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.
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
Chief Strategist Teresa Cottam explains the phenomenon of Shadow Cloud and what IT departments should do about it.
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
Chief Strategist Teresa Cottam asks: do you really know what your customers think of you, or have you become self-delusional?
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
Chief Strategist Teresa Cottam looks at why it's time for CSPs to move beyond the customer experience talk.
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
In her letter to Dave Dyson, CEO of 3UK, Chief Strategist Teresa Cottam explains why despite his apparent emphasis on improving the customer experience, his company still has a long way to go.
Inconsolable Grief by
Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoi
I've been with 3UK for a number of years now. On the whole it's been an unremarkable experience - I don't talk to you; you take my money, and every two years you try and resell me. I have absolutely no loyalty to you because there is no relationship between us. In industry speak (net promoter scores) I'm neither a promoter or a detractor, but a passive customer.
Last week for the very first time I had a real problem with my phone and realised this would be a great test of what your company is made of. I'd just received a brand new Nokia Lumia 925 and it's fair to say it has revolutionised my perception of mobile, and of your company. It picks up the signal much better, it's fast, it's slick and I'm actually enjoying my mobile experience more than I ever have. You can imagine then how disappointed I was when my phone developed a fault only a month after receiving it. The battery started heating up for no reason; it switched itself off and on; the screen was freezing.
So I took my lovely shiny phone into one of your stores. The staff could not have been nicer. They listened to my problems and suggested the standard advice (probably a software glitch, try updating). Nothing wrong with that, of course, it was a sensible first step. But when that didn't work they couldn't help me any more. Why? Because I had bought the phone via your call centre and not from this store. That's when the penny first dropped that I'd acidentally fallen into multichannel hell.
They assured me though that your call centre would be able to help me. Sadly, they continued, since it was just before 8pm that wouldn't be until the following day, because you were now not available to receive calls about faults via the call centre. I tried, but your IVR response is simply "call back later" (no indication of why or when).
In the 24x7 digital realtime world we live in, this siloing of customer care and quaint unavailability when customers really need you is extremely frustrating. Possibly you are responsive and sympathetic if my problem fits into a neat basket; if I contact you via the right channel; and if I do so at the right time. Unfortunately, problems rarely run to your schedule or definition.
I duly called your Indian call centre the following day, having navigated IVRhell (the third circle of Hell in this tale of telecoms woe). While your CSRs are all nice, patient and polite, they're also - as many of your customers like to call them - "robots". There is no empathy, no relationship-building, no genuine response. As a customer you feel like you're just another obstacle to them getting home or making their numbers. They palpably rush you through their process so they can fit as many callers in as possible. You are forced to ask them to repeat what they said not just because of the unfamiliar accent, but also the speed at which they talk. This makes a customer feel both stupid and frustrated, and thus CSRhell is the fourth circle of Hell you have forced me to navigate.
Your CSR informed me I would have to mail my phone back to you for repairs. How long would that take? At least 7 days. Do you seriously think 7 days without a phone is acceptable today? And the alternative? Well there is no alternative.
What's more, it's seven days from when I mail the phone but I'm going to have to wait at least 2 more to receive the envelope (since you only count "working days" and there is no post Saturday afternoons, Sundays or Bank Holidays here in the UK). The CSR can't mail me a new phone and fix this one. I can't take it into a local store for repairs. I thus pass through the fifth and sixth circles of hell - the wretcheness of rules and the pit of procedures.
When I asked to complain I was put through to a charming manager. He was the last line of complaint, apparently, and yet he had no power to do anything. Ever the well-trained diplomatic customer service pro, I could nevertheless sense his frustration when I pointed out the inadequacy of the response compared to my value as a customer. I wondered why this charming man was there at all, when he could do absolutely nothing for me because he was bound tighter than Prometheus by your procedures. I asked him for the name of a senior manager who did have the power to change policies; he couldn't give me one. Thus I experienced both depersonalisation in the grave of generality and the organisational hell of hierarchical Hades. You made me feel as a mere customer that I was unworthy to talk to your executives - or even to know their names!
That's why Dave I'm writing to you, and to make sure you get this note I'm going to tweet it and send it to your PRs.
Experience has taught me, you see, that CSPs are strangely responsive to complaints in the glare of social media, while happy to blank their customers in real life.
Let me put this in a way that a financial guy like you will get. Let's analyse how your company did.
Your shop staff are nice people. Twice before I've been into a 3UK store and it's been a great experience. Why aren't you leveraging these great people more? When I want to think good things about you, I remember the nice Australian guy who really listened to my problem, empathised and came up with an answer. That's how I want to think of Three, not as a faceless robotic company who sees customer calls as something to be deflected.
Multichannelhell - customers today are multi-channel creatures: they browse online; try products and chat with staff in shops; and then buy in the most convenient channel for them. Your processes don't facilitate this, reward your staff for the role they play in it, or support your customer's journey.
IVRhell - your company runs the very definition of IVRhell. The system requires you to navigate multiple menus to report a fault. At a time when your phone isn't working that's not very nice is it?
Processhell - I don't want compensation, I need a phone that works. Your processes stink. Who can be without a phone for a minimum of seven days? There are a thousand ways you could improve this process so it works better from a customer's point of view. Being able to pick up the prepaid envelope from a post office would shave 2 days off the resolution time, for example. My phone is not just an optional leisure device like an XBox. If you're in the mobile business, you need to understand the role that mobile now plays in our lives and your policies need to reflect this.
CSRhell - Your customers get annoyed at how they are treated by your CSRs and you don't listen. It's not that the CSRs are bad, necessarily, they're just too rushed and lack empathy: we can hear the script they're reading. When my phone stopped working it was at a time when I really needed it to work. The experience was not just mildly annoying, it caused me huge inconvenience and serious problems. You need to personalise customer support and make customers feel like they matter to you.
Hierarchical Hades - your staff should be able to resolve problems and not just have to refer me to Ofcom to complain because your single, scripted solution is not adequate for my needs. By the way I'm still waiting for you to send me the address to complain to as requested, but don't worry I already have it. As a customer not being able to speak to a senior manager when requested is frankly disgusting.
Depersonalisationhell - I am not just a number, I'm a person with distinct needs, characteristics and history with you. I have three phones with your company; I am a renewing customer; I spend far more than the average-Joe, as I'm on your top plan. I'm the type of customer you want to keep: I don't cause you much trouble and I spend plenty. Yet there is no recognition of any of this in how you deal with me.
The Ordeal of Oblivion (aka lack of listening) - this covers both the need to repeat information unnecessarily, as well as the fact you've been told all this before. As a company you're organisationally deaf. How many times do customers have to tell you that your policies and practices stink before you act on what you're being told?
So since there is no other way of complaining about the lack of customer-centricity in your policies, and no-one apparently in your organisation responsible for, or responsive to, customer feedback (they seem to all be too high powered to talk to actual customers), I'm writing to tell you where you're going wrong. You need to realise that it's not all about money; it's about the service and it's about the customers.
What would I like you to do? Start by listening to what real customers experience and want from you. Then make someone *very* senior personally responsible for the customer experience and for overhauling your customer-handling processes. None of your executive team (as shown on your website) seems to be explicitly responsible for your customers: for selling to them and marketing to them, yes; for caring for them and listening to them, no. In my view every board should have someone sitting on it who is explicitly responsible for the customer experience because, if they're to succeed, everything CSPs do needs to be informed and influenced by the customer voice.
I await your response.
PS For your convenience I include a map of the Nine Circles of Customer Experience Hell I was forced to navigate. You can download the PDF as well if you like.
Telesperience: operational efficiency, commercial agility and a better customer experience
Chief Strategist Teresa Cottam looks at how CSPs think they're performing in terms of the customer experience they provide to their customers.
Gyorgy Vastagh, Chatting
We're constantly being told that CSPs finally get it: they realise that providing a great customer experience is a critical differentiator in competitive markets. With a new wave of competitors entering the market (the so-called OTT players and MVNOs), CSPs need to differentiate their offering more than ever in order to retain customers and avoid dreaded bit pipe status.
Many millions of dollars, euros, pounds and yen have been spent on initiatives to improve the customer experience - both directly and indirectly 'improving the customer experience' has become a modern-day telecoms mantra. So how are CSPs doing? Well a quick qualitative review will tell you there's a mixed bag of results, and many of the millions spent have not resulted in more satisfied, loyal customers - not in the consumer sector and especially not in the enterprise sector.
Telesperience set out to measure the customer experience more quantitatively. Although some regulators collect statistics on how operators are doing (such as complaints data), and some CSPs publish data such as retention or CSAT scores, this data provides only part of the picture. Complainants can be bought off; retention does not mean loyalty; CSAT or net promoter scores are frequently wrongly collected or interpreted. And, of course, having an excellent "telecoms customer experience" does not mean it's excellent in comparison to what some other industries might provide (as an industry we're not at the cutting edge of customer experience).
So another way of benchmarking the customer experience we provide is to ask CSPs themselves how they think they're doing and plot the progress. We did this in 2010 and repeated the exercise in 2013 and the results show that despite all the emphasis placed upon providing a great customer experience, CSPs themselves are less confident they're doing so.
Very few regard themselves as providing an “excellent” customer experience in 2013 (5%). In fact, the proportion of CSPs that regard themselves as providing an “excellent” customer experience has dropped marginally since Telesperience’s 2010 study (when it was 8%).
Likewise the number of CSPs rating themselves as providing a “good” customer experience has fallen from 63% in 2010 to 54% in 2013. However, those rating themselves as providing an “average” experience has risen from 21% in 2010 to 39% in 2013. Fortunately, those now rating themselves as providing a “below average” experience has fallen from 8% to 2%.
This finding reflects the fact that the customer experience continually evolves and commoditises. There is thus strong pressure towards a customer experience “norm”, which means what was once an “excellent” or “good” customer experience will rapidly become an “average” experience as more companies are able to provide that type of experience. In order for a CSP to continue to provide an outstanding experience it’s therefore necessary for them to continually innovate to remain ahead of their rivals and provide a truly exceptional and differentiating customer experience.
A geographical analysis reveals distinct regional patterns as to how CSPs think they’re performing with regards to the customer experience.
Asian operators are most likely to be confident they are providing an excellent customer experience, but this is also the region with the most low-performing operators.
European operators generally believe they provide either an average or good experience, but 8% believe they’re delivering an excellent experience. None think they provide a below average experience.
North American operators believe they deliver either an average or good experience, but none rate themselves as providing an excellent experience or a below average experience.
If you would like to read the full findings of this study, please download the attached report. To get other free Telesperience reports or to be added to our mailing list to receive future reports, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chief Strategist Teresa Cottam looks at the evolving use of social media in telecoms and how service providers are using it to drive business impact.
Camille Pissarro, Conversation
In a recent primary research project Telesperience conducted, we interviewed 41 senior managers from CSPs worldwide. We found that 93% of the CSPs were already using social media to connect with their customers. However, the second most common use of social technology is to drive business impact, which shows a maturation in both thinking and goals. By 2015, 9 out of 10 CSPs say they will be using social technology to drive business impact, and 8 out of 10 say they will be using it to drive conversion and to transform the customer experience.
However, CSPs cannot just implement social technology and expect to gain the maximum benefit from it. They need to embrace what it delivers as an integral part of the way they do business, since maximising the value requires CSPs to really focus on their customers and not just on their networks and internal business goals alone in order to deliver true customer-centricity and value.
A social technology strategy should rapidly evolve from providing operational efficiency to being an integral building block in a different type of customer experience and an enabler of future commercial success. Importantly, CSPs should note that social technology is not just important for the B2C side of the business, but also to engage with enterprise customers and SMEs, and B2B2C models (such as partnerships/OTTs).
In our research, there were four main motivations for engaging with customers:
Loyalty – using social technology to engage with loyal customers was the most common use of the technology today and by 2015 83% of CSPs will be doing this
Innovation – customer-centric innovation (that is, gleaning ideas and suggestions from customers) was the second most common way in which CSPs were utilising social technology for customer engagement today. By 2015 this will be the most common usage with 86% of CSPs doing this
Operational – around 44% are enabling existing customers to support other customers and by 2015 64% of CSPs will be doing this
Commercial – the least common way of using social technology to engage with customers today was to support commercial goals. Today only 27% of CSPs are able to engage existing customers to provide new customers with purchasing advice, although this is set to rise to 59% by 2015.
Guest blogger Steve Hateley from Comptel argues that it's time for a smarter approach to order fulfillment and orchestration.
The Morning Train (1887) by Frederick McCubbin
Any communications service provider (CSP) knows that residential broadband orders or enterprise packages rarely consist of just one service. Instead, they’re often a jumble of Internet and VPN connectivity, media services, VoIP, teleconferencing, unified and hosted communications and cloud storage capabilities… just to name a few.
CSPs need to ensure that every service is set up exactly to a customer’s specifications, or an order can easily result in a poor customer experience, which is the risk for these complex packages, as anyone who has moved to a new office with a dysfunctional conference bridge can attest.
Throughout the order orchestration process, there’s room for errors that can, for example, lead to an untimely dispatch of equipment, misconfigured bandwidth parameters or an unnecessary truck-roll.
When that happens, CSPs are often scrambling to pinpoint the problem and fix it. And the longer it takes to do this, the more frustrated customers become. CSPs are expected to provide flawless service every time, but how can that be done when the order is so complicated and expectations are so high?
Activation Gone Awry
When new customers place an order with a CSP, the order is decomposed, orchestrated, and then executed. There can be very little visibility into the process once it has been started, so if the customer encounters a problem with the activated order, then he or she usually has to get in touch with the CSP to correct it. That makes for frustrated users and, ultimately, a poor customer experience.
This is why CSPs need to find a way to make their order validation more intelligent or ‘smarter’. Right now, there are a lot of labour costs and personnel hours being wasted on activation errors that should be flagged right from the start - not to mention lost business opportunities if customers decide to leave.
For example, if a business has a new phone service installed and can’t seem to receive any inbound calls, CSPs should know immediately. Instead, customers usually have to call in and try to explain the problem in detail. Customers are bound to be frustrated if this happens. But what if CSPs were able to forecast which orders needed a little extra oversight when being configured? By watching out for potential bumps in the road, they could ensure that the customers don’t experience any.
This all comes down to smart order validation, which can help streamline order activation by automating the process of handling subscriber orders – increasing customer satisfaction and reducing propensity to churn. Having an automatic way to validate orders also drastically lowers the risk of manual errors.
At the core, this is about building a bridge between sales, customer service and complex networks –aligning the complex, moving parts involved in the fulfillment process and having greater visibility into order configuration, orchestration and activation. This allows customer service to become a proactive force in identifying issues with new orders too. Having access to a granular analysis of the order can also make it much easier for CSPs to specifically address a customer’s problem.
Ideally, this analysis would be slotted into the traditional, end-to-end order fulfillment process. If CSPs can see a more complicated order come in, it can be placed within a special queue, and during the activation phase, CSPs can carefully orchestrate the order and pay close attention to the customer’s specific situation.
Competition through Cost Benefits
Smart order validation doesn’t just provide customer service benefits though. It can provide serious benefits throughout the whole organisation by eliminating the time spent on unraveling the sometimes labyrinthine processes that go along with order activation. Deliveries to complex or potentially problematic environments can be monitored ahead of time and during orchestration, which helps ensure accuracy. Meanwhile, operations won’t be spending hours on the phone trying to deduce whether a customer’s problem is an isolated case or a network-wide issue.
By making the end-to-end order orchestration process intelligent, CSPs can make better, more strategic decisions that are informed from the data already at their disposal.
Telesperience: operational efficiency, commercial agility and a better customer experience
Guest blogger Daniel Russo from Tektronix looks at alternative sources of revenue that European CSPs can exploit to compensate for falling roaming rates.
The Gathering of The Manna, Bernardino Luini
The recent decisions by the European Commission to legislate international roaming fees for voice calls, text messages and mobile internet access within the European Union by 2014 might be good for subscribers, but it threatens communicsations service providers (CSPs) with further disruption.
Already facing slowing profits, exponentially increasing data traffic, and loss of service opportunity to “over the top” (OTT) providers, one of their most lucrative revenue streams is now being progressively squeezed by the EU. CSPs must either adapt their business models accordingly, or risk being swept away in what could be a major industry consolidation across Europe.
The Commission believes these regulations will strongly encourage the development of a single European telecoms market, with airline-style alliances and mergers that will encourage development of new commercial models; but how are CSPs to cope with the changes and reverse the downward revenue trend? The answers, my friends, are already here.
There's a big buzz around Big Data, but that doesn’t mean there’s no opportunity to be realised, and who better than CSPs to realise it? CSPs have some of the richest consumer data sets in the world within their highly secure data centers. Within these data sets are rich veins of information that can be mined, such as subscriber interests, likes, dislikes, buying trends, and much, much more.
With a wide range of new tools on the market designed to mine this data for use in Customer Relationship Management, Marketing, and Campaign Management there has never been a better time for CSPs to start using their data assets to generate more revenue. As they become more adept at customer segmentation and understanding the needs of their customers, they will be more able to meet the needs of their customers more precisely with new applications and new personalized services. So go mining, there’s gold in those servers.
Go Over The Top
The situation where OTT players can provide free deals and unlimited talk time while consuming vast quantities of CSPs' capacity must change. To combat this, CSPs could provide their own branded OTT services or simply partner with existing players to provide subscribers with a more enticing service offering and an improved customer experience. What’s more, there’s no reason CSPs can’t adopt an advertising-subsidised model to provide services to consumers that are free at the point of delivery. Now is the right time to go over-the-top and give subscribers the photos, videos, social media, entertainment, information and connectivity they want.
Joyn your competitors
Joyn, the global initiative to deploy interoperable rich communication services across the industry, is gaining momentum. Created by the GSMA, it has the potential to give consumers a combined messaging, live video sharing, and file transfer experience across all devices and networks. If CSPs take full advantage of this new standard by cooperatively marketing the service, customers have shown that they are prepared to pay more for the premium offering. CSPs will benefit not only from the premium revenues, but also from being able to leverage benefits from understanding subscribers’ usage across multiple technology domains.
Get on top of quality and security
The blurring of the line between business and personal use of mobility products means robust, regulated and secure network infrastructures are becoming a much bigger concern in subscribers’ minds. Many OTT services rely on any available internet access point, and are thus far more likely to experience security breaches. CSPs, in contrast, have fewer such problems as a result of their end-to-end ownership of the network. Industry commentators argue that customers will rapidly come to view mobile network operator (MNO) environments as far safer places in which to conduct business and personal transactions - something CSPs can turn to their advantage and build upon by providing hosted “cloud” services and business-class security for sensitive data.
Energize your Customer Care
Faster responses in resolving customer issues leads to revenue opportunities. Modern contact center tools anticipate network problems and provide real-time information, meaning that Care Departments can trigger appropriate actions at the point of customer contact. Impressing subscribers with immediate solutions to a problem is a great way to turn a potentially negative experience into a positive selling opportunity. Net Promoter Scores (NPS) are a way of measuring a customer’s willingness to serve as a reference. CSPs can build on increased NPS to positively impact their bottom lines in the form of reduced churn and increased ARPU. This ability of Customer Care units to adopt a one-to-one approach is also something that third-party OTT players will find hard to match.
Get to know your apps and services
A big part of CSPs' transformations will come down to the efficient delivery of innovative applications that create new revenue opportunities. A technology that will help make this possible is Deep Packet Classification (DPC). With DPC, CSPs will have the ability to see all the unique services and applications being used across their networks. It provides location data and complete visibility on a per-customer and per-service basis in real-time - right down to the mobile device. This could be used to create revenue-sharing deals with, for example, a chain of high-end coffee shops. In this scenario, customers in the target area could be offered promotions in real-time via SMS and take-up of the service could be tracked. This power to assure excellent network performance and a quality user experience for specific apps and services will give CSPs the ability to profit from the very lucrative application market.
Although commercial operating conditions in Europe are challenging, a positive outcome is within the reach of the agile operator. There is a significant advantage to owning the network and being able to deliver new applications and services with carrier-grade quality that goes well beyond the best-efforts reliability offered by many OTT players. And as CSPs also get in tune with changing subscriber tastes, they’ll be well positioned to get out of the “data pipe” business and capitalize on the lucrative market for social and business applications by delivering their own high-definition voice and video, geolocation, instant messaging and presence applications. Furthermore, Enterprises are also asserting a preference for contracting to a single provider who can deliver comprehensive unified communications suites such as those that combine web conferencing, cloud, streaming video, and file sharing services—a trend that European CSPs are well positioned to exploit.
Daniel Russo is a Senior Manager of Product Management for Customer Care solutions at Tektronix Communications, a Telecommunications Intelligence Provider offering network assurance solutions that give operators deep insights into their subscribers, and the services and applications they consume.
Telesperience: operational efficiency, commercial agility and a better customer experience
Ashley Bowen looks at federated identity and the opportunities for communications service providers.
The Mirror of Venus, 1875, Edward Burne-Jones
Consider: how many bits of plastic do you have in your wallet? Perhaps a couple of credit cards and a debit card – possibly a foreign exchange card as well (to get better rates when overseas and to limit your liabilities in case of loss). In reality, most of us have got three or four cards that we tend to use in different situations.
Contrast that with the number of user ID and passwords we have to identify ourselves to different systems and different organisations. For a start we have a different user ID for online access to each debit and credit card; then we have our smart cards and probably a few store cards as well. We also have online banking, we make online retail purchases, and we need access to e-mail and social networking sites. And how about all those systems and buildings we access in our working lives.
When we start counting up we quickly find the list is substantial and the problems are obvious. Each organisation tells us to have unique passwords that are “strong” – and therefore difficult to remember. The sheer complexity of it all means that many of us write the passwords down, which defeats the entire object!
Some organisations are happy with very simple confirmation of identity, often self-asserted by the individual (“I am John Smith, just believe it"). However, many organisations such as banks, government agencies and retail outlets, require more robust confirmation of identity. Confirming that a person is over 18 or that the person that says they are “John Smith” actually is “John Smith” (and the particular “John Smith” that they claim to be) can quickly become expensive. So, once an identity confirmation has been performed properly and securely, why not sell it on to other organisations that need exactly the same assurances of identity?
This is the world of “federated identity”, which is looking to provide practical alternatives to the hundreds of user ID and passwords that we need to maintain in our mobile and electronic lifestyles. The increasing threats of hacking and compromise mean there can be benefits all round.
The individual no longer has to remember hundreds of user IDs and passwords; organisations that are reliant on assured identity confirmation can be confident that individuals are who they claim to be. They can also find certain attributes about that person – age being just one example. Provided that the identity confirmation and management processes are performed to the highest of standards, hacking and identity compromise can be minimised – a benefit for both the individual and the reliant organisation.
There are still hurdles to be overcome, not least of which is agreeing which standards will prevail. Without common standards worldwide, it will be impossible to provide solutions covering the whole international ecosphere. Already there are different Trust Frameworks springing up across the globe such as Kantara in North America, IDAP in the UK, and others. All aspects of identity management governed by these Trust Frameworks'
processes for initial assurance of a person’s identity are still maturing.
For example, presentation of a passport for physical inspection by an authorized agent provides a reasonable level of identity confirmation – but this is costly and time-consuming to do. However, solutions are now appearing for an individual to scan the relevant page of their passport and for a central system to validate the machine-readable-zone of the transmitted page.
In the same way, many of us are already comfortable with two-factor identity authentication: something you know (perhaps a password, or the destination of your first ever flight etc) plus something you have (eg an identity fob or a mobile phone through which you receive a one-time password). However, more secure methods such as fingerprint recognition and voice biometrics are beginning to become more practical.
“Identity Providers” (IDPs) are now setting up platforms to assure people’s identities and to authenticate identity credentials each time they are used. The likelihood is that, as with debit and credit cards, each of us will have an assured identity with three or four different IDPs. We will use different “identities” in different situations – perhaps one for work, another for our financial lives, and a third for our family and social existences.
As well as providing day-to-day identity management, these IDPs will be amassing vast mountains of identity behaviour data – another opportunity to cash-in on big data and big analytics. Consumers are becoming much more comfortable with having their online behaviour analysed and in many cases they actually expect offers from supermarkets or their online bookstore to be focused and relevant to their persona. They know this analysis is happening and, provided it remains within certain bounds, they are reasonably happy. This brings big opportunities for IDPs.
Becoming an IDP is an ideal opportunity for communications service providers (CSP) to extend their portfolio. They already have many of the business functions and associated systems in place - though some stretching would be required. They also have an existing customer base to kick-start sales initiatives.
With governments eager to increase the number of securely-authenticated e-transactions, and with retailers mindful of the move to online and mobile purchasing, the commercial case for federated identity is compelling. It will be interesting to see which players emerge as leaders, and what the impact will be on the telecoms sector.
Telesperience: operational efficiency, commercial agility and a better customer experience
Telesperience's Chief Strategist Teresa Cottam gives you her take on the Sigma-Tribold deal.
Sigma's Vice-President of Marketing and Product Management Rick Mallon sounded exhausted but happy when Telesperience caught up with him after the recent announcement of the acquisition of former partner Tribold. Hoarse from the usual post-acquisition marathon of press and analysts, Rick was in the first flushes of M&A euphoria. But, as he was quick to explain, this deal was different to many we see in the market.
Firstly, Sigma is a profitable private company with money in the bank. It was in no rush to acquire and had extensively searched for the right company with the right fit. Tribold was most definitely not a fire sale, noted Rick, as some have idly speculated. Exercising his wry Canadian humour he joked that it certainly would have been cheaper if it had been a fire sale. So what was it about Tribold that had the Canadians digging deeply into their pockets? And since Tribold had a variety of offers on the table, what attracted it to Sigma?
The fit technically, geographically and market-wise is a good one. With Tribold, Sigma gains mobile customers and expertise, which means the market now really needs to re-evaluate how they're viewed and positioned.
Although Sigma had mobile customers before the deal, its heartland was firmly cable, with maybe only 20% of its customer base outside this lucrative sector. Tribold brings the reverse mix, with a strongly mobile and telecoms heritage, and a geographical footprint that extends the Sigma customer base into Europe, Asia and Africa (complementing Sigma's strong North America and CALA footprint). Tribold's customers include the likes of BSkyB, TeliaSonera, Orange, Teracom, Unitel Angola, Com Hem, Level3, CenturyLink & Telecom New Zealand. Tribold also contributes strong partner relationships with Microsoft, Alcatel-Lucent and Cap Gemini.
Let's make no bones about it, Sigma is ambitious and wants to grow - this is simply the first foray. It currently invests a high proportion of its revenues in R&D which has seen it develop arguably the most advanced offering in fulfilment for SME/SMB business lines (a hot area of focus and investment for operators today). Sigma needed Tribold's capabilities, however, to complete its "Idea to Install" concept, and while it was quite capable of self-developing it has grasped the opportunity of a faster route to market by acquiring its former partner.
In practical terms both companies faced similar challenges. Tribold may have had a strong offering in its core area, but was sometimes discounted from deals because it lacked other OSS capabilities; Sigma faced similar challenges in the mobile space when it found itself up against mobile stalwarts such as Amdocs, Netcracker and Comarch.
This deal creates a stronger player, and it should be noted that the wily Sigma team is being boosted by both Simon Muderack and Catherine Michel joining in key positions - Muderack as SVP of Alliances and Market Development and Michel as Chief Strategy Officer. Unlike many mergers, this isn't about realising 'synergies' (ie redundancies) - the team is expected to grow in the coming months as Sigma moves up a gear. And it should be noted that Sigma has a good record of retaining key members of staff, even when rivals throw out the red carpet to attract them away. Rick emphasises the importance of Simon and Catherine joining the team and notes that a shared vision and common approach were vital elements in the decision to acquire.
Telesperience is positive on this deal as it has many elements to make it successful. The key challenge is not technological, but to bridge the gap between the Canadian and European business units, although we expect copious quantities of beer should help with this!
We imagine that as Tim, Rick, Brian, Catherine, Simon and the rest of the team look back on 2013 they will see it as a landmark year when the market was forced to re-evaluate the Canadian Cable Guys and see them as credible, global, multi-technology OSS players.
Tribold contributes a major piece to Sigma's Idea To Install platform