mode.


To truly improve customer experience, those given the responsibility need the authority to tackle the brutal facts within an organisation - some of which will be very uncomfortable.


But we don't have forever and a day to change this. Our customer base is becoming more demanding as technology changes at a rapid rate and the customer base we serve becomes more technically capable. Customers have more choice than ever, and are less willing to put up with sub-standard services. This means consumers want more, faster and better, and services more tailored to them; businesses also increasingly want a B2C customer experience in a B2B world (and expect quality and accuracy as standard).


You simply cannot hide the real experience any longer, as technology is now readily available that reveals and measures the performance customers receive from CSPs (the 'real experience'), and this will radically change the face of customer experience over the coming years. This means that CSPs can no longer stick their heads in the sand and ignore so-called intractable problems, but need to face up to what's really going wrong and fix it.


Related Posts

Microsperience: Why You Need to Avoid Automation Annihilation

Microsperience: Why Poor Customer Experience is Undermining the Telco Business

Microsperience: When The Non-Telco Expertise Becomes the Main Selling Point

Microsperience: Shadow Cloud and How it Changes the Role of IT


Want more? Use the Customer Experience Filter to see our Collection of Posts on Customer Experience. Happy Telesperiencing!



Comments: 1 (Last: Teresa Cottam · 4/22/14 1:41 PM)

Peter Bowen asks: In today’s environment with revenues under pressure from OTT’s, competitors and the regulator, does any CSP have the time and resources to squander on the excessively long projects of the past? 


File:Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railway.jpg

Rain, Steam and Speed - The Great Western Railway
Turner, 1844




Many people still talk about systems implementation projects of more than 12 months, with little regard to the fact that whilst resources are being ploughed into the new solutions, investment in the current infrastructure all but stops. This leaves a CSP exposed, as it is not able to respond to competitor initiatives.  It also leads to frustration and can spawn the introduction of shadow IT applications to bridge the gap, or the implementation team eventually being forced to deliver early resulting in issues such as incorrect bills. 


Let’s start with some facts:  only 16% of projects are deemed successful in that they are on time, on budget and meet expectations: the larger the project the smaller the success rate.  Putting to one side those projects that were doomed to 'fail' from the outset, as budgets were set before anyone knew what the solution would be, there are a number of common issues we come across as to why project run over time.  But rather than reel out the stats from various studies by the British Computer Society, Gartner, Standish and the Oxford University, I thought I'd take a leaf out of Snowdon Burgess's book - Telesperience’s inside man - and talk about the characters that cause failure (see How Internal Politics destroys Innovation, Change and Success).


Top of the pile for me is the Guru.  The Guru comes in two flavours: the first being an individual on a greenfield site to whom everyone is happy to delegate the task of relating their requirements to a vendor and/or developers.  This individual does not have the capacity to assimilate the totality of what is needed, so what gets delivered is not what is wanted and costly change requests follow.


The second type of Guru is resident in the organisation and is seen as the 'go to' person for anything related to a core system.  When the time comes to replace the system, the co-operation of the Guru is seen as essential.  The trouble is the Guru has no desire to see his or her empire dismantled, and so starts a programme of disinformation, or is not available to answer questions - thus restricting the flow of information.  He or she usually only offers up insights after something has been done, which means it will need to be redone after the revelation. 


I have come across Gurus in several industries and have seen numerous attempts at replacing core systems fail because of their actions/inactions. 


In one instance, a Guru was being paid more than the CIO as he held the company to ransom and had seen off two attempts to replace his system. 


Organisations need to guard against 'guru-ising' anyone, and if possible avoid the problems associated with this dependency.  If they already have gurus, they need to figure out how to work around them. 


Another character I often encounter, is the Stenographer.  The Stenographer is an analyst (I use the term loosely) who is charged with capturing information to produce a requirements specification and happily trots off  with a blank piece of paper (and blank mind) and asks “so what do you want”. 


The result is that what is delivered is what was asked for, but is not what is needed.  I happen to think that the hardest job on any project is defining in detail what's needed and that the analyst must do research before sitting down with business users.  Note: poorly-defined requirements are the single biggest contributor to project failure.


Our next character is the Project Manager (PM). Now whilst the hardest job is defining the detailed requirements, the hardest task is that of a PM.  Even great PMs fail if the conditions for success have been removed.  For instance, the PM cannot chose his/her team or does not have the ability to remove those who are not performing.  Lack of management backing undermines the PM’s position, as does management making project-impacting decisions without involving the PM. 


However, before you start feeling sorry for the PM remember that for every good one there is at least one poor one.  The irony is, of course, that the truly bad PMs always move on before the projects they have set on a collision course spectacularly fail, and some poor soul is left to pick up the pieces or take the blame.


Ok, so apart from terminating a Guru, replacing a Stenographer and empowering and backing the PM, what else can be done to ensure success and reduce time-to-delivery? 


In a word 'Milestones' - hard tangible deliverables, of which there must be at least one each week.  If there is an activity that takes more than two weeks it should be broken down into weekly deliverables and any slippage assessed to determine if the issue can be fixed by the PM or if help is needed.


Approach is also important.  The PM can have a great plan and total backing from management, but if the way in which the assignment is structured is wrong, then the project will fail.  The PM must explain the approach up-front and it must make sense.


On a final note, who should lead a project?  It has long been the case that system implementation projects are run by IT project managers but given that business has the most to lose, should it not lead projects with support and help from IT project management?


Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this.

Peter Bowen

Comments: 1 (Last: Snowden Burgess · 4/12/14 9:29 PM)

Chief Strategist Teresa Cottam looks at engagement with Generation Z and the GSMA's mYouth Camp.

 File:Fira Barcelona Mobile World Congress 2013.jpg


With Mobile World Congress barely digested, thoughts are already turning to next year's event. As they do, I wanted to share with you my experience of the GSMA's mYouth Camp, so you have time to think about it, and work out what we could do next year to make it even better.


Some of you may have read about this; for most of you it may have escaped your notice apart from seeing strangely dressed people walking about which you presumed were there to promote some digital company.


The truth is for the first time, the GSMA ran a children's camp at Mobile World Congress and I was fortunate to secure a place in it for my daughter. I wanted to share with you, why I thought this event was so significant and how I'd like it to develop.


This year's mYouth Camp was only a trial, but nevertheless a triumph. Children from 8 to 14 years of age were able to come along to the camp, which was held within the Congress, and take part in a range of techie and non-techie activities. I have to admit that when I saw the amazing breakfast buffet laid out, plus the fantastic programme of activities, I was reluctant to tear myself away for a full day of vendor briefings.


But it was the reaction of the children that blew me away. These were the sons and daughters of pretty geeky people, all coming as they did from within the mobile community. And yet, my daughter's first reaction when she saw the Congress was a typical, unguarded 'wow!'.


"It's so much bigger than I thought," she said. "And the people are different."


"How so," I asked.


"I expected them to be kind of geeky but they're actually fairly normal and some of them are even quite funky," she replied.


Clearly, she hasn't met the billing community yet, or funky would not have been the word she'd have selected. But the point is that going to mYouth Camp completely changed her view of the mobile industry. For days she raved about the things she'd seen and done. When she went home she talked to the teachers, her class and anyone who'd listen about it. She became, a digital ambassador - and to my view even more powerfully so because she's a 10 year old girl.


Now, this isn't just about altruism - the point of engaging with young people is also self-serving, as the problem is that our industry simply isn't attracting sufficient numbers of bright, creative people into it. And while we talk about the Z generation - the Millenials - none of them were at the event, or any other event we go to. The irony is, that while we expend so much effort talking about them, the voices of this generation are not heard within our industry - even though quietly they are already part of it as both consumers and creators.


In fact, while we spend a lot of time talking about what children should and shouldn't do, we do so from the parental perspective. We assume that children are all the same: when common sense should tell us that "youth" is not a single demographic. We presume what's good for them, rather than asking them what they like and want. Telesperience primary research has shown that the gap between different Youth demographics is gaping. The under 8s are significantly different to my daughter's age group (10) and to my son's (16). And they are as different and individual as any other generation - they're not defined by the need for parental controls!


While we intend to provide services to these young people, and for them to work and participate within the digital industry, we don't really listen very well to them, encourage them or have a joined up strategy around inclusion. We presume what they'll want, rather than asking them, and we often get it wrong. "Why would I want advertising subsidised services mama?" my daughter asked recently when I told her she was the target demographic for that model, "do you?".


There's certainly a lot of well-meaning noises around digital inclusion from government, the EU, regulators, schools, parents and the industry. But is this just noise and PR, or is there a serious intent to change things? My personal belief is that the industry needs to lead on this, not government: we know best what we need, and have the means to show the very best of what we do.


So I applaud the GSMA for almost accidentally doing something extremely significant. They are a powerful force within the mobile industry, and in a leadership position. Thus they are the right body to show leadership in this area.


I'd love them to get more ambitious for mYouth Camp, and for some of the vendors and CSPs who attend Mobile World Congress to take up the gauntlet and get involved. Let's make mYouth Camp more widely available - let's sponsor some scholarships for local Spanish children (thereby paying back the Barcelonians for their tolerance of our invasion of their amazing city) as well as the less wealthy from our own countries. Let's seed those enthused and changed minds throughout the continent, because they're our future consumers, workers, innovators and investors.


Now you and I know tech is far more exciting than being a footballer, actor or rock star - well okay, the latter is stretching it a bit - but do we communicate that well to our children? Here in the UK smart kids want to be bankers. How do we stem the brain drain into financial services and attract more of the smart kids into tech? How do we change the story around tech to make it - as it is in California or Israel - an exciting prospect for children? How do we convince more girls that it's a great industry and it's not just for boys?


For a very small outlay in budgetary terms there's an awful lot of positive PR that companies could gain from sponsoring and widening next year's mYouth Camp.


Now I'd like to call out here Qualcomm, who got on board this year in a small but significant way. You Qualcomm guys rock! And there's now hundreds of children in South Yorkshire/North Nottinghamshire who think you rock because my daughter is telling your story there. Well done, and thank you.


My challenge to the GSMA is to take up the baton to demonstrate digital inclusion - and more than that, digital engagement - by our industry. This year's mYouth Camp was great but we cannot let the moment pass and slide away. We need next year's mYouth Camp to be even better and we need to join this initiative to other great initiatives such as Young Rewired State, and the Code Clubs.


By the way, I strongly recommend if you have a mini-Geek in the house that Young Rewired State is sensational to be part of. However, it concentrates on one aspect of what we need - creators and coders. What mYouth Camp needs to focus on is to convince those who're not pure techies - or are not engaged - that technology is a great career: it's where we could engage the creatives, analysts, thinkers, strategists, marketers, entrepreneurs and future spin doctors, as well as scooping up some potential creators that have to date slipped through the net.


So if you're planning next year's Mobile World Congress, consider how you're engaging not just with the current technoverse, but the technoverse to come - the Z generation. How are you going to show digital inclusion, digital engagement and digital leadership? Will you just pontificate about the digital generation or engage with it?


Things I'd like the GSMA to do


  1. Expand mYouth Camp to provide more places. Pay particular attention as to how we can expand attendance outside the industry and especially to local children in Barcelona through industry sponsorship.
  2. Pay attention to what we want to show the children who attend and what we want them to take away. This is an amazing learning opportunity that changes minds and indeed lives.
  3. Get wider engagement from the vendors and CSPs who are going to sell to these children and employ them in future. Many of the consumer-facing brands want to be seen as dynamic and family friendly - great opportunity to put this into action. This engagement could be scholarships, effort (putting on demos or talks), or giveaways.
  4. Consider how we increase the "Youth Voice" within the Congress.
  5. Set aside one delineated time when students and other young people could attend the Congress - say one afternoon. Traditionally all those not working within the industry aren't welcomed into the Congress, and under 16s are totally banned. While we don't want kids and young people running amok, the fact is that kids are creating successful products under the age of 16 and students need to gain experience or they'll find it even harder to get into the industry. We need to open up our minds and figure out how to engage with young people of different age groups or we risk being seen as out of touch, and putting up barriers between us and future workers/creators. If our brands, and our industry, are to remain relevant we need to engage with these young people.
  6. Work with other interested parties such as Young Rewired State, the EU, and others so that this is not a siloed event, but part of a richer offering.


 What do you guys think?


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

Comments: 0

The clocks have gone forward, the spring conference season is underway... which means it's time for BOSSfest14. It's BSSOSS but a bit more rock n' roll. by Teresa Cottam


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Portrait of Jimi Hendrix oil on canvas by the Swedish artist Tommy Tallstig, 2013



Back for the fourth year, BOSSfest 2014 promises to be bigger and better than ever. If you've got a blog in you about anything BSSOSS that you're dying to get off your chest - this might just be your chance. It's time to tell the world how BSSOSS rocks and rolls.


When is it?

The fourth BSSOSS blogfest – otherwise known as BOSSfest14 - will take place in the week commencing 19th May 2014. Everyone should prep their pieces in advance  and submit by the 9th May. Then you can sit back, put your feet up and enjoy the cornucopia of BSSOSS content!


For bloggers: how do I get involved?

If you’re a BSSOSS blogger then it’s easy to get involved. The rules of submission are as follows:

  1. Write one or more blog posts about BSSOSS issues that can be published during the week. Please don’t recycle older posts as the idea is to stimulate some new writing. But don’t forget when you get all those new readers they’re bound to want to read your back catalogue!
  2. Email your submission(s) to: and put “BOSSfest14″ in the subject line to make sure it gets read. Send us a copy of the blog post itself, the URL it will go live on, a brief description of your blog (what is it about), who the author is (describe yourself in three sentences!), and twitter ID. Maximum number of submissions is five.
  3. Tell everyone that you’re featuring in BOSSfest14.
  4. Go live on the day you told us you were going to do, and Microsperience will point BOSSfans in your direction!

For the unblogged: how do I get involved?

Don’t feel like “Billy No Mates” – you may be blogless but we still love you! If you have some great ideas for blog posts but don’t want to commit to keeping a blog up-to-date then why not submit your posts to us anyway? We will post the best submissions on the Telesperience blog Microsperience during the blogfest.


In which case you will need to write clearly in the email that you would like us to publish the piece on Microsperience. Still send us details about yourself, a link to your website etc.


For BOSSfans: what’s in it for me?

During the week of the blogfest just come to Telesperience's blog Microsperience each day and we will post a new list of featured blogs, links to new featured blog posts, blog posts from the Telesperience team and selected unblogged folk, and lots of other fun stuff. Please don’t just “surf the wave” – get involved. You might not have ambitions to be a blogger (yet), but you can still be an active participant by commenting on all the great posts that your BSSOSS colleagues have taken the time to write for your enjoyment. Remember being part of a community means giving as well as taking, and I’m sure that blogfest bloggers would be glad of your feedback, insight and opinion. So even commenting on the blogs is always appreciated.


You can also get (and keep) the conversation going in Twitter using the hashtag #bossfest14. Tell everyone about your favourite posts (and why!) and vote for blogger of the week.


I've got some Are You Telesperienced? t-shirts to give away for starters but if you've got a great idea for things we could do to make the blogfest even more fun then let us know. (Can my heart stand much more BSSOSS excitement?) Please comment on this post or drop us an email as we’d be glad to hear from you!




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

Comments: 2 (Last: Teresa Cottam · 4/8/14 4:56 PM)

In this, the first in a series of blogs on innovation, I look at why internal politics is so destructive and counterproductive. In particular, I examine why managers who appear to be doing all the right things are actually harming a CSP's ability to change, innovate, operate efficiently and deliver a better customer experience. By Snowden Burgess


File:Gerome Death of Caesar.jpg


Death of Caesar, Jean-Leon Gerome, 1867




After 20 years in large corporate organisations it’s clear to me that internal politics is possibly the most effective method of preventing change, stifling innovation, destroying moral and ensuring minimal success within a business.


Over the years I’ve read many articles and books on effective leadership and what makes businesses great. Surprisingly, few if any of them highlight the destructiveness of internal politics and, in fact, skim over the damage internal politics have on an organisation’s growth and effectiveness.


I have seen and worked for many managers – good, bad and indifferent. To me, there is a clear distinction between a manager and a leader. For me, management is about doing the boring things right and efficiently, while leadership is about identifying the right things to do and being effective.


It’s also worth understanding the difference between being efficient and being effective: since ‘efficiency’ is a key concept that is often used by managers playing internal politics.


Being efficient is about improving the actions you take - even if those actions are the wrong ones. In this case, you simply become efficient at doing the wrong things. Being effective, however, is all about identifying the right things to do and doing them well.


There are several methods used by those playing internal politics to ensure they are projecting a sense of growth and success. These internal politicians can be placed into a number of groups:


The Empire Builder

These are the managers that are constantly seeking to build new and varied management structures within their teams which give them wider and more complex spans of control but add little value to the overall performance of the organisation. The motivation of The Empire Builder is command & control and personal standing, and has little to do with either team or business growth.


The Restructurer

How many times have you been involved in company-wide or team restructuring that never seems to finish before the next one starts? Or a restructuring that does not seem to have any measurable outcomes or benefits? Maybe you are experiencing the effects of a chronic Restructurer? These people have been around for a very long time.


“We trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganised.  I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganising: and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress, while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralisation.” Gaius Petronius Arbiter (c AD22–67)



The Restructurer typically has a nine month cycle: three months of stating “I’m going to restructure the teams, it will fix the issues”; three months of “I am restructuring the teams, bear with me”; and a final three months of “I’ve restructured the teams give it chance to work”. After this the cycle starts again as they launch back into: “I’m going to restructure the teams it will fix your issues”. And so on, ad nauseam or until they move on.


The Local Optimiser

The Local Optimiser is motivated by the ever-present ‘targets’ given to most managers and leaders. Inevitably, these targets drive the wrong behaviour and encourage an environment of local optimisation and silo mentality.


In response to targets, the Local Optimiser makes changes to local processes to meet target demands, but without considering the impact of those changes on the end-to-end process flow. The Local Optimiser focuses solely on changing processes that impact either on the inputs to them, or the outputs they generate.


These changes normally result in two outcomes: 1. they break a process flow 2. They simply move the choke points to another area.


Let me give you an example of this. Consider the department responsible for logging circuit tie-down information. When they receive an email from a supplier, the process says they should take the information out of the email and input it into the system. The target is to do 20 of these per day. However, due to manpower constraints, the target is not being met and the manager therefore decides to change the process. He instructs his staff to simply attach the email rather than input the information. This means he completes his task on time, increasing his throughput and becoming an instant star in the organisation as a result.


Further down the process flow, though, the manager of the field engineering team who uses the system to generate worksheets for field engineers is getting empty reports. He starts to fail on his targets. When he complains to the Local Optimiser, he is told to read the attachment to the email.


The overall impact of this new process on the organisation, in terms of cost and failure, is far greater than the failure to load 20 tickets at the front end. Unfortunately, getting the Local Optimiser to change back to the original – more efficient – process is nearly impossible. He can justify the process change with the evidence that his part of the process is now delivering more or faster results. Meanwhile the field engineering manager risks being replaced for not hitting his targets.


This type of local optimisation simple generates ‘Failure Demand’. The only goal is perfection – ie zero failure demand. To correct this simply takes an overview of the process and systematic action. Unfortunately, in a company full of internal politics no one wants to hear this. But one thing to consider is that *measures*, not targets, drive the right behaviour.


The Bottle Necker

These are managers that move up the command line but refuse to release control. Sound familiar? This is all about the change from being a manager to being a leader. 


I read a great article describing how to achieve the right behaviour. It referred to managers as being responsible for those cutting a path through the dense jungle bush. Those cutting the path have no idea where they’re going, but they can clear a lot of bush and create a good path. The leader, however, sits above this and focuses on the direction in order to ensure the trail they’re cutting gets them to the right destination.


This is a clear example of the difference between doing things right and doing the right thing. When everyone is in the bush cutting the path, direction and control are lost. Bottle Neckers use statistics to show how great the progress is, but never focus on the fact they’re heading in the wrong direction. They become a bottleneck not only within their teams, but also within the rest of the organisation.



The inefficiency caused by internal politics can only be resolved by effective leadership, coupled with the right measures to drive the desired behaviour. This all has to be driven from the top. Most change within an organisation starts at the top, but may never make much progress into the body of the organisation. And it won’t, unless management makes a sincere effort to take its own standards of excellence to heart and ensure they follow through.


What do you think can be done as a manager, an executive, an employee, or owner to encourage continuous improvement and remove destructive internal politics? Do you know any other political types you'd like to share with us?



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.

Comments: 0

Telesperience interviews Chief Strategist Teresa Cottam, as well as Millenoki, Orga Systems, Taqua, Cerillion and Broadforward at Mobile World Congress 2014. by Morgan ap Darran and Lucy Neill





Whether you were tied to your booth, hiking around the show, or even if you didn't make it to Mobile World Congress, it's often useful to compare notes with others about the key themes and impressions from the event.


In this podzine, our research assistant Morgan ap Darran talks to Chief Strategist Teresa Cottam about her impression of Mobile World Congress 2014. But you don't just have to take her word for it - Teresa and Lucy also interviewed Tony Blake from Millenoki, Dominic Smith from Cerillion, Christian Blaser from Orga Systems, John Hoadley from Taqua and Steven van Zanen from BroadForward to find out what they thought of the show.


And don't forget to let us and our readers know if you thought there were other standout themes not mentioned here!


You can download the MP3 file from here, or the much larger, original WAV file here.

Audio Files (1)
Mobile World Conference : Telesperience
Comments: 1 (Last: Ashley Bowen · 3/26/14 9:10 AM)

Chief Strategist Teresa Cottam looks at why WiFi security concerns are good for the CSP WiFi business.


Opportunity Makes The Thief, Paul-Charles Chocarne-Moreau, 1896





One frequently cited use case for WiFi monetisation is security, or rather security-as-a-service. Yet the problem with this use case is failure to translate the concept into cash. Many WiFi users, both consumers and business users, may have concerns about WiFi security, but most aren't translating their worries into bankable actions.


That might be set to change, as WiFi security slowly rises up the customer agenda. In Europe, Internet behemoth Google was one of the first to create public anxiety around private WiFi when it was found to have illegally sniffed unsecured hotspots while collecting data for its Street View Project. It confessed in 2010 - after German authorities questioned what it was doing - to collecting WiFi data such as passwords and emails from unsecured WiFi hotspots in about a dozen countries over a three-year period. In November 2010, it was ordered by the UK's Information Commissioner to destroy all the data it had collected. This story was widely covered in the UK press and raised general concerns around WiFi security, which were heightened further when it was discovered that Google had not complied with the Information Commissioner's demands and still retained illegally-collected data in February 2012.


But just how big is the problem? How many private routers are unsecured? Well Geographic Logging Engine) made a serious effort to log unsecured WiFi networks in 2010, and of 26.8 million Wi-Fi networks logged by its volunteers around 49% were using encryption, nearly 28% were not using encryption and for the remaining 23% the security level was unknown. A more recent study in Central London (August 2013) found that 36% (322) of the WiFi hotspots identified were not secured. It wasn't clear how many of these were private, and how many public hotspots, but the worrying factor was that according to Experian, who conducted the study, 50% of respondents “do not understand whether a WiFi network is secure or open”.


This brings us to another problem - the success of free public WiFi in itself is a risk that many customers aren't yet fully aware of. While those of us in the industry may know that using unsecured WiFi is a bit like using Twitter or any other public site, as it takes relatively few skills and a bit of freeware to eavesdrop on all those connected to an unsecure hotspot, most other customers are not fully aware of the risks involved.


This is backed up by the Experian study which found that 96% of UK mobile users are unsure or do not know how to select the most secure settings on their mobile devices for WiFi.


While drive-by WiFi hacking is a big enough risk, the risk profile is set to increase even more. In February 2014, researchers at Liverpool University (UK) demonstrated how a WiFi network could be infected by a native WiFi virus that spreads as efficiently as the common cold. The group used a virus called Chameleon to simulate an attack which showed how easily a virus could be spread between homes and businesses using WiFi access points. Chameleon was able to avoid detection and pinpoint the most vulnerable WiFi access points partly because anti-virus systems are trained for viruses that are present on the internet or computers, rather than those designed specifically for WiFi or mobiles.


Interestingly, the denser the number of access points, the faster the virus propagated. Alan Marshall, Professor of Network Security at the University of Liverpool commented: "When Chameleon attacked an AP [access point] it didn’t affect how it worked, but it was able to collect and report the credentials of all other WiFi users who connected to it. The virus then sought out other WiFi APs that it could connect to and infect.”


While Chameleon is only an academic exercise rather than a global threat, it demonstrates some interesting points. Firstly, our vulnerability to threats targetted at a network that has quickly become ubiquitous in many markets. Secondly, that user behaviour is not trained to be sufficiently security-conscious around WiFi, and assumes that products designed to protect them over the Internet will be sufficient when they are out and about using public WiFi.


In fact, the level of risk is now so significant that the EU law enforcement agency Europol, issued a warning to the public in March 2014, informing them that sending sensitive information over WiFi was not a smart idea. According to Troels Oerting, the head of the cybercrime center at Europol: “We have seen an increase in the misuse of Wi-Fi, in order to steal information, identity or passwords and money from the users who use public or insecure Wi-Fi connections.”


What this presents though, is an enormous opportunity to CSPs to rollout premium WiFi products that have added security. And, as awareness of vulnerability rises, small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) users, in particular, are key targets for this type of secure WiFi service.


WiFi security will obviously need to be layered, as no single solution is likely to fix every problem. Security strategies will include better anti-virus protection that is extended to new classes of virus directed at mobiles and WiFi, more provision and wider understanding of hotspot security, as well as personal security strategies. Among the latter is the use of personal VPNs, provided by a range of companies including the UK's Millenoki, which on top of its core data compression and reporting capabilities includes an any-network (including WiFi) VPN connection for business customers using its paid-for service.


All of these options offer the opportunity for carriers to aggregate security services into a solution, provided for a small fee to their customers. Importantly, security solutions will need to be comprised of multiple components, and not just available over one network, but over any network or access point the user connects to - including public WiFi.


Carriers can't afford to ignore this issue, because not only is it potentially revenue-generating for them, but left to its natural conclusion lack of security could undermine the entire WiFi business. After all, it will only take a small number of serious security breaches for customers to be wary of using WiFi, and fall back onto mobile data - presenting a body blow to a nascent opportunity with much commercial potential.


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

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Chief Strategist Teresa Cottam looks at why service providers don't compare favourably to other retailers when it comes to customer service.


File:John George Brown - Tough Customers.jpg

Tough Customers, 1881, John George Brown



Readers of Microsperience will recall my post about how my CSP gave me a valuable lesson in how torturous it can be trying to get a telco to resolve a problem. (See Dear Dave - my journey through the nine circles of customer service hell)


Of course nothing's changed as a result of my itemising just how bad the experience is when something goes wrong. After all, the telco doesn't listen, and tries very hard to insulate its management team from whingeing customers.


The brutal but unspoken fact is that for many telcos, customers are just an annoying inconvenience who cause problems for their lovely networks and who won't do what the telco (and its systems) wants. Of course no-one says that openly - instead they talk about customer centricity, customer experience and so on. But don't be fooled, customer centricity in telco-land is usually just PowerPoint deep.


In telco eyes customers are kids with ADHD - easily distracted by the latest shiny new offer. The loyalty game is one that, without any hint of irony, they cynically exploit by giving new customers the best offers, while at the same time bitterly bemoaning the fact that existing customers leave them for others with shinier new toys to offer. Likewise, OTTs are demonised for stealing customers and revenues, without any self-analysis as to why this might be.


Could it be that the average telco is just shockingly bad at customer service? (Note to readers: so are many OTTs, but the point is that telcos believe they're actually good at customer service and this is a point of differentiation between them and OTTs.) To the point where even a relatively modest level of service is seen as outstanding, because it is so much better than the average in the industry. Certainly there are telcos who provide excellent service experiences - but tellingly these are often either in developing markets or are smaller, non-traditional players. The monolithic telcos in developed markets seem to believe that everyone should be grateful for doing business with them. After all, they have a network.


If we take off our telco hats though for just a moment, we can maybe glimpse things through the eyes of the average customer. What we quickly discover is that telcos want your money, but not a relationship with you. They don't want to talk to you, they just want you to pay in the way that suits them, when it suits them; they don't want you to use too many services; and if something goes wrong they'll try and avoid responsibility.


"Despite calling themselves 'service providers', telecom operators usually don't display a basic understanding of what service means."
Teresa Cottam, Chief Strategist, Telesperience



That's why after seven months of problems, four returns for repairs, and a handset that cannot support the service package I've bought (because it crashes every time I try and use tethering, for example), my telco's solution is that I should deal with the manufacturer directly. Shockingly, they continue to charge me for this non-functioning handset and saw the chronic problems they had created by supplying a faulty handset as an opportunity to try to sell me a new handset. ("Wouldn't it be handy to have a back up phone just in case.")


Contrast the fact that I recently bought some bread from a supermarket which had mold on it by the following day. I took it back and complained and without hesitation there was an apology, a replacement and a voucher to say sorry. I've taken back a sweater when the stitching came undone after one wash - replaced without hesitation. I've seen people drop a bottle at the checkout after paying, and the supermarket staff clean it up and replace it without a grumble. In these scenarios the retailer goes beyond the basic minimum legal requirement and tries to treat you as anyone would like to be treated - driving up loyalty as a result.


"It's what happens when the beans go bad that's the measure of a company's commitment to long-term profitability."
Teresa Cottam, Chief Strategist, Telesperience


So the customer experience I receive from a supermarket where I spend £1 on a loaf of bread, or £20 on a shirt, it far superior to that which I receive when I spend £700+ with a telco.


The horrible truth is that unlike retailers, CSPs actually don't value - don't seem to want - loyalty. They engage in behaviour designed for short-term gain over long-term value. Such behaviour ranges from giving the best offers to new customers, forcing you to pay how they want (yes to direct debit, no to cash), increasing charges mid-way through a contract, and making problem resolution a nightmare.


On this latter point, which I now have so much experience of, the typical telco only focuses on the cost to them of resolving the problem. But by focusing only on the cost of resolution (using metrics such as 'time to resolve'), rather than on the quality of the relationship between customer and supplier, they continue to undermine their own business future and willfully expose their customer base to rivals. 


The question is why don't they care? My cynical head says that the problem is too much focus on the short term and not enough on the future of the business. Businesses are comprised of people, and many of the people in telco aren't being directed to behave in the right way.

  • Execs don't care because they know they're unlikely to be held to account, and even if they are the tenancy in a senior job is short - they'll have moved on before the chickens come home to roost. Since we recycle so many people in telco, these same execs will ship up in another telco and the cycle begins again.
  • Salespeople don't care because they are not paid to care about customers, just sell to them. They're judged only on this month's results, so they sacrifice the long-term relationship for short-term gain.
  • Customer care doesn't care, because they're only judged on whether they can stop the customer from calling and keep the call to the minimum time possible. An operations director in a failing telco once trumped the fact to me that he must be improving his performance because customers had stopped complaining. A brave manager who undoubtedly made himself very unpopular for speaking the truth, pointed out that the reason they'd stopped calling was because they'd given up and were instead churning or preparing to churn.
  • Shareholders and investors don't care. They judge the performance of a telco only on short-term revenue generation and meaningless measures such as ARPU. Their assessments of many CSPs' performance demonstrates they're simply not asking the right questions to maximise their return on investment.


Does it matter that CSPs don't care about their customers? Of course it does, and for hard business reasons not because of sentimentality.


Acquiring new customers, the cost of the whole 'churn machine' and dealing with complaints, all affect the bottom line. By retaining more customers, keeping them happier and focusing on loyalty, CSPs have an enormous opportunity to increase their profitability and provide the confidence for customers to spend more money with them. Focusing on customers' needs also means CSPs are going to come up with more appealing and revenue-generating solutions, rather than solutions in search of a market.


To begin this process though they need to adopt a truly customer centric mindset - and it's here, not in technology, that the problem lies.


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

Comments: 1 (Last: Paul Hollingsworth · 3/3/14 12:53 PM)

Chief strategist Teresa Cottam looks at the danger the European economy faces unless we transform the way our kids - and particularly our girls - view ICT.


File:Young girl with smart phone.jpg

Picture credit: pictureYouth



I like to go into schools every now and again and ask teenagers lots of dumb questions that help me understand how our future consumers, employees and employers think, and how they use technology.


I was recently asked to speak in a school about why technology is a great career option - particularly for women.


Let's begin by admitting that in general, we're simply not selling technology (ICT) as a promising career to our young people in the UK or more widely across many EU economies. But we're especially not selling it as a great career to young women.


The EU has highlighted that of the 1.8 million job vacancies in the EU, over 700,000 are thought to be ICT jobs. This is a chronic problem which the 'grand coalition' the EU has put together to tackle it, and the millions of pounds the UK government continues to pour into it, has done nothing to solve. In fact, according to EU institutions, by 2015 that figure will have risen to over 900,000 unfilled ICT jobs. Shameful, at a time when so many young people are struggling to get that vital first job. Crippling, for an economy struggling to get back into growth.


The unfilled 700-900,000 jobs - as bad as it is - is just the tip of the iceberg though. That's just basic tech jobs, it doesn't count the wider technology ecosystem where hundreds of thousands more people are needed. And it doesn't count those people we need to maintain a large, robust entrepreneurial sector such as that seen in other ICT-based economies.


As ICT underpins more and more of the EU economy, money in the form of ICT services cash will flow out to other economies ranging from the US to India - affecting our balance of payments. We'll also continue to lose our cutting edge, see ourselves falling behind in key industries, and we'll see our gifted young people leaving to work where they are appreciated. After all, why would a talented 20-something in the UK stay here to be patronised, insulted and underpaid when he or she can become a rockstar in Silicon Valley?


The lack of young women in particular means that the EU ICT sector looks set to remain resolutely male-oriented. And what's the problem with that you ask? Well it means it will continue to miss the mark for many customers (ie women) because we're lacking female perspective, and we're also not profiting from the skills, ideas and energy of a large slice of the workforce.


Back in 2009 the EU's Viviane Reding summed this up nicely by saying: "We know that European women are significantly under-represented across the board in ICT - from education and training programmes right through to high level careers in the sector, whether in academia or industry. This is a disadvantage for all: on one hand, lack of talent for the industry and on the other lack of opportunity for women entering the job market in the field of ICT."


After such a clear, supportive statement, it was a great pity she ruined it by calling for more 'cyberellas' - the most derogatory term I have ever heard used about female ICT staff. Especially disappointing that this should come out of the mouth of such a senior, influential woman.


So what's the answer? According to the UK government it's teaching all kids to code. When I read this in the press, rather than throw my hands in the air in triumph, I put my face in my hands in despair. This announcement shows just how ill-educated about ICT our politicians are: they think they can fix the problem by teaching everyone the most mundane mechanical skill in ICT. Clearly, we need coders. But it's like believing if you teach everyone to type then you'll produce a huge supply of Shakespeare-level plays.


I found myself nodding vigorously at an opinion piece by Willard Foxton in the Telegraph who opined: "Coding is a niche, mechanical skill, a bit like plumbing or car repair. As a subject, it only appeals to a limited set of people – the aforementioned dull weirdos. There’s a reason most startup co-founders are 'the charming ideas guy' paired with 'the tech genius'. It’s because if you leave the tech genius on his own he’ll start muttering to himself. Trying to pretend that coding is the right skill for everyone is utter nonsense – for most people, it’s exponentially less useful than the basic level of IT literacy most people still lack. As far as I’m concerned, this is the real IT crisis that needs addressing."


To put things into perspective, this latest government brainwave will see UK kids who are barely able to tie their own shoe laces being taught about algorithms - years before they can do long division or understand what algebra is. Those crazy cat politicians clearly think this is how successful ICT economies manage it. In the land of soundbite politics it possibly is.


Meanwhile in the school theatre I surveyed 20 kids who'd turned up for my talk, only one of whom was a girl. The guy who came to talk about sports as a career had been given a three-line whip (an order to attend), resulting in 70+ kids listening to his talk. I was told that ICT was 'niche' and 'optional' and thus only those who were interested were attending. But the good news, apparently, was that these 20 were mega-keen. And they were. But what about the other 50 or 60 kids that had already decided ICT was too hard, too boring, or not for them because it was all about coding? They've written themselves out of the digital future at the age of 15 before they'd even given themselves a chance. And of the ones that didn't attend, 80%+ were girls.


I told the kids how we were the rock stars of the digital age, the pirates, the adventurers, the builders of vast digital empires. Bill Gates made 100 times more money than Bono, and 200 times more than Keanu Reeves. Want to do good? Mobile has done more good for Africa than decades of aid. Technology is helping cure disease and cancer, give people access to healthcare and learning, providing the platform for the next generation of commerce. Want to travel? You can code from your bedroom or travel the world and meet people of all cultures and backgrounds. ICT powers the world's trading and banking systems. It will transform urban living through smart cities. It is the great leveller and it's a meritocracy that doesn't care who your mum and dad are, just what you can do and what you can dream.


I came away depressed. It was clear to me that without big changes Europe is set to lose its digital edge. We are creating a generation of consumers and coders, not digital pioneers. And what's even more tragic is that girls won't even be on the wagon heading to the digital West - they'll be stuck at home playing cyber dollies on their pink handsets, or openly admitting they don't understand technology without any hint of shame.


Cisco studies show that 90% of UK boys are interested in ICT and 91% of girls. Yes, girls are *more* interested that boys; but this does not translate into a career in ICT.


What should we do about it? What can we do about it? As ICT professionals - whatever our jobs - we need to become positive role models for young people and change the perception of ICT from being something for geeky coders to being a dynamic, modern, exciting and enormous opportunity for our children. If you do just one good thing this week, tell a kid how great working in ICT can be. If you'd like to support my one-woman campaign to convince kids to give a technology career a fair hearing, then let me know.

Let's change their minds - one kid at a time.


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

Comments: 4 (Last: Paul Hollingsworth · 2/14/14 1:56 PM)

Welcome to The Cage - a series of interviews where Telesperience questions key figures and thinkers from the telecoms industry. 10 minutes; no questions barred.


In this interview Vice President of Research Monica Zlotogorski discusses with Archer Mobile's EVP Communications & Media Lisa Modisette about the future of SMS, MMS and the opportunity they can enable for CSPs in different verticals, SMEs, emerging markets and more.





Monica Zlotogorski asks Lisa Modisette the following:


1) Is traditional SMS/MMS dead or partially dead as a revenue generator for CSPs?


2) What are the uses that messaging has for the CSPs themselves? 


3) How can CSPs turn messaging into a powerful business enabling tool for Small & Medium Businesses (SMBs)?


4) How can CSPs turn messaging into a powerful offering when it comes down to the different industry verticals?


5) Innovation in the communications industry is no longer a trickle-down phenomenon. What examples are coming from emerging markets where mobile is being used effectively and innovatively?


6) How can a mobile strategy be effectively delivered?


7) What are some of the statistics around what's possible from a delivery perspective? 


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



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Telesperience Chief Strategist Teresa Cottam looks at why communications service providers (CSPs) need to invest in order to sell more effectively to SMEs.


Joachim Wtewael, The fruit and vegetable seller, c1618



It matters less about what you call them - SME, SMB, MSME, PYME - and more about how you sell to them and support them. Small and medium-sized enterprises may make up 99% of all businesses worldwide, and they may be now regarded as the number 1 target for CSP growth, but the fact remains can CSPs sell to them and manage them effectively?


The truth is many CSPs can't. They sell SMEs little other than connectivity, and have failed to develop a value-added network-plus business in this sector. At the bottom end of the market (which is typically 90% of the SME sector), many CSPs still can't accurately identify their small and micro-business customers, because they're hidden on the consumer infrastructure stack, use consumer packages and are rebelliously uninterested in identifying themselves as business customers. (After all, what's in it for them to do so?) Infrastructure, and not customer need or CSP opportunity, is determining what can and can't be sold to these customers.


Even at the other end of the SME market, medium-sized businesses are still undersold with ICT services, have multiple suppliers, and are often not highly profitable customers because they cost too much to support.


Seventy-two per cent of CSPs may see the SME market as having 'significant' growth potential, but if CSPs can't sell effectively and cost-effectively to SMEs then they are not even getting over the first hurdle.


Currently, the SME presales processes and order entry are far from optimal in many CSPs. Manually-intensive processes create a range of negative customer outcomes including:


  • costly rework due to inefficient requirements and order capture, working from out-of-date information, or breaching of policies or pricing constraints - resulting in  design rejection and provisioning errors which makes SMB customers less profitable
  • slow time-to-revenue due to extended sales cycles
  • a failure to optimise the sale by matching customer business needs more accurately due to lack of up-to-date product or pricing information
  • lower customer satisfaction due to delays in meeting expectations because of slow order and fulfilment processes and errors
  • inconsistent customer experience due to inefficient hand offs and ineffective collaboration between teams
  • pricing errors leading to unprofitable deals or overinflated prices that cause the customer to churn to rivals or delay buying services.

The good news is that CSPs are prepared to put 'their money where their mouth is'. They recognise the weaknesses in their current SME processes and plan to invest in overhauling and improving them. For example, in our recent study of CSP plans around their SME customers we found that 71% plan to invest to reduce the duration of the sales cycle from enquiry to quotation to order.


Find out more about their SME strategies and investment plans in our new Data Sheet: 'Selling to small and medium-sized businesses'. To get a free copy please email


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

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Telesperience VP of Research Monica Zlotogorski looks into how CSPs can enable new revenue streams based on a strong verticalization strategy.

 Paul Klee, Kamel, 1920

Paul Klee, Kamel, 1920


Once upon a time (and for many companies, this is still the case), every sales pitch used to declare that 'industry expertise' was a key strength. Taglines like 'our experts are telecoms professionals with a solid, extensive industry background' or 'we understand telecoms, because that’s all we do' were included in almost every PowerPoint presentation. This may have been a good marketing message in the past, but not anymore.


In an era where plain vanilla communications products and services are commoditizing, something needs to quickly change, and fast. Despite the (extensive) buzz around customer experience, the truth is that Communications Service Providers (CSP) do not understand their consumer customers, which is one reason why almost every CSP is focusing, or beginning to focus, on their business customers – specifically Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) – in order to bring in cash from somewhere else.


However, the one million dollar question is: do CSPs understand SMEs any more than they understand consumers? Furthermore, can the CSP suppliers understand SMEs, so that they can provide their CSP customers with the solutions they need for success?


One example of a company that has been working on this is Ericsson. It has been working for quite some time on a verticalization strategy, where it uses its telecoms expertise to help solve problems in other vertical markets. Ericsson didn't guess or assume though, but instead recruited experts from other verticals in order to truly understand the issues these other industries’ face.


Our industry has a long history of thinking about things with an inside-out business mentality and then imposing this thinking onto consumer or business customers. Telecoms rarely seems to listen, which can be quite frustrating for companies in other verticals. In contrast, Ericsson has put considerable effort into listening and understanding different vertical needs, which makes a refreshing change.


One example of their verticalization strategy is Maersk Line, where over 400 vessels are connected by GMS/VSAT (in partnership with AT&T), which enables them to boost fleet management capabilities, increase quality of service and monitor cargo delivery times. (See Maersk Line and Ericsson bring mobile connectivity to the oceans.) This is a perfect example of how a company can use existing expertise and technology to solve specific problems for other industries. Bringing experts from other industries on board, sitting down with them and listening to the issues these other verticals have, and then using existing technology to solve clear, specific problems or answer specific needs. Is it rocket science or a new invention? No, but it’s an intelligent move.


Not long ago, I co-wrote with Nitin Bhandari, AVP New Products and Partnerships, Vodafone India Limited, about how the telecoms industry in India can become a model of innovation for other verticals - and the infrastructure for such growth.


One of the many examples we included was how telecoms can revolutionise the farming industry. Worldwide, there is an increasing emphasis to increase the productivity of water, soil and fertilizers to reduce the destruction of forests and to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. Non-conventional solutions now rely on M2M sensors in the field to feed the moisture, soil and weather condition into a high-power centralized system which then lets the farmer know the fertilizer constituents that should be used for improving the quality of crops. While this helps the rural sector, it also opens up a new customer base of 200 million farms in India – another win-win scenario for telecom companies as well as the farm sector. (See Thinking Outside the Network.)

But there are hundreds of examples like this one, and like Ericsson's fleet management solution, which our industry could support - delivering further growth. What all these strategies require though is for CSPs to think outside the network. In order to do so, CSPs require a robust verticalization strategy.


Telesperience believes that verticalization is the key to tailoring business offerings in a sustainable manner. In other words, it’s the ability to offer a bundle of products or services that are designed for a particular vertical market, and it is the only viable way of profitably meeting the needs of the majority of business customers - namely SMEs, which in most markets represent the vast majority (about 99%) of businesses.


However, research conducted by Telesperience found out that only 4% of CSPs can offer verticalized products and price plans suitable for an extensive variety of verticals. In other words, CSPs are missing opportunities because they do not package what they offer in a way that optimizes the potential to sell to SMEs.


Verticalization is really an advanced form of bundling and customer segmentation. Using this approach, CSPs design a bundle that contains the product and pricing elements within it that SMEs operating in a particular vertical market are likely to need. These bundles cater to the 'average' SME within an identified vertical, and are something that can be offered today. Such a package requires the CSP to understand what an archetypal SME in any particular vertical is going to need. Since these are CSP-designed bundles, there is a limit as to how many can be offered and the level of flexibility that’s offered within the package.


That’s okay, because if we apply the Pareto Principle (the 80:20 rule) we can assume that a well-designed bundle will likely address 80% of the needs of SMEs. It may also fulfil the requirements of 80% of the SMEs in any vertical market, enabling the CSP to initially address a large share of any niche. Further segmentation (for example, usage-based segmentation) can, of course, be applied to verticalized offers, but the important thing is not to create too many options which will create customer confusion and potentially raise the cost of supporting the packages. (These ideas are developed more fully in the Telesperience paper 'Six Strategies for Developing a Profitable SME business' - see below.)


Verticalization offers a path to success, but this is also where non-telecoms expertise becomes another key selling point. I wrote in a previous blog that CSPs need to learn to listen to consumer customers. The same applies to business customers. We need to open the doors to other industry verticals, learn about their problems, pain points and needs, and then figure out how our existing expertise can solve these - opening up new revenue streams for CSPs.


We should be the underpinning infrastructure for innovation in other verticals, but to do so we need to avoid the mistakes we’ve made with the consumer market. The good news is that it's still 'all to play for' in the SME market, provided we act soon.



For free copies of our primary research papers on the SME market please email


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

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Teresa Cottam explores the nature of innovation in an ICT context.


Frank R Paul, The Atomic Flying Car of the Future (1955)


At Telesperience we live and breathe innovation. We evaluate, judge, write about, analyse and ponder about innovation. Yet it never ceases to amaze me that there is such a poor understanding of what innovation actually is: what it looks like, feels like. Without a good understanding of innovation we can neither encourage the conditions to make it flourish, nor can we create effective innovation.


This latter point I will return to, because I think we often overlook the fact that innovation is not 'good' in itself. It is not a synonym for progress or success.


First, though, let's focus on what innovation actually is. Most definitions of innovation embrace the idea of effectiveness: this is a (well meaning) mistake. Innovation merely means something new or, more correctly, 'the act of introducing something new' or 'something newly introduced'. Let's be clear - there is no discrimination, appraisal or evaluation innate in the term. Something can be 'innovative' without being worthwhile, useful or better; it just needs to be different.


This is obvious when you think about it. We'd all be wearing nuclear-powered trousers and zipping around in personal hovercraft if the 'innovative' visions of the 1950s had come to pass. Those of us that work in the ICT field know that one man's innovation is another man's cupboard clutter. Most innovation is, in fact, useless or of such highly limited use it is not commercially successful; while the process of innovation is both wasteful and untidy.


It's an often quoted fact that 70% of innovators fail. The Harvard Business Review, for example, cites a variety of studies that show failure rates for new products across all industries of between 40 and 90%, with failure rates stubbornly unchanged in 25 years. The HBR says: "In the U.S. packaged goods industry, for instance, companies introduce 30,000 products every year, but 70% to 90% of them don’t stay on store shelves for more than 12 months."


I'd argue that failure rates quoted are still a huge underestimate of failure, as they don't take account of the innovation that doesn't make it out of the gate in the first place. You'll often hear people say that 99% of success is built on failure. I'd argue that 99% of innovation results in failure. It's the 1% of success, combined with the human drive to create, which fuels the innovation hype we are subjected to.


This is particularly dangerous in the ICT world. Every second word in our industry seems to be 'innovative'. Little technology is apparently not innovative. In fact, a lot of my working life is spent trying to gently explain to innovators that their equivalent of nuclear-powered trousers just doesn't have a market. A lot of the rest of it is spent trying to convince other innovators that while their new "back-scratching" device will never sell, with a little adaptation it could make one hell of a great rake and will have people queuing at the door. Both of these conversations are because most innovators don't understand their market.


Now, we could argue that innovators don't have to understand their potential customers and we can/should have 'innovation for innovation's sake' (just as some argue for 'education for education's sake'). I'd agree there might be some room for innovation that has no immediate application in itself, but later becomes the building block or inspiration for other useful innovations. However, I'd also argue that too much effort and resources are currently being lavished on innovation that leads nowhere. With resources being finite, and because we work in a commercial industry, we have to increase our 'hit rate' for successful innovation. To do so we need to be able to recognise and work towards more effective innovation.


I'd begin by banning the word 'innovation' altogether and instead talk about what it really is - a new product. Take the hype and the mystery out of it all, as well as the idea that things have to be complex or revolutionary or completely new to make them 'innovative'. To me, effective innovation is something that solves a problem or fulfils an unmet need. In a commercial environment we can extend that definition to be 'something that solves a problem or fulfils an unmet need for which someone is prepared to pay'.


In short, too much technology marketing, advice, awards and focus is on racing after 'innovation' instead of creating products customers need and want. The result, as I have said, is a very wasteful and untidy situation where customers have unmet needs they are prepared to pay for, while technologists are designing products that no-one actually wants. The one product in a thousand that - often by chance - does meet an unmet need, is used to justify the whole inefficient process.


To innovators I'd say:

  • concentrate on the potential customer, not the technology. Figure out what they want and need, and what they are prepared to pay for
  • keep it simple - don't make anything any more complicated than it absolutely needs to be, and strive to find ways of making it simpler
  • ban the words 'novel/new' and 'technology' from your vocabulary, as well as all-out hype words like 'revolutionary', and replace with 'effectiveness' and 'chargeability' (ie does it work and will they pay?)
  • remember 'new' doesn't mean 'better'. If it is better, then it also has to be better in a way that customers value and are prepared to pay for.

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

Comments: 5 (Last: Teresa Cottam · 1/21/14 1:32 PM)

Welcome to The Cage - a series of interviews where Telesperience questions key figures and thinkers from the telecoms industry. 10 minutes; no questions barred.

Nitin Bhandari




In this interview Telesperience Vice President of Research Monica Zlotogorski talks to Nitin Bhandari, Associate Vice President, New Products & Partnerships, VODAFONE INDIA, about how the communications market is evolving in India and what the rest of the world can learn from it, including new business models, lowering costs in a low-ARPU scenario, verticalization, the Small & Medium Enterprise (SME) opportunity, M2M, Cloud, and more.


Monica discusses with Vodafone's Nitin Bhandari the following:


1. What are the top differences between the Indian telecoms model and that in the West?


2. Indian operators are operating at very low ARPU levels and yet are very profitable – how do they do that?


3. What lessons can Western operators learn from the operational performance of Indian operators? Are these lessons transferable?


4. When Indian operators think about innovation what does that mean to them? How do they measure innovation?


5. Are M2M and Cloud hot in India, and how are they being developing and being monetized?


6. How is verticalization of services and the notion of CSPs as B2B enablers playing out in the Indian market?


7. What type of services are Indian SMEs interested in and how can CSPs support those needs on a profitable basis?


8. What restraints do operators face in the Indian market, such as regulation, etc.)?


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

Comments: 0

Monica Zlotogorski channels Steve Jobs as she takes out her 'divining rods' to locate those elusive new telecoms revenue streams.

A dowser at work, from Pierre le Brun, Histoire critique des pratiques superstitieuses, (Jean-Frederic Bernard, 1733–1736)



“You‘ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology - not the other way around," Steve Jobs


Apparently, Job’s sentiments don’t resonate too well with the telecoms industry because, despite the customer experience buzz, our industry consistently puts technology (network) first. The customer is never king.


This reminds me of a recent experience at a mobile service provider’s retail store. I was standing in line waiting my turn. Right in front of me, there was a mom who was trying to get a new phone for her teenage daughter (probably around 12-14 years old). I couldn’t resist the temptation to listen to the conversation that they were having with the sales person.


“And you can use Facebook as much as you want from your phone,” was the pitch coming from the sales person, who was probably 25-26 years old. The teenage girl turned around and with a very unhappy expression on her face said to her mom, “but mom, Facebook is not my thing, it’s for old people, tell her mom!” Imagine that, a 25-26 year old being too “old” to understand the needs of a 12-14 year old.


But, wait a minute! What? Teenagers are supposed to love Facebook, right? Everyone in telecoms knows that. Every single marketing PowerPoint presentation I’ve seen has a Facebook logo and happy teenagers.


Well, we should probably rewrite those PowerPoint slides now – because apparently Facebook isn’t cool among teenagers anymore. This is just one of the many myths that are going around in our industry that everyone accepts as true, even when facts show otherwise.


Of course, (almost) nobody bothers to listen to what customers truly need or want, or watch their behavior, because we, in telecoms, are a bunch of very smart technology experts that know better than anyone else. And even when we pay attention to what customers want and need we prefer to ignore it, or reinterpret it, because it doesn’t fit with our notion of “how things should be.”


Consequently, that’s how we end up assuming that everyone would behave, desire or need whatever is determined by a 30-40 year old male with an engineering degree working in telecoms. And based on those assumptions we’ve been developing a whole bunch of business models and offerings for a customer base that we don’t know and don’t listen to. Yes, we do talk (a lot) about customer experience (and big data for customer experience purposes), but it’s more of a “let’s talk about it, so we can feel good” exercise, as opposed to really listening to the customer.


The funny (or sad) part of it is that most of the basic myths out there don’t even require any big data investments. One could clearly “kill” many of those very basic “legends” with a click of a button and a simple Internet search. If we don’t understand our customers first, how are we going to successfully develop new business models and sell to them?


So let’s debunk some basic myths.


Ladies and gentlemen, yes, it’s true. Facebook is not about a whole bunch of teenagers chatting with their friends. In fact, nearly two-thirds of people aged 50-64 and 43% of those aged 65+ in the US are now on Facebook, while teenagers are moving away from it to avoid their parents. “Although I do have a Facebook, none of my other friends do. My friends just thought it was a waste of time. I decided to get a Facebook just to see what it was all about. I soon discovered that Facebook is useless without friends. My only friend is, like, my grandma,” said a 13 year old. “Teens are followers. That’s just what we are. If all my friends are getting this cool new thing called Snapchat, I want it, too!”


If Facebook is not invincible, neither are mobile phones.

According to a recent study by Ofcom in the UK, “for the first time since the survey began in 2005, the overall number of children aged 5-15 owning a mobile phone has fallen – from 49% last year to 43% in 2013.” The Ofcom study clearly shows that even the “youth” segment is not a single demographic, with younger and older children having distinctly different priorities concerning connected devices. “Children’s preference for internet-enabled devices reflects changes in how younger people are going online. While the usability of tablets appears to meet younger children’s entertainment needs.”


Furthermore, “traditional text messaging (SMS) remains a highly popular way of communicating for youngsters, especially those aged 12-15. These teenagers send on average 255 text messages per week, up from 193 last year.” What? SMS is not necessarily dead? That’s right, and I’m not done yet.


Apparently, not everyone wants to get the latest smartphone model. In effect, many consumers are moving “backwards” (technologically speaking), not forwards. Take the example of Timothy Kim, who went back to an old cellphone (a $20 Motorola Razr) to substitute his smartphone when it broke in order to help improve his social and marriage life. “I no longer stare at my phone during dinner time or bedtime,” said Mr. Kim. “I converse more when hanging out with my friends. And my wife is a lot happier. (Happy wife, happy life.)” Mr. Kim is now likely to check Twitter less, spends less money on his mobile plan, feels more secure and has more battery life too. “These days, you are lucky if your smartphone lasts throughout your workday. But this 7-year old Razr will last up to four days without charging!”


So there you have it, not all men consume in the same manner and have the same needs and wants either. But let’s go even further. CSPs don’t understand women either – and that’s half of their market!


A recent article published by the Atlantic highlighted the role of women in the consumption of technology: “We had this fascination with what the youths are doing and this notion that technology was being used by men. The data just didn’t reflect that. When you look the globe over, women are 44 to 45 percent of the world’s Internet users. They spend more time online than men—17 percent more a month. If you look at social-networking sites on a global scale, women are the vast majority on most sites, with the exception of LinkedIn. Facebook is an extension of social communication, which has often been the realm of women.


Same with things like Skype, whose average user is 20-to-30-something, college educated, female If you look across the sale of e-readers, those are vastly driven by women. The same with downloading books, which is a lucrative space right now. If you look at smartphone data, again, women are about half the users on the planet, but spend more time talking, texting, and using location-based services than their male counterparts. When I put all that together, I had this moment of going, What? What is it that makes people think we’re not using the technology?"


Not long ago, I wrote: “Business strategy and technology developments in our industry are being determined by a whole bunch of men thinking that people want to consume communications services just like they do… Market data shows otherwise, but they don’t seem to want to pay attention. Do we need a better explanation about why business models are not working, how we are moving to a potential dumb pipe future or why ARPU is going down? Apparently, we all want to consume what men want to consume and how they want to consume it. But in reality, we all use communications services differently, so why are things being developed based on the needs and wants of just a minority?"


It should have been obvious. A business strategy should always start from the customer. But that’s not how it’s done in telecoms.


The price that companies pay for starting backwards is quite high. So, what happens when you develop a product or service when you don’t understand your customers? Let’s take a powerful, non-telecoms industry example to illustrate this point (it just makes it easier to make the point).


What happened when Gillette tested its Vector razor on MIT students of Indian descent in Massachusetts rather than on India residents to avoid the costly trip abroad? Unlike men in India, the MIT students had running water, and “Indian men have thicker hair and a higher hair density than their American counterparts. Adding to that, they often shave less frequently than American men, so they wind up shaving longer beards.”


Gillette eventually fixed the problem and learned a good lesson. “That's another 'a-ha' moment,’ Alberto Carvalho, vice president, global Gillette, a unit of P&G. ‘That taught us the importance that you really need to go where your consumers are, not just to talk to them, but observe and spend time with them to gather the key insight.”


That’s precisely the core problem in our industry. We develop solutions that are based on the limited life experience and knowledge of a small group of men working from their office cubicles in telecoms, who don’t bother to understand how everyone else thinks, what they need and/or want, and what they are willing to consume and pay for. Such limited views have determined the different paths to innovation in the past decades, both in terms of business models and technology developments. However, the issues that our industry are confronting are far from technological and they will not get solved with more technology first. Otherwise, we’ll keep building and developing more and more “things” (networks, systems, processes, etc) for the wrong reasons.


Know your customers first, learn what they do, want and desire, how they consume things, what problems they are trying to solve. Then, figure out ways to serve those wants and needs, and then, enable the technology to make it happen. It should be obvious, right? But apparently it’s not.


That’s why everyone in telecoms is still using a Facebook logo and happy teenage kids in every PowerPoint slide thinking that it’s cool, while youths are moving away from it in droves. Or there’s the husband that switches a smart phone for a dumb one. Or we fail to discover that women are more technology savvy than we give them credit for. We are slow to move forward because we stay stuck in an outdated reality. In the meantime, customers have moved on and other players are able to respond more quickly to customers’ needs and wants (because they base their strategies on precisely the customer) and thereby gain advantage, leaving CSPs trailing a long way behind.


Yes, there are a lot of very smart engineers and software people in telecoms, but that doesn’t mean we know it all. Customers do know best, and if we truly listen, then we would be able to prevent bad investments in CAPEX, we would be able to reduce OPEX by creating more efficient organizations that are truly customer focused and we would be able to come up with better and faster business models and products that customers are willing to pay for, or retire those business models and products that customer don’t like or want a lot faster. That’s why everything needs to start with the customer. That’s how you make money. There’s no other way.



The Cage: The Future of Text Messaging with Acision’s JF Sullivan

Microsperience: Are you really listening to your customers?


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

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VP Research Monica Zlotogorski ponders cupcakes, the lack of customer centricity in the communications business, and the paucity of real strategy.


File:Cherry chocolate cupcakes.jpg

Photo with thanks to User:Colin / Wikimedia CommonsCC-BY-SA-3.0



Lessons abound for the telecoms business everywhere. Yet we continue to ignore them. To illustrate my point, let me start with a quick anecdote.


Teresa Cottam, our Chief Strategist, has a 10-year old daughter who came home recently with the following school assignment: prepare cupcakes that express an important accomplishment in the past 100 years for a charity day at school.


So Teresa and I started to brainstorm what she could do because we wanted to help her raise lots of money for a worthwhile cause.


Just what was the most important accomplishment of the past 100 years though? We quickly ran through the most obvious...Perhaps the most important discoveries in medicine? Or maybe the evolution of communications from the telegraph to the smartphone? (We are geeky after all.) Famous people? Notable events? We went on and on, until we came up with what we thought was a 'brilliant' idea, we would do a 'top 10 most influential women' cupcake project.


We'd got a winner, we thought. And we started to excitedly talk about which women we should select, what colors we should use, cupcake flavors, how to make the pictures of these women using edible materials… (Edible printing - is that viable? Nope, so that's out...) This was going to be great! We'd got a winning idea and our execution all figured out, so we presented it to Teresa’s daughter.


We could tell immediately, just by looking at her face, that we'd got something dreadfully wrong. To be fair, she broke it to us gently. "Monica and mama it's just that no-one is going to want to eat Mother Teresa," she explained.


The realisation dawned on us: we had nothing. We fundamentally didn't understand our customers. So we had to start all again.


This time we began by asking: “what do *you* want?” and "what do you think your friends would like to buy?"


She said: "well the boys love technology and I liked your idea of rainbow cupcakes!” (One of the many discarded ideas we'd run through to come up with our 'brilliant' cupcake product.) That's simple, we thought. In fact a whole lot simpler than our idea. If only we'd started by understand the customer(s), we wouldn’t have wasted three hours of our time brainstorming what may have been clever ideas but which were ultimately not appealing to the target audience, and which were really hard to make.


So because we asked the right questions and listened, we ended up with a happy customer and a much cheaper, shorter and effective execution.


This example is not about telecoms, but it’s so relevant to the telecoms market.


Why? Because we only had the basic notion that our 'customer' had a need for cupcakes, but we stopped engaging and listening from that point on. We went into an inside-out business mindset (just like a CSP), where we wasted a lot of time and resources in order to come up with a complex product, and a design, implementation and delivery method that at the end of the day wasn't what the customer wanted.


The customer was in fact out of the equation up until the point where we were ready to deliver the cupcake project. In our defence, we presented the idea and it didn’t pass the test, so we changed our course of action before execution (design, implementation and delivery). However, that’s something that sadly, CSPs often don’t do. Having committed so many resources to their 'brilliant' idea they insist on following through whether their customers want it or not.


What's important to take out from this is the following: it doesn’t matter how well you execute an idea, unless it’s based on a solid strategy with the customer in mind it won't succeed.


That’s precisely the problem with telecoms. We worry about execution (which involves the use of technology and processes) more than we worry about what should be enabled. If we started the process the other way round, and once we had determined what was needed *then* decided the best way to execute it, I think we'd have a lot more success and a lot less wasted time and effort.


But why do telecoms business leaders put more weight on execution? According to Favaro, Hirsh and Rangan this is because: “...they associate strategy with analysis and execution with getting things done, and they attribute more value to doing than to analyzing… But any seasoned strategist knows that strategy is not just sloganeering. It is the series of choices you make on where to play and how to win to maximize long-term value. Execution is producing results in the context of those choices. Therefore, you cannot have good execution without having good strategy.” (“Strategy or Execution: Which Is More Important?” Ken Favaro, with Evan Hirsh and Kasturi Rangan, 1 June 2012, Strategy+Business)


In other words, for Favaro, Hirsh and Rangan, a company’s capacity to execute well depends on how solid its strategy is, and how well it’s understood by everyone who makes major decisions for the business. I concur.


In fact both execution and a customer-oriented strategy are important: a great execution without strategy, or a great execution that is born out of a bad strategy won’t work.


Mitchell Osak writing in the Financial Post explained the problem brilliantly - describing what he calls the 'execution trap'.


“Firms can fall easily into an execution mind-set – to their peril," he writes. "Market leaders looking to protect their hard-won market share (initially based on a superior strategy) and fully exploit legacy assets will be biased towards execution to drive incremental improvement and minimize risk. Ignoring strategy, however, will leave leaders blind to disruptive products and technologies. Followers, on the other hand, often succumb to a different kind of cognitive trap. To grow, these firms will mistakenly look to out-execute the leaders by mimicking their strategies through the flawed use of benchmarking and best practice tools. Yet, no matter how well followers execute they will still be unable to challenge the leaders who possess superior and proprietary capabilities, technologies and cultures. Followers will usually be better off finding a more distinctive and compelling strategy.”


At Telesperience we completely agree. We encounter many CSPs and vendors who are caught in the execution trap. They continue the same strategies and concentrate on minimising risk and upon tactics - effectively they do the same thing they always did, but expect different (better) results. The problem is the market has shifted and their old strategies are no longer effective.


We believe that one way out of the execution trap is to start listening to and understanding customers more. By listening and analysing firms can create great strategy. After that, of course, what's needed is the ability to deliver combined with the courage to drive a business from inertia to growth.


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

Comments: 3 (Last: Jane Rygaard · 11/26/13 8:32 AM)

Welcome to The Cage - a series of interviews where Telesperience questions key figures and thinkers from the telecoms industry. 10 minutes; no questions barred.


In this interview Telesperience Chief Strategist Teresa Cottam talks to Acision's JF Sullivan about how the messaging market is evolving.




In this interview Teresa discusses with JF Sullivan the following:


  1. Who are Acision?
  2. Is text dying or dead - why are the reports of its death so persistent?
  3. Is text being replaced by OTT applications?
  4. What are CSPs doing about the text-OTT mix?
  5. How is the use of text evolving in different countries?
  6. Are you seeing any interesting innovation in the business market, and business uses of texting?
  7. Where is the creativity coming from in this market, and what would your message to CSPs be regarding SMS innovation?
  8. Is RCS the reinvigoration, the panacea, that everyone is hoping?
  9. What three key pieces of advice would you give to CSPs regarding their texting strategy? What should they be doing?



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

Audio Files (1)
The Cage - JF Sullivan Acision : Teresa Cottam, Telesperience
Comments: 1 (Last: Peter Bowen · 11/14/13 11:46 AM)

Chief Strategist Teresa Cottam explains the phenomenon of Shadow Cloud and what IT departments should do about it.


File:055-Canute reproving flattery of his Courtiers.png




You're probably familiar with the term "Shadow IT". This is where business users or IT folk create their own applications, reports or datasets which are outside the control of the IT domain. These may be Excel spreadsheets which the business user is using because an official application is too difficult or inconvenient to use (or does not exist); or users could be storing data on USB sticks because it's more convenient.


Shadow IT is not new and has been a well understood, if not well-controlled, business risk for many years.


The challenge is that the Cloud has added fuel to the phenomenon and taken the risk and challenge to a whole new level. With Shadow Cloud, business users can buy whole applications on corporate credit cards and they can store data and documents in DropBox. They can also use a wide range of OTT communications tools that are completely outside IT's control.


If the scale of shadow Cloud is concerning, its implications are even more profound. Rather than being seen as a symptom of errant employees, it is often the sign of an unmet need (or one that is met in a way that doesn't suit the business user).


IT departments will have to:


  • Get used to the educated business user. The business user of today is very different than that of 10 years ago. They are no longer content to let IT drive; now they want a turn at the wheel. IT is no longer a mystery or a dark art, but simply a tool to achieving business ends (which is what it always should have been). This trend will accelerate as increasing numbers of Digital Natives enter the workplace. Try telling them not to use applications they have grown up with. Try telling them that you, the IT departments, are "the experts". The genie is out of the bottle and you're going to have a hard time putting it back in.
  • Deal with business users who see tech as a "consumable" - something they buy when they need it and to the level they need it. They are being educated by SaaS and ITaaS to expect more transparency, consumption-based cost models and the ability to be more granular about IT costs. This will have major impacts on how they expect to pay for IT in future.
  • Understand that patience is so 1997. The business user expects services to be available at their fingertips - they have no patience to wait for extended periods of time. They are used to searching online for what they want and fulfilling their appetites immediately.
  • Get used to mashups. Users are more experimental and are more willing to be creative with applications and data. If there's a business problem they can solve themselves by creating something new using online resources then they will. This willingness to experiment is a great business asset and trying to eradicate it entirely doesn't make sense.
  • Grasp that privacy, security and risk isn't necessarily something business users understand in any case. However, Digital Natives are more open about their own lives than previous generations and therefore being cautious about information privacy or security is not a natural attribute.


Don't be under any illusions: Shadow Cloud is happening today in your organisation. At a recent conference I asked for a show of hands on who was using Cloud - about a third of the audience put their hands up. When I asked who was using Skype, DropBox, Google Drive, Facebook etc for business purposes *everyone* put their hands up.


IT cannot expect to hold back Cloud-enabled change - like Canute you will simply be swept away by the tide. However, IT does need to guide, shepherd and educate business users, and provide enterprise grade performance where this is appropriate. Cloud is enabling large amounts of corporate innovation both inside and outside the IT domain, and it's essential that IT is aware of what's going on so that vital corporate knowledge and business value isn't lost. If your IT department's style is to wag fingers and to behave like Dr No, then don't expect anyone to be frank with you. When you're cut out of the innovation loop how will you have influence then?


In short, business users are no longer children who will do what IT says; they are now teenagers set to explore the world, push boundaries and discover how things work. Along the way they're going to make mistakes and they need someone to be there to protect their backs and help them avoid and learn from mistakes.


To play that role, IT needs to adjust its style to accommodate the changing relationship it has with its business users. In the end, Cloud is not just a technical issue, it also heralds profound changes in corporate culture, business processes, budgets and the fundamental relationship between IT and the business.


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

Comments: 3 (Last: Ashley Bowen · 11/5/13 8:36 PM)

Chief Strategist Teresa Cottam asks: do you really know what your customers think of you, or have you become self-delusional?


File:Anschutz A Passing Glance.jpg


Thomas Pollock Anshutz, A Passing Glance



With the best intentions in the world, a company puts together promotions, processes, systems and people to create an experience for its customers. Sometimes, however, the result can be different to what they intended.


There are many reasons why things go wrong, or  go 'less right' than they should. But commonly overlooked reasons are that what a company decides is a good experience for its customers might not actually be the same as what their customers think is a good experience. Even if some customers agree with the company that it's a good experience, there will be others that don't. It's easy to dismiss these as "difficult customers", and undoubtedly there are some people who are completely unreasonable or who are just gaming the system, but most frustrated, disappointed or unhappy customers do not fall into that category. They are genuine customers who feel let down by the experience provided.


The question this raises is: do companies actually see themselves and the experience they provide as their customers see them? One problem that I encounter is a form of corporate delusion where the internal and external views of a company do not match up. The reason for this is usually that the way a company judges itself is around internally-focused goals and issues, rather than customer-focused goals and issues. A company might judge itself on operational efficiency by which it means low cost, for example,  rather than higher service levels.


Another problem is that measures of performance are inaccurate, not fit for purpose or missing. In telecoms this results in customers who're having a bad experience being told that the network is working fine. The most delinquent companies tell them that they followed the process and thus all is now well. If it isn't well then frankly that's your problem.


Sometimes the experience has just been designed badly, or not at all. In other words, no-one bothered to track the customer journey and understand what really happens; the customer journey may simply have evolved without any thought to whether it makes sense from the customer's point of view.


One of the worst types of perception gaps though is when the company becomes deliberately rather than accidentally self-deluding. Dishonesty becomes embedded in the corporate culture. Information is 'spun' to change the meaning, bad news is hidden and poor performance is covered up. When an honest employee points out the problems, they are dismissed, ignored, ridiculed or side-lined. At this point the business is dying but doesn't know it.


An example of this is a service provider I know that only surveys happy customers. In its eyes it is doing a good job because all the customers it talks to are happy. Executives pat the reports reassured that everyone is doing a good job. When the company starts to churn customers, these same executives will claim it was unforeseeable and outside their control because according to the reports all was well. When I pointed out that only talking to happy customers might be a problem, it was pointed out to me that executives don't want to talk to unhappy customers. I think they should. And I think they should do it not just willingly but joyfully, because these customers give them an enormous opportunity to learn.


The point is that customers now vote with their feet. Most don't even bother to complain; they just leave. Complainers should be valued because they offer you an opportunity to put things right and to discover things about your company and take action. It's when they stop complaining you have a real problem. Many is the service provider who has told me their complaints are down just before they lost a big chunk of their customer base.


What's more, upsetting your customers has never been more dangerous. They can now destroy a perfectly-constructed brand in the click of a button using social media channels, blogs, forums and even good old word of mouth.


A survivor in both life and business is not afraid of the truth. They are adult enough to listen and accept criticism - not run away, or live in denial. A healthy business is actually built to listen and respond not just to good news but also to bad news, which gives early warning signs that should be heeded.


Business survivors understand the danger of the magic mirror that tells them they are the fairest in the land when the truth is they are somewhat less than handsome (and they know it). Rather than airbrushing out the warts, they confront the problem and get the warts treated.


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

Comments: 0

Chief Strategist Teresa Cottam looks at why it's time for CSPs to move beyond the customer experience talk.


File:Sargent Morning Walk Detail.jpg

Morning Walk, John Singer Sargent (1888)




We all know the theory right? Our customers are important to us. In future we will differentiate our offerings based on customer experience and the customer service we provide. Loyal customers spend more and tell their friends to buy from us. Keeping a customer costs less than recruiting a new one. Unhappy customers complain (costing us money), churn and damage our brands. etc etc etc


In fact there are plenty of business-impacting reasons why we want to treat customers right and make them loyal. Recently, talk about customer experience has been so common as to become almost a cliche. Every conference, publication, webinar and PowerPoint seems to have the inevitable discussion of telecoms customer experience. In fact so ubiquitous is the talk, that it would be easy to assume this is something we have mastered in telecoms. (Clue: we have not!)


Beyond the PowerPoint though, what we find is that the telecoms industry - despite calling themselves 'service providers' - frequently provides a poor level of service and a sub-optimal experience.


This creates an easy entry point for competitors who are much better at customer service and at providing good experiences. Just a few short years ago Apple stormed into the market with an offer that was short on revolutionary new technology but big on a better experience. Quite simply they made everything work better for customers.


Despite this lesson, the industry is still very good at 'talking the talk', and not so good at 'walking the walk'. This means the door is still wide open for new competitors to walk in and walk away with our business (aka our customers).


A great example of how CSPs are good at the talk, but not so good at the walk, can be seen when things go wrong. In business it's inevitable that sooner or later something will go wrong. The test of a business survivor is therefore not so much that things never go wrong for them, but how they respond when they do.


In telecoms we see complaints and faults as events to be deflected or managed at the lowest possible cost. In contrast, more agile businesses see them as a means of learning, building customer loyalty, deepening relationships and even driving up revenues. Rather than the myopic, often counterproductive, and process/policy driven view taken by CSPs, more agile companies don't focus on immediate loss or gain but on the bigger commercial picture.


They do business the right way by trusting and listening to their customers and going the extra mile for them. They don't dictate to customers, but listen to them; they're helpful even when there's no immediate profit in it; and they empathise and adapt to the customer's needs.


The truth is there's no magic wand or magic system to improve the customer experience you deliver. The customer experience may be underpinned by systems that do the heavy lifting, but the essential element that turns a bad or average experience into a great one requires humanity.


Walking the customer walk means treating customers like you'd like to be treated. Being fair, and even going beyond fair to being nice. It means doing and not just saying. And it means getting the basics right.


CSPs talk about proactive customer care and automation to improve the experience, as well as implementing new channels and new sophisticated tech to support these. This is all very well, but most customers just want old-fashioned service. They want CSPs to treat them as humans, not numbers; and they want their service provider to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Most of all they want them to walk before they try to run.


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

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