Microsperience

Teresa Cottam looks at an old but persistent form of customer gouging that undermines customer experience within communications and digital service providers.

 

File:Almeida Júnior - Saudade (Longing) - Google Art Project.jpg

Jose Ferraz de Almeida Junior, Longing, 1899


 

 

The UK press recently focused on an old area of customer gouging - charging for mobile handsets beyond the contract period when the handset has been paid off. It seems that charging customers expensive credit for handsets is not enough for some CSPs, they will keep charging them when the customer is out of contract and the handset is paid off, rather than adjusting the bill.

 

Consumer group 'Which?' estimates that UK consumers are paying as much as £355 million per year that they shouldn't have to pay, because handsets are already paid off. This is both a billing and policy issue.

 

Some CSPs break out the bill into two element - the cost of the handset and the cost of the service elements (calls, data, SMS etc). O2, Virgin Media and Tesco Mobile are among the companies that do this. This means customers understand the handset cost element at the very least. O2 take this a step further. With O2 Refresh (£49 a month for iPhone 6 and 5Gb of data, unlimited minutes and texts) the company clearly states that £25 per month is the handset charge and £24 for the service package. Once the contract period is over, the handset charge is removed and the charge drops to £24 per month.

 

In contrast, 'Which?' highlighted that EE, Vodafone and Three not only fail to break out the two elements in the bill, but keep charging for the handset element after the handset is paid off (basically treating it as a form of rental rather than a recovery of the cost). They estimate that because many customers do not switch to a new contract immediately, the effect is an average £92 overpayment per customer to the operators involved.

 

This propensity to overcharge for handsets is not a new phenomenon, in earlier years it was usual for people to rent fixed handsets and end up spending vast sums over a long period of time for an old, outdated handset that had long been paid off. This stopped with the advent of being able to readily purchase a fixed handset, falling costs of corded and DECT phones and so on. Or did it?

 

The Telegraph has recently highlighted that this practice is not in fact dead. Elderly customers, in particular, have continued to rent fixed handsets for which they could pay hundreds of pounds when the equipment is worth as little as £10. The phone is not renewed unless faulty, but repeatedly billed month after month until the rental agreement is cancelled.

 

BT was highlighted by The Telegraph for indulging in this practice, and the company defended itself by pointing out that they included a bill line item that clearly notified customers what they were being charged.

 

Telesperience believes that these type of customer gouging practices are not a billing issue per se but a policy issue. However a billing issue does arise from the fact that bills often aren't sufficiently clear to ordinary people, are overly complex, and don't offer advice on options. There is a missed opportunity to engage customers simply by being honest and informing them they could get a new phone, or explaining to them you are now going to reduce their bills.

 

This practice on both the fixed and mobile side of the industry shows a willingness by the entire industry to put short-term revenue targets before long-term customer relationships and revenue growth. Fairness and trust - two core elements of a good customer relationship - are clearly seen to be less important to most service providers than short-term gain. Customer experience management is seen for what it really is - a silo, that is not joined up across the organisation and which is ignored when convenient to the CSP.

 

Those CSPs that have decided to do the decent thing should be congratulated; but not too much. It's a sad state of affairs when being honest with your customers has become a differentiator in any market.

 

Teresa Cottam is the Chief Strategist at Telesperience and an expert on customer experience in the communications and digital sectors. She is also a judge at the GSMA's Global Mobile Awards for customer experience. You can follow her on Twitter @teresacottam

 

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

 
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Chief Strategist Teresa Cottam looks at why the demand for 'experience' in the telecoms industry is one of the biggest risk factors holding it back.

 

 File:Rembrandt - Portrait of an Old Man in Red (detail) - WGA19183.jpg

Rembrandt, Portrait of an Old Man, 1652-54


 

 

  • "You can't be a serious player in this industry unless you've worked for a service provider".
  • "You can't manage/lead/advise until you've done it yourself."
  • "You need ABC amount of experience to credibly do XYZ."

 

All of these phrases drive me mad. Why? Because they're always uttered by a certain type of middle-aged person - usually a man - in the telecoms industry, who values years of 'experience' over talent, insight, empathy, and entrepreneurial get-up-and-go. The effect of an over-focus on "telecoms experience" is that we recycle the same people in our industry whether they're any good or not, prevent new ideas from taking hold, and stifle many forms of innovation - particularly customer-impacting but non-technical innovation.

 

There are so many drawbacks to overvaluing 'experience'. Firstly, experience doesn't measure performance or success, or make future performance or success significantly more likely. It can be useful to some extent in a market that's delivering incremental improvement, but no-one actually has experience of transformational innovation - by definition it's something entirely new so no-one has experience of it until it's done for the first time. And why value telecoms experience so highly when the industry is merging with others and becoming something else entirely?

 

Overfocusing on experience is also prejudicial - it discriminates against younger people, women, and people from non-telco backgrounds, since most of the talent in these sectors will not have the requisite telco experience. And also because their skills and experiences are not rated as valuable compared to the skills and experiences of telco folk.

 

I usually see the experience argument being used by middle aged men who feel threatened, out of their depth or disconcerted by something new - it is a frequently used, if unsubstantiated, argument used to belittle and undermine people who are younger, female or come with a different set of skills or ideas.

 

So let's focus on this experience thing - who says experience is so important and why?

 

Of course experience has its place in a good team which possesses a wide skillset. Experience is a natural human instinct because it should, when functioning correctly, stop us making mistakes, improve outcomes and speed up decision making. But overvaluing it is the problem: it is by no means the only skill or even necessarily the most important skill to possess.

 

Try telling the teenage millionaires they lack the experience to innovate - in fact try telling Silicon Valley they've got it all wrong and need to stop until they get more experience first. How dare Steve Jobs try to improve offerings in the phone industry - what did he know about telecoms?

 

Yes experience can be useful to stop teams going up blind alleys, but we've all been in the room with the whiney guy who tells you that in his experience "it won't work" because it was tried before 5, 10, 15 years ago, by him, and failed. He may have a point. But all too often that middle-aged voice repeats the experience mantra without considered analysis of whether circumstances have changed, or the new approach is subtlely different (increasing the likelihood of success). Or that the way he did it - shock, horror - just wasn't very good.

 

Experience without analysis leads to false correlations and blind alleys in itself. It's like the person who once went to London, decided they didn't like it, and will never go to the UK again as a result. Or the person who goes to the shop, finds they're all out of bread, and never goes back there for bread again, because they conclude that this shop doesn't sell bread.

 

Too often, rather than being a wise check on over-enthusiasm, experience becomes a negative force resulting in over-cautious behaviour, rejecting re-evaluation of ideas, and maintaining a hierarchical status quo in favour of the experienced. The experienced maintain their status as gurus, and neutralise any threats to their position - great for them, for not necessarily for everyone else or for the organisations they work for.

 

Isn't that why so much innovation comes from smaller organisations that reinvent things after being repeatedly told "it won't work" or "that isn't the way we do it" in their previous roles? Isn't that why young people want to build their own companies rather than be belittled by older people who don't listen, are dismissive, and value experience over everything else? The experienced people having achieved their status by dint of time, and not necessarily through worth.

 

That's not to say that experience doesn't have its place, but it needs to be in its place and not overpowering everything else. This industry doesn't need any more experienced telecoms people - it needs, more than anything, to broaden its experience base, to consider non-telco background as being as important as telecoms experience, and to balance experience with other skills. Experience, its middle-aged proponents will say, guards against failure. But, too often, it prevents failure by stopping things happening.

 

And anyway, what is so very wrong with failure? Haven't we learnt that the fail-fast, learn-from-your-mistakes, refinement and improvement model can be highly effective?

 

But other than my own experience, is there any evidence to back up what I'm saying? According to a study conducted by Monash university and the Wharton School, being a little bit experienced may in fact be the optimal state.

 

They found that experience could be overrated by testing predictions made by those with some, none or a lot of experience (in this case, of foreign policy). They found that the most experienced were right with their predictions 32% of the time, but that was not significantly higher than those with no experience who were right 29% of the time. Chance, they said, would have produced a score of 28% on the test. Ah, you say, but that means experience gives you a 3% lead and that's significant. Well, pull apart that 3% difference between the experienced and non-experienced and what you find is that those with some experience but not more than five years achieved a 36% accuracy rate, while the most experienced and senior were only 29% accurate - 1% above chance and the same as the inexperienced.

 

I'd argue that actually there's a lot to be said for inexperience, because the inexperienced don't perceive the barriers of the experienced and look at problems with fresh, questioning eyes. This can mean they make mistakes, of course it can. But you can't remove risk entirely without suffocating progress. Don't we, as parents, stand back and comment that our children need to make their own mistakes so that they can learn?

 

As I wrote about in Generation Thingies, it is this very lack of experience that will enable Generation Z to rethink the world. Refreshingly, with the optimism and boundless energy of the young, they don't care that some middle-aged telco exec doesn't think they're experienced enough - they're just going to go build the new world anyway.

 

And for those of you nursing a grudge now because you believe your experience is being undermined and not respected, let me tell you that it's the insight and skills you gained from the experience that's useful not just experience per se. Did you learn to be bolder or less hasty? Can you combine your experience with a child-like ability to see the world differently, while  maintaining a willingness to keep trying, and keep reinventing yourself and your ideas? Do you seek out new experiences to broaden your experience base? Do you ask yourself if your experience is still relevant and valuable, and dispose of ideas that are not? If you can do this, my friend, then you are an extremely rare and valuable commodity. Now just get up off your chair and go do it.

 

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

 
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Chief Strategist Teresa Cottam looks at the fate of non-geographic phone numbers in the UK and argues that they are the hallmark of failing businesses. She asks: are your business's communications strategies fit for the digital age or just an outdated legacy of 1990s thinking?

 

File:Krzyżanowski Grandma and grandson.jpg

Grandma and grandson, Konrad Krzyzanowski, 1915


 

 

There can be little that is less customer-centric in the telecoms industry than the non-geographic phone number. Companies using these to deliver content as a way of paying for that content cause me less annoyance. In this case, the main problem is the lack of clarity about exactly what the cost will be. (Companies usually quote the BT charge, which is usually far lower than that charged from mobiles.) Far more insidious, are those companies that use non-geographic numbers for customer care, enquires and day-to-day operational issues, 

 

It isn't news to anyone that customers don't want these numbers and that they lead to nasty billshock events. Companies persist in using them for customer care because they have convinced themselves that the cost of supporting customers should be deflected back onto the customer, and that customers should be discouraged from calling if at all possible. This reveals a far deeper problem in a company other than simple greed: an unhealthy attitude to customers and, effectively, a significant barrier - constructed by the business - between itself and its customers. Of course, I'm using the term 'business' but we are all aware that government departments and institutions have been some of the worst offenders in this area.

 

'But isn't that the point?' I hear you say. Effectively by putting a premium number in place you, as a business, are articulating that you don't won't customers to call you. Those hardy fools that try to call deserve to be charged for their temerity. Customer care costs a lot of money and customers should be discouraged from talking to us.

 

Such 1990s thinking doesn't resonate in the digital age: punishing your customers for reaching out to you is the hallmark of a non-social, non-customer-centric business. It marks you out as a dinosaur.

 

I don't believe any business that says it cares about its customers if a premium phone line is the only way for those customers to get in touch. In these cases, I am immediately suspicious of its future prospects, as it is turning its back on a wide range of business advantages and is cutting itself out of vast swathes of the market. Such a business is highly vulnerable to competitors who utilise more customer-centric and, frankly, more up-to-date ways of doing business.

 

In the UK, one of the reasons that non-geographic numbers cause so much misery amongst customers is that there are simply so many of them. Customers need to carry around a library of potential charges in their heads, and be aware that the headline price might not be that charged, in order to estimate how much the call will cost. Perversely, the less efficient a company is, the more the customer is punished for calling, as the longer their call is likely to take. Thus companies are effectively being rewarded - at least in the short term - for not investing in customer care.

 

.030, 033, 034, 03Cost the same as 01 and 02 numbers, must be included in bundled minutes
0500Free from landline, charges vary for mobiles (10-20p per minute)
055, 056Varies. BT charges 5p per minute
070, 076Premium, varies, not included in call bundles

074, 075, 07624, 077, 078, 079

Varies, up to 20p per minute from landlines, included in call bundles (usually) of postpaid mobile phones
0800, 0808Free from landlines, generally 10-25p per minute from mobiles, some numbers may be free from mobiles
0842, 0843, 0845, 0870, 0871, 0872, 0873Varies, can cost up to 45p per minute from mobiles, usually not included in bundles
090, 091, 098Premium rate. Charges can be as high as £2 per minute or more
  
  
  

 

What the table shows is not just that there is a large range of numbers, but the huge distinction made between landline and mobile calls in an age where many people either no longer have a landline or rarely use it. This disadvantages the young, in particular, who may only use mobile telephony.

 

Most telling is that people - and younger people especially - are using strategies either to avoid these call charges or the businesses charging them. They want to talk to businesses in channels other than voice, and they are avoiding doing business with companies that are not in their preferred channels or who put blockers in the way of interaction.

 

In response to concern about this sector, the UK is overhauling its non-geographic number charges - albeit belatedly - in July 2015. This affects a staggering 175 million business numbers.

 

At this point the charges will be split into access charges (the proportion charged by the CSP) and service charges (the charge made by the business being called). While this will focus more scrutiny on what is a lucrative but decidedly un-customer-centric part of the communications market, it may end up just causing more confusion.

 

The hope is that by forcing providers to split out these charges, competition will force down prices. What the regulator has missed, is that non-geographic and premium numbers may effectively be 'monopolies', with the business being the only alternative for some customers, or one of only a few who all use the same approach. There may be downwards pressure on the telecoms proportion of the charge, but still none upon the service element.

 

What's more, customers can't pick and choose on a call-by-call basis which CSP to use, so variation in charges between networks is unlikely to be an effective force. And finally, the link between these numbers and customer decsion-making is very loose. Customers don't consider non-geographic and premium rate numbers when buying a mobile phone. They don't go to their mobile operator with a list of the numbers used by government departments, utilities and businesses they regularly have to deal with and demand to know what they'll be charged for these at the point of making a decision about their package.

 

By separating out two charges for the same call we present CSPs with a small billing challenge; but we create even more potential confusion depending upon how this information is presented. Is the information meaningful to customers? Will it change their behaviour? Will it drive up competition? Or will it just be another line item that confuses them?

 

In the digital age, the information contained within phone numbers has blurred and become less relevant. People recognise and contact names, not numbers. They want to IM not call. Businesses themselves are increasingly aware of the advantages of opening up to customer interaction rather than discouraging it and the need to communicate in a wide variety of channels (multichannel and omnichannel interaction).

 

And herein lies a crucial difference in the DNA of a legacy versus digital business; of a failing business versus survivor. In the 1990s businesses began making themselves unavailable to customers; in the 2010s they are opening up.

 

For all of these reasons I think the regulatory changes in the UK will have less impact than the changes in customer and business behaviour. I think the business of premium phone lines is a legacy artifact of another age. It reveals not just gaps in the thinking of businesses and the telecoms industry, but gaps in the thinking and a lack of bravery on the part of our regulators. It's sadly a little more tinkering and not enough boldness or vision.

 

That's why every business needs to consider whether its communications strategy works for its customers and not just for itself. Undoubtedly the zombie service of non-geographic numbers will stagger on until it finally succumbs, but don't wait for Ofcom and PhonePayPlus to deliver the final blows. Act now to ensure your communications strategy is fit for purpose in the digital age and meets the needs of both you and the customers you serve.

 

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

 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 1 (Last: Teresa Cottam · 6/14/15 11:32 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  asks AsiaInfo's Andy Tiller about Pricing Innovation and specifically the pro's and con's of adopting a sponsored data model.

 

 

 


 

Teresa asks Andy:

 

  1. Can you give us some examples of how sponsored data is being utilised in Asia? Is it a viable model?
  2. Can sponsored data models work outside Asia?
  3. Can you explain the argument that sponsored data breaches Net Neutrality rules and tell us how that argument is developing?
  4. Are CSPs agile enough to get the business side of sponsored data right?
  5. What are the technical requirements for this type of model?

 

Andy discusses how sponsored data models are developing worldwide and makes reference to what's happening in the US, China, India and other parts of Asia.

 

 

 

If you enjoyed this interview you might enjoy some of our other recent interviews:

 

Jennifer Fellows on Innovation in Pricing

 

Justin Paul on The State of the RAN

 

 

Jennifer Kyriakakis on Digital Innovation

 

 

 

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

 
 
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Andy Tiller AsiaInfo
 
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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 Amdocs' Justin Paul about the state of the RAN, hetnet strategies and how to deliver an optimal customer experience.

 

 


 

 

In this interview, Teresa asks Justin:

 

  1. Amdocs' research suggests we're heading for capacity crunch 2.0 - why is this?
  2. What can operators do to solve this problem and how do they do that in a cost-effective way.
  3. From a customer experience point-of-view, how do we ensure that whatever the network the customer is using, the experience remains appropriate? 
  4. What is the role of analytics in the network experience?
    In terms of business impacts Justin, how do you make the business case for investment in analytics to support the network experience?

#BOSSfest15 The late sessions

File:Jimi hendrix tallstig saachi.jpg

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

 

 

Recent interviews by Telesperience:

 

 

Jennifer Fellows on Innovation in Pricing

 

 

Jennifer Kyriakakis on Digital Innovation

 

 

 

Link to free copy of Amdocs State of the Ran report 2015

 

 

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

 
 
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Justin Paul Amdocs OSS interview
 
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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  asks Matrixx's Jennifer Kyriakakis about Digital Innovation and how to unlock the benefits of more agile platforms while also lowering costs.

 


 

 

Teresa asks Jennifer:

  • Are CSPs doomed to be bitpipes, prisoners to their legacy systems?
  • While we like to criticise legacy, good legacy is robust, reliable, scalable, and does what it was designed to do. We’ve also spent a lot of money on it. Don't we have to live with legacy for a while?
  • So much budget is tied up feeding legacy that there’s little left for innovation, what can we do about that?
  • How do we reduce the cost of innovation, scale innovation, and experiment more?
  • We hear Matrixx talk a lot about realtime, but isn’t realtime very expensive?
  • Differentiated customer experiences also sounds expensive. Can we give customers a good experience while still keeping an eye on support costs? How does the business case stack up for that?

#BOSSfest15 The late sessions

File:Jimi hendrix tallstig saachi.jpg

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

 

We hope you enjoyed listening to this interview - here are some other recent Cage interviews for you.

 

 

 

Jennifer Fellows on Innovation in Pricing

 

Justin Paul on The State of the RAN

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 
 
Audio Files (1)
Jennifer Kyriakakis Matrixx
 
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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  asks Sipcom's CEO Daniel Allen about enterprise customers, innovation and the Cloud.

 

Daniel Allen

 


 

 

Teresa asks Daniel Allen:

 

  1. What opportunities do you perceive the telecoms industry has moving forward?
  2. How do you think CSPs can break the innovation bottleneck so they can innovate faster?
  3. In terms of working with partners, what’s the trick for a successful partnership strategy?
  4. Cloud isn't about technology, it's about delivering the support that’s needed to do better business isn't it?
  5. What's your key advice to CSPs who want to better support their enterprise customers and build new value?

 

#BOSSfest15

File:Jimi hendrix tallstig saachi.jpg

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

 

We hope you enjoyed listening to this interview - here are some other recent Cage interviews for you.

 

Jennifer Fellows on Innovation in Pricing

 

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

 
 
Audio Files (1)
Daniel Allen Sipcom interview
 
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Birdstep's Lonnie Schilling argues that consistent QoS is the key to a successful and lucrative Hetnet strategy.

 

File:Les deux soers.jpg

Renoir, Les Deux Soeurs, 1889


 

The use of Wi-Fi to augment cellular began in earnest earlier this decade with the emergence of mobile data offload as a cost effective solution to the capacity challenges on the MNOs’ RAN and backhaul networks caused by rising data traffic. By exploiting the economics of Wi-Fi infrastructures over cellular network expansion or spectrum, the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) was reduced for MNOs, but often at the expense of both quality of service (QoS) and the user experience. More recently, the likes of Google, MSOs and MVNOs have joined the party by deploying 'Wi-Fi first' business models.

 

It has become clear that through tighter integration between Wi-Fi and cellular, far greater benefits in terms of RAN cost savings and significantly reduced churn can be achieved. This will come about partly through broader deployment of carrier-grade Wi-Fi hotspots, partly by enabling transparent handover between the two networks and partly through full integration of Wi-Fi with the operators' access networks and policy infrastructure. Lack of the latter has restricted the impact of Wi-Fi on key business measures for MNOs in particular.

 

This level of integration, allowing the operator to have far greater control of the user experience over Wi-Fi, promotes Wi-Fi from being just a tactical solution for solving temporary capacity issues via offload into a far more strategic technology for MNOs, MVNOs and MSOs alike. A key driver here is the growing challenge of making a profit from simple data access as profit margins are squeezed out by increasing competition and commoditisation (just as they were for voice and texting at an earlier stage).

 

Operators will be able to deploy HetNets enabling full roaming across cellular and Wi-Fi networks, with hand-offs supported by the Wi-Fi Alliance’s Passpoint. But essential though these are, such standards cannot on their own deliver a fully ubiquitous service spanning Wi-Fi and cellular that delivers a consistent user experience wherever the user is and whichever network they are attached to.

 

At Birdstep we call this Experience Continuity (ExO), which in addition to roaming between and within different networks through standards such as Passpoint, also ensures that calls, video streams and other activities are completely unbroken and that the user is totally unaware of all handovers without the slightest glitch. Under ExO the HetNet should be capable of automatically transferring users to the best available connection for their applications and devices, subject to the operator’s business rules. In other words, the operator is fully in control of the user experience.

 

Furthermore, ExO should allow automatic movement between different Wi-Fi networks with no new login required, using permissions already granted. It is important for users to experience the highest level of quality available by taking  quality of service (QoS) levels into account on every network before roaming onto it. These factors have recently been identified by analyst group Rethink Technologies as the second most important factor in attracting and retaining subscribers, after pricing.

 

As a result, mobile operators in developed economies believe that unified QoS across multiple networks can shave annual churn by an average of 2.2% (according to a Rethink study conducted in 2014). Decreasing churn by two percentage points for an operator with monthly ARPUs of around $40 could yield an additional $40 million in revenue and $22 million in profit over three years, according to a recent study by Xerox technology consulting company WDS (see Understanding Wireless Churn).

 

An indication of where HetNets are going can be seen by considering deployments in Asia-Pacific, where a number of operators are at the cutting edge of this field.

 

The trend seems to be towards coupling Wi-Fi and the latest 4G/LTE infrastructures tightly to exploit synergies and achieve economies of scale. China Mobile, the world’s largest MNO, with 810 million subscribers, recently demonstrated the world’s first TD-LTE HetNet in Shanghai, combining LTE small cells with Wi-Fi hot spots in different, aggregated frequency bands. The key to this HetNet is the operator’s own architecture - dubbed 'Nanocell' - which integrates Wi-Fi and LTE with the same carrier-grade functionality across both.

 

China Mobile is also moving quickly towards a virtualized ‘Cloud-RAN’ in which most of the network functionality of both cellular and Wi-Fi base stations will be executed as software on a cloud server. This enables data capacity to be allocated on demand to both LTE and Wi-Fi cells.

 

While this may be a long way off for most operators, it highlights the direction for HetNets towards a future where the distinction between Wi-Fi and cellular will become increasingly blurred. Many are beginning to believe this to be the foundation to upcoming 5G networks. That is indeed the objective of the HetNet, with benefits including more efficient use of overall network resources, both wireless and fixed, as a foundation for cost savings, churn reduction and monetization through new models.

 

Lonnie Schilling is the CEO of Birdstep Technologies. You can follow Birdstep on Twitter @birdsteptech.


 

 
 
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Telesperience's Teresa Cottam looks at data-as-a-product and explains why it's like Marmite.

 

File:Marmite small v106.jpg 


 

You've probably heard data declared to be "the new oil" of the digital world. The analogy isn't a bad one - after all, data fuels everything we do in the future.

 

What this analogy lacks though is the fact that data-as-a-product is a by-product of something else. We're actually using or doing something else, and  data is generated as a result. We've always produced this type of 'waste' data, but now it's the subject of considerable discussion, as both CSPs and other enterprises recognise the value in the data they've been discarding for years.

 

'Waste' data, as it turns out has incredible value. Now if only we could package it and create some means to sell it - legally, of course - we might be able to move from potential to profits.

 

I was struck at this point with how much data is like Marmite. Marmite is a quintessentially British product - in fact, a quintessentially Midlands product, since the entire world's supply is made in Burton-upon-Trent. I risk being hanged, drawn and quartered here by the Marmarati (I did not make this up: yes there is a secret-ish group of dedicated Marmite fans, recruited by social media who are called the Marmarati), but Marmite is similar to Vegemite, though many British people would passionately argue it's a superior product.

 

The point is that Marmite is manufactured as a by-product of the brewing industry - with Burton previously having 40 breweries in the vicinity and hence being the world centre for Marmite production. Marmite, you see, is made from waste yeast, and the output is a savoury spread which seems to divide people into lovers or haters - no-one "quite likes" Marmite.

 

The first quality of Marmite that makes it similar to data-as-a-product is that Marmite is manufactured from something that is left over from making something else, just as data-as-a-product is a byproduct from something a customer is doing while connected to a network.

 

Just like data-as-a-product, Marmite is not a single ingredient product. In fact, a mysterious Marmite mix is blended with the basic ingredients to add flavour, depth and so on. It's also "brewed", or whatever the correct term is, for different lengths of time.

 

Similarly, to turn data into a product, will require it to be collected and sifted, and lookups performed to understand what restrictions have been placed on its re-use or resale by the customer or by legislation. Let's take just one data-as-a-product scenario - using it to match products and make recommendations in context. To do this, contextual data will need to be mixed with other data such as preferences, previous history, creditworthiness, and so on. CSP as well as partner offers or products will then be matched to the insights gained.

 

Rules will be applied, because multiple and conflicting entities may want access to the customer or their data, and decisions will need to be made about not just who is permitted to have access, but who will be granted access to the data (using business rules). Finally, bills and settlements will have to be sent and made. Analytics will be run to see what the upside was for the CSP, its partners, and maybe even its customers (are they happy?).

 

Another feature that makes Marmite similar to data-as-a-product is that it divides people. Its recent successful advertising campaign has centred upon how you either hate it or love it. Data-as-a-product is similar. It's likely that some customers will love having more tailored offers, information or products; others will hate the feeling that a machine or a company is now controlling their experiences. You can't make people like Marmite, and you're unlikely to convince some people that a data-driven experience is as great as you think it is. 

 

Next we get to benefits. Marmite is not only a tasty spread, it's also touted as  having a lot of benefits, because the main ingredient is left-over yeast. Marmite has been claimed to dissuade mosquitoes from biting you, it prevents anemia and it helps the body kill staphylococcus. It can cure hangovers and apparently protects the heart. Even, so concerns have been raised about high salt levels and the Danes went so far as to declare it illegal for three years.

 

Data-as-a-product will have a similar profile. There are many benefits to the customer of better use of data - not least that it could be used to provide a more delightful connected experience by stopping annoying irrelevant advertising or offers from bothering customers, while giving them more of what they want. But using customer data as a product could also be made illegal in some countries, especially where their explicit permission to re-use insight about them has not been gained.

 

Here the issue of quantity is important. Too much Marmite is not nice - it is concentrated and needs to be used sparingly. Likewise too many useful insights, helpful offers or amazing data-driven deals will drive customers crazy.

 

However, one of the interesting things is that both the makers of Marmite, and its customers, have begun to innovate with it: top chefs swear by it as a secret ingredient in basic and signature dishes; while it's now spawned Marmite crisps, mini-cheddar bites and even Easter eggs.

 

In the same way data-as-a-product will become a secret ingredient to success for a lot of application and content companies, as well as those looking to innovate and differentiate in the digital world. This might take the form of realtime contextualised data or of data insights that can be built into new product offerings.

 

In short, there is both opportunity and risk in re-using data and transforming it from by-product to a packaged product in its own right. Marmite is made out of waste yeast; but it isn't waste yeast any longer. Just as it had to go through a process to be transformed into Marmite, so data will also need to go through an end-to-end process from collection, to blending, to packaging and delivery in order to be transformed into data-as-a-product. 

 

As we have seen, data-as-a-product throws up a number of challenges for existing BSS processes and systems, not least how to charge for it within the digital supply chain. This is not just about establishing the right charging parameters - since different types and currencies of data will have different values - but also about managing data-as-a-product in  a legally-appropriate manner, and one that customers understand and accept. Not all CSPs are agile or adept enough to make a business out of data-as-a-product, but for those CSPs that can get it right, data-as-a-product offers a lucrative new source of revenues.

 


 

 

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

 
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By Annie Turner, Senior Director, Content, TM Forum

 

File:Maliarska-sms.jpg

Rudolf Rabatin, 2007

 


 

All kinds of service providers need to rethink their business models – and fast. New approaches are disrupting long-established services everywhere you look, from Uber, to AirBnb, Alibaba and Facebook – which finally got its mobile act together.

 

New entrants appear seemingly out of nowhere and all the street protests by incumbents isn’t going to stop this trend. At the same time, consumers’ patience with stuff that doesn’t work well is growing shorter in at least direct proportion to their rising expectations, born out of the convenience, speed and customer service they enjoy from the best digital service providers.

 

Interestingly though, a disconnect has emerged between the essential component that underpins all digital services – ubiquitous, reliable connectivity, also referred to as the digital dial tone – and the providers of apps and smart devices. The Apple Watch is the most glaring example: basically the attraction of having an iconic, desirable device on your wrist is undermined when it turns out that to make full use of it, it has to be connected (by Bluetooth or NFV) to an iPhone, which in turn is connected to the public mobile network. So now you need to buy and wear/carry two devices?

 

For instance, Apple Watch offers an accelerometer that can be used to track a runner’s progress or measure how many flights of stairs they have run up this week, among dozens of other things. The accelerometer, on its own, is innovative, but in many instances, it relies on the iPhone’s inbuilt GPS. Put another way, it depends on the non-functional digital dial tone for some functions, undermining its value proposition.

 

The very best digital devices and services make the non-functional requirements disappear for the user – and this was something of a surprisingly lapse for Apple: A runner shouldn’t have to think about the Bluetooth connection between their iPhone and Apple Watch, or how Verizon, say, hands off the connection between cell towers as they run. But, when things go wrong and part of the run is improperly tracked, those requirements become obvious and annoying.

 

The ecosystems of device makers, app providers, and digital and communications service providers have some way to go to make all non-functional requirements invisible to users. That’s why virtualization and software-control of network assets and capacity are so critical – they will improve the quality and availability of network assets and the services they deliver, while keeping costs down for the owner of the assets by enabling better use of them.

 

Once that’s sorted – and it won’t be any time soon as this is no small undertaking, if an essential one – operators should find that they can focus on enabling amazing services for customers. They’ve got a golden opportunity to figure this out in the meantime.

 

For instance, a use case that’s cropping up frequently is the delivery of relevant, value-add services during high-traffic events. Microsoft demonstrated at the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014 that working with many broadcast partners, digital and communications service providers could create new revenue streams by selling content from well-known commentators and near-instant replays of key moments to spectators. When done well, this can  provide a terrific customer experience – and one, in this instance, sports fans would be prepared to pay for.

 

Operators hold the key to delivering the non-functional requirements which support the functional needs of the next generation of market challengers. It’s very exciting to hypothesize about the future of connected devices like the Apple Watch and the slew of wearables that it will help spawn, but without connectivity to the network and between devices, their potential is stunted.

 

For more about how the industry can collaborate to pave the foundation for digital and communications services, check out TM Forum Inform or join us at TM Forum Live!, taking place June 1-4, 2015 in Nice, France.

 

You might also like to check out TM Forum’s new report, When will NFV cross the chasm?, based on extensive primary research.

 
 
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Chief Strategist Teresa Cottam looks at the generational issues and opportunities arising from the Internet of Things (IoT).

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/eb/Pierre-Auguste_Renoir%2C_The_Umbrellas%2C_ca._1881-86.jpg

 

The Umbrellas, Renoir, 1883

 

 


 

Each generation adopts and drives certain communications technologies. This isn't a neat trend, because those notorious 'generations' aren't exact cookie cutters, and in each generation there are leaders and laggards.

But very roughly we can see that:

  • Baby Boomers - could be termed 'Generation Voice' or "Generation Phone" as they drove adoption of fixed phones.
  • Generation X - drove the adoption of mobile, but were really 'Generation Email' and 'Generation Web'. They abandoned paper-based and voice communications to embrace the possibilities of email, and built the Web into the shape we know it today. This generation is quite fond of Skype.
  • Generation Y - took communications a stage further. They are 'Generation Text', 'Generation IM' and latterly 'Generation Social Media'. They are natively mobile and love consuming online content. They invented text speak.

 

As Enterprises and Service Providers begin to consider what effect Generation Z will have on the workplace and the world of technology, what's interesting is to consider which technology will truly define their generation. My suggestion is IoT; which is why I call them 'Generation Thingies'.

 

Generation Z is natively social but they are builders and not just passive consumers of content. They see no barriers to making what they want. They communicate in multiple channels simultaneously and are driving a new image-based form of communication.

 

We need the creativity, insight and enthusiasm of Generation Z - their willingness to see the world in a different way - to mature, expand and experiment with the possibilities of IoT.

 

Generation X and Y might very well see the possibilities in the IoT, but it is the willingness of Generation Z to reinvent their environment, unrestricted by any norms, rules or conventions that holds such promise. They even communicate in an entirely different way because they blend the real world with fantasy, use tools to superimpose additional elements to video, still images, audio and so on. They communicate using emoticons, images (real and blended) and use multimedia communications.

 

This is why I believe Generation Z will be defined by the IoT - redreaming the way the world should work and connecting things up to make everything smarter. But don't be fooled, these people are technical pragmatists - if it doesn't work for them they move on quickly. And it's going to be hard for technical companies to meet their needs because they want to rebuild, adapt and reshape their world. So unless you build in the capabilities for them to reconfigure and adapt technology, they're likely to move on - bored by the vanilla.

 

And please don't think "ha, ha we will get them to build stuff for us!" because Generation Z don't want to work for you. They want to build their own companies: their own loosely coupled organisations that come together for this particular project and then dissipate. And don't presume you can rip them off. These guys are serious about business. They are determined and they know their value.

 

But read between the lines here: there's extraordinary value to be created from giving them the tools to innovate, configure and personalise. In the pre-industrial age everything was individually created and made by hand. The industrial age introduced mass production to produce more and at lower cost. The digital age will take this process a step further by combining the benefits of artisan production with industrial mass production. The result will be more personalised services and intelligent objects that work, look and respond in the way each individual wants them to.

 

 #BOSSfest15

File:Jimi hendrix tallstig saachi.jpg

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

 

 

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

 
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Welcome to The Cage - a series of interviews where Telesperience questions key figures and thinkers from the telecoms industry.

Jennifer Fellows

 

In this interview Telesperience Chief Strategist Teresa Cottam asks MDS's Jennifer Fellows about how CSPs can use more sophisticated pricing and charging to better meet customer needs and differentiate from competitors.

 


 

 

In this interview Teresa Cottam asks Jennifer:

 

  • Do you think there’s scope to change the battle by using more advanced pricing and charging?
  • How can MVNOs use these capabilities to differentiate their offerings?
  • How do you we break the discounting cycle - where do CSPs tart?
  • Have you seen any examples of CSPs getting it right?
  • Do you think there are any lessons we can learn from outside telecoms – which companies or industries could we learn from?
  • Top tips for smarter pricing and charging

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File:Jimi hendrix tallstig saachi.jpg

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

 

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

 
 
Audio Files (1)
Jennifer Fellows MDS interview : Innovation in Pricing and Charging
 
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Bob Barrows looks at the requirements to maximise monetisation in the Connected Economy.

 

Israels Isaac - Shop Window.jpg

Shop Window, Isaac Israels


 

 

Connected services have become a way of life for consumers and enterprises.  M2M, IoT, Subscription Services are now main stream.  Gartner estimates that by 2017, connected services will account for 15% of service provider revenues, creating a $225 billion market.  This revenue projection offers unprecedented opportunities for enterprises, connected goods, and digital service providers…and the growth opportunities are ready now.

 

The evolution to a truly connected economy is resulting in consumers expecting an infinite array of personalized ‘on-demand’ services, ‘always open’ store fronts, and ‘accessible anywhere’ delivery channels.  This has resulted in the need for a much broader set of sales and billing types.

 

Many businesses that supply Content-on-Demand, Software, and the routine services consumers procure every day have tried moving from a one-time sales model to a subscription model.  However they quickly found that subscription models, while initially helpful in securing longer term predictability, do not allow for true maximization, personalization, or the flexibility needed to adapt to the consumer's constantly changing needs.  

 

To be successful, businesses must focus on monetizing their customers rather than starting with their products. And to truly achieve a level of differentiation and growth, businesses must find ways to get customers to ‘subscribe’ to their products and services, while also selling additional services.    

 

A simple analogy: a coffee shop offers a monthly discounted subscription plan for a cup of coffee a day.  This ensures a predictable revenue stream and encourages loyalty—the subscription economy at its best.  However, this model leaves business on the table.  The new differentiator is the ability to upsell that customer each day when they come in to pick up their coffee with additional offers such as discounts for breakfast, pre-made lunches, or any other item the customer would not be interested in subscribing to. 

 

In the connected economy, this case is put on steroids.  And the need for truly effective and scalable monetization systems is critical to ensure a connected business can achieve this state of true maximum monetization of their consumers.

 

As such, attempting to satisfy users’ growing demands for new services, innovations, and sales types have presented challenges for the operation of back-office systems that are necessary to support the demands of customized, always-on, and constantly evolving services.  As a result, enterprises and service providers may be hindered from embracing all that the connected economy has to offer.  In addition, these digital and connected services are also being launched into an increasingly price-sensitive competitive landscape, amidst a customer base that no longer holds a strong allegiance to its suppliers. 

 

Optimizing the revenue opportunities of the new economy that is taking shape today—a combined subscription and consumption business model—requires a sophisticated monetization engine.  This engine must support dynamic rating and pricing models, robust order processing, tracking variable usage, properly billing for services, analyzing utilization patterns, and uncovering new business opportunities—all while being future-proofed for a growing enterprise and a constantly evolving consumer. 

 

These features are essential and many forward-looking organizations are turning to the cloud for the agility needed to manage their billing and customer care solution for seamless revenue optimization.  The cloud offers the choice to either outsource the entire operation or implement a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model to benefit from new technologies that can deliver out-of-the-box agility and optimal operational costs.  Both offer the sort of robust monetization engine the connected world requires. 

 

A cloud-based strategy offers organizations numerous benefits.  These include keeping their focus on the customer and delivering solutions more quickly and cost-effectively via a tailored approach that not only meets their specific business needs, but offers the flexibility and scalability to keep pace with their customers’ constantly expanding needs.   

 

As cloud operational designs become more mainstream, there are four key reasons organizations should consider a cloud-based approach. 

 

Reduced and More Predictable Costs

The benefits of moving billing services to the cloud include reduced costs (ie no up-front CapEx investment from hardware purchases) and redeploying in-house resources (eg reduced OpEx spending as IT functions are outsourced), freeing up time and resources to focus on growing the business.  A cloud-based approach also delivers the benefits of more predictable costs over time, a key consideration in today’s world of thinner margins. 

 

Improved Focus on the Business = Enhanced Competitive Advantage

Considering the requirements for more sophisticated billing, order management and customer care capabilities that the connected world requires, few organizations have the bandwidth or expertise to dedicate critical resources to these equally critical functions.  Leveraging a cloud service provider to host customer and revenue management systems allows enterprises to focus on business growth opportunities and accelerate time to market for new services, which leads to a competitive advantage in the fast growing connected marketplace.

 

Increased Customer Satisfaction and Marketing Flexibility

The cloud offers organizations the opportunity to more easily deliver innovative services, pricing strategies, billing, charging and service management to customers.  With a cloud-based approach, organizations can also tailor promotions and services based on account profile and provide flexibility and self-sufficiency for complete account control.  All of this helps enterprises and service providers increase subscribers, offer more account transparency and build satisfaction. 

 

Technological Advantage

Certain Cloud-based solutions can also deliver the robust functionality and scalability previously available only to large enterprises, but now in the form of “lite”, agile and flexible platform, offering account access and revenue management anywhere and anytime. This is a key consideration for certain enterprises such as retail organizations.  A sophisticated cloud solution also offers the ability to rapidly deploy new business models with the confidence that the customer care, ordering and billing system can handle any service type, scale to any volume, and ensure security with data center redundancy and best practices in place to minimize the risk of data breaches. 

 

Conclusion

The connected economy is dictating a new path forward for enterprises and connected service providers requiring the ability to support dynamic pricing, reliable fulfillment and failsafe revenue optimization - all delivered from an optimized & scalable platform.  It is these new operational challenges that must be addressed to keep pace with escalating customer demands, intensified competition and the never-ending need for organizational growth.

 

A proper cloud-based monetization approach creates a win-win for enterprises and global service providers to nimbly satisfy consumers’ appetites for hyper-connected services, while benefitting from faster time-to-market, reduced costs, improved customer satisfaction and a real competitive advantage.

 

In today’s connected world, the benefits of a sophisticated cloud can’t be ignored. 

 

# # #

 

Robert Barrows is VP, Head of Enterprise & Cloud Monetization Products & Strategy for Comverse Kenan, a leading provider of carrier-grade cloud-based enablement and monetization solutions for growing enterprises and digital service providers. 

 

 #BOSSfest15

File:Jimi hendrix tallstig saachi.jpg

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

 

 
 
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Matrixx's Dave Labuda looks at pragmatic approaches to leverage legacy investments while also benefitting from digital.

 

 

Axentowicz Old man and a ghost.jpg

Teodor Axentowicz, Old Man and a Ghost of a Young Girl

 

 


 

 

The topic of Digital Transformation is hitting fever pitch this year and everywhere you turn there are studies, reports, recommendations and confirmations about how CSPs must embrace Digital.  Monetize, capitalize, and delight your customers through online digital experiences that will enhance your brand and your revenue! 

 

But despite all the sweeping proclamations, we all know that the telecom industry does not cater to sweeping, fast-paced transformations.  E-care, Omni-channel marketing, contextual offers – fantastic – but how does all this ‘out with the old – and in with the new’ really work? 

 

CSPs have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in existing IT infrastructure which cannot simply be ‘replaced’ or ‘transformed’ at the speed of light to keep up with the pace of digital consumer evolution.  So how do CSPs ensure a successful digital future while preserving legacy service revenue and the systems that they’ve invested so heavily in and are still dependent on to run their business?

 

Business transformation requires investment in new technology and new capabilities to drive and support automation, operational process redesign and new business model development.  But finding and leveraging new technologies that cater to digital enablement does not require an end-to-end IT transformation project.  We are especially skeptical of these behemoth projects, which tend not to deliver any type of measurable results within a reasonable time frame, if at all.  

 

Some CSPs are taking a different approach and looking at specific areas where the biggest improvements can be made around service delivery; simplification and effectiveness of customer interaction; and cost reduction of existing old world processes and systems, such as order management and customer support.  New capabilities can then be injected into the IT infrastructure where needed and in areas that will produce a quick and measurable ROI versus swapping out entire legacy ecosystems. 

 

This more focused, surgical approach shifts the balance away from large, multi-year projects to shorter, sprint-like programmes that deliver new capabilities every few months.  Vendors who are building solutions for CSP digital enablement must change their monolithic approach and think about building solutions that serve as bridges between legacy and digital rather than as wrecking balls.  

 

A solution that ‘bridges’ the gap between old world and digital lays the foundation for long term business change without massive disruption.  These solutions come with an ‘insurance’ of sorts to protect existing assets while providing the future platform for digital.   They are designed to interwork; not to replace.  This more componentized approach enables CSPs to leverage their existing systems for what they are good at, while protecting them from things they weren’t designed to handle.

 

There are multiple examples of how this can be achieved with unified policy and charging. From a network perspective, deploying a modern real-time charging and policy solution not only provides new capabilities for monetization of data services, and customer personalization - but the charging engine can actually absorb much of the chaos that LTE traffic can cause to traditional signaling interfaces.  Through proper quota management, the OCS can reduce signaling and authorization requests that are putting stress on network gateways and communication interfaces between existing OCS/PCRF and mediation systems.

 

A well designed charging engine can absorb the network traffic, and aggregate the myriad of charging event records into a more manageable number of coherent billable events.  For example, aggregating hundreds of charging records produced by a YouTube session down to one billable record for the whole session.  By reducing EDR loads and providing intuitive billing records, existing billing systems and data warehouses can continue to operate as they do now without being overwhelmed by the immense traffic growth and exceedingly detailed network information that LTE and connected devices are generating.

 

CSPs leveraging unified policy and charging technology also benefit from new product catalog and pricing capabilities so they can roll out advanced propositions such as app-based pricing, sponsored data, and dynamic sharing without having to replace traditional CRM and product catalog components - thus extending the life of these assets while breaking free of the constricted, traditional CSP pricing models.

 

Finally, by inserting a real-time policy and charging engine into the existing BSS infrastructure, CSPs now have the means to serve digital self-care channels, as well as reduce the burden on call centers. As digital offerings get more sophisticated and personalized, and the average customer is managing more devices and options, the traditional customer care channel can be protected and even optimized instead of being overrun by increasing levels of customer interaction.

 

While there are different approaches to digital enablement and transformation, much of the journey depends on the starting point.  While wiping the slate clean and bringing up an entirely new digital infrastructure sounds sexy and appealing, for most CSPs it’s just not possible. Vendors in the space should consider how the solutions they design can provide automation and agility while shielding legacy assets from the requirements of the digital economy - so CSPs can continue to leverage systems where there is no business case for replacement.

 

You can follow Matrixx on Twitter @matrixx_sw or Matrixx's @jenniferkyriaka

 

 

 

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

 
 
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it's Thrifty Thursday and Chief Strategist Teresa Cottam looks at whether it's possible to have more agility, commercial impact and a better customer experience for less money.

 

Jean-François Millet (II) 014.jpg

Jean-Francois Millet, Waldarbeiter beim Holzsägen, 1850-52


 

 

If you live in Europe then I don't need to tell you that it's been tough for the last seven years. Economic conditions have been hard in the wider world, and this has been reflected in the telco world. It's also been exacerbated by high levels of competition and falling prices due to regulatory intervention.

 

The response of European telcos has been two-fold - firstly to try to reduce their costs (with mixed results), and secondly to try to reduce competition resulting in M&A to reshape the market.

 

For a long time the biggest topic of conversation in Europe has been cost reduction. It's now such a basic requirement that it's just table stakes. But other world regions haven't experienced the same downward pressure on revenues, so for them these stringent cost reduction requirements are more novel.

 

What we've learnt in Europe though is that cost reduction alone won't solve the problems CSPs face: they have to focus on revenue generation as well. In addition, overly focusing on cost reduction can deliver extremely negative impacts on the CSP's ability to function. Sometimes it just shifts cost around between cost centres, rather than resulting in overall spending drops.

 

But what about legacy systems and how these contribute to cost? If we cut them out won't our OPEX drop?

 

Legacy is very much maligned, but a significant proportion of legacy does what it says on the tin. It does its job well; it's just not flexible enough to do other jobs.

 

The next criticism, of course, is that it takes up too much of the IT budget, leaving little for innovation. There's some truth in this; but since IT budget is an arbitrary thing, isn't it also true that it's been designed for legacy costs with a little over and above for innovation? Therefore the percentage left for innovation has largely been designed in too. Of course, that doesn't suit vendors who need the spare cash to be significant enough so that they can sell more kit to the CSPs - hence the squealing over legacy costs.

 

It is true though that modern software systems and approaches can cost less to run than legacy. New methods of buying software - such as SaaS and Cloud - can also lower the cost (at least the upfront cost). More modern systems also enable easier configuration rather than requiring hard programming, which means they are cheaper to change and more flexible. But while many are quick to point out that modern systems are cheaper, this isn't the whole truth either.

 

 

New systems may cost less to run as a discrete entity, but many are just accretive on cost since the legacy is not turned off, and implementation, integration and maintenance has a cost too.

 

Likewise, not all "new" systems are actually new. Some are pretty old at the core, and have had so many facelifts, fillers and innovation injections (think botox), that while they look pretty good in a certain light they're actually frozen in time conceptually.

 

For greenfield CSPs the chances of getting more for less are pretty good - if we're benchmarking this against what you would have got say 5 years ago. For those with significant legacy there are methods to help reduce costs while improving performance. These methods should always start with the customer experience though, and not with internal objectives. 

 

While it is possible to have your cake and eat it, for established telcos it's unlikely that costs will be reduced to their lowest possible level due to the requirement to maintain legacy and also because it's not the most important factor they have to deal with (revenue growth and subscriber retention are far more important in my opinion). In fact, IT costs may appear to be going up simply because revenues aren't. That is, they're no longer aligned as a proportion of revenues.

 

As I have mentioned, what something is costing your business largely depends on your perspective in any case. The IT might be cheap to run, but if customers are complaining then you're not minimising your costs, you're just moving them somewhere else. You're also costing the business even more because unhappy customers churn, tell their friends and don't spend money with you. Opportunity costs are usually far higher than operational costs; but of course few CSPs look at it like that.

 

Peter Bowen conceived the concept of IT renovation - whereby we don't throw away legacy but simply do it up a bit. This acknowledges that a legacy system is never going to be a piece of modern, designer, funky chic, but that it can still have a function. The trick is making legacy and new blend and look good together.

 

In short, my top tips are not to become obsessed by cost cutting. Be a surgeon not an axe murderer. If you do need to cut costs then think about any cascade effects and understand what opportunity costs and customer impacts are likely. Cost cutting should also be undertaken on an enterprise-wide basis to avoid the "pass the parcel" effect of moving cost from A to B without reducing the overall cost impact, and to stop managers protecting their own kingdoms at the expense of others. All costs are not equal - some kingdoms could be cut entirely without a negative commercial or customer impact; others could be pruned a little; and some actually need more budget. These decisions shouldn't be made due to historical reasons or emotional reactions - they should be made on the basis of rational business thinking.

 

Importantly, cost cutting should actually be done in conjunction with improving service levels - if you can save money and improve customer experience and commercial agility then you've found the right place to cut.

A better way of looking at this whole issue though is to focus on reducing wastage rather than costs. And to focus not on the cost itself but on how this "investment" (which is what it really is) is contributing to the customer experience delivered and the revenues derived.

 

 

You can follow Teresa on Twitter @teresacottam

 

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

 

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

 
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Pia Lukkarinen, OSS Portfolio Marketing Manager at Nokia Networks explores how CSPs can save energy and make their OSS greener.

 

Lionel Constable - Cloud Study - Google Art Project.jpg

Lionel Constable, Cloud Study


 

One of the hottest social media discussion earlier this year centered on the colours of a dress, and whether you see it as blue or white with black stripes. But let there be no illusions regarding the colour associated with Nokia’s Operations Support Systems (OSS) in the Cloud. It’s green. At least that’s how we see it. Here’s why.

 

Virtualized OSS requires less energy

Virtualized OSS software applications do not require their own dedicated hardware for each product: they can be combined on the same server. Fewer hardware elements are thus needed - up to 30% less in a multi-product environment. Less hardware requires less space, which also means that data centers can be smaller. And we all know that every m2 has a price tag. The color of the resulting decrease in energy consumption and cost metrics is definitely green.

 

One part of the virtualized OSS is the iSON Manager, which is a tool for network operations and maintenance to automate operations in several ways. One way is to decrease the amount of energy used by networks. In a pilot project, Nokia iSON Manager helped Korea Telecom save 40% on its consumption by shutting down particular frequencies when they weren’t needed. Such a cut in energy usage, which is managed by a cloud service is most definitely green.

 

Ecological cooling and utilization of waste heat

The construction of multifunctional data centers can be also planned with a green philosophy. Data center servers accumulate heat and require cooling. One example of what we’re doing here at Nokia’s premises in Finland involves the water we use for the cooling process. We recapture any wasted heat, which can then be reused in nearby hospitals, schools and other facility heating systems. Green OSS therefore supports not only our data center but also the wider community.

 

This interconnected district cooling and heating system was introduced in Nokia Tampere, Finland. If it were globally deployed to data centers around the world, energy savings would be equal to the output of a hundred nuclear power plants.

 

The virtualization of OSS requires that processes, use cases and competences are evaluated and re-defined. The more software involved, the more we can make the network a programmable world where automation serves both network operators and their customers. Combine the benefits of data centers with the evolution towards automation, and you’ll see just how green the OSS Cloud can be.

 

What green opportunities have you identified in your networks?

 

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

 
 
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Chief Strategist Teresa Cottam looks at why IoT and IoE strategies will not be maximised until more female perspectives are embraced.

 

File:Julius LeBlanc Stewart - Les Dames Goldsmith au blois de Boulogne en 1897 sur une voiturette.jpgJulius LeBlanc Stewart, Les Dames Goldsmith au bois de Boulogne en 1897 sur une voiture

 


 

I've worked in telecoms and IT for a long time. When I started my career it was normal to have to put up with half dressed women at shows who were solely there as eye candy for the largely middle-aged men.

 

This may have become less socially acceptable in mainstream shows, but there is still a huge disparity in vast swathes of the technology world between the numbers and influence of smart women compared to the numbers and influence of smart or even mediocre men.

 

This year's Mobile World Congress was no exception. I managed to avoid being asked to make coffee or pass a free giveaway to someone because, as a woman, I was "obviously" stand staff. I was relieved to see there were no women dressed in revealing clothes or with bar codes temporarily tattooed on their chests, like I'd encountered only three or four years ago.

 

Despite my complaint of being asked to make coffee, I have encountered little hostility in the industry from men. The vast majority are grown up and smart enough to treat people on their merits. All of my mentors, advisers and cheer leaders have been men. As Jennifer Fellows mentioned, I've had more snide comments over the years from other women than from men. In fact, most men I speak to believe the industry should have more women in it. (I'll let you into a little secret here - they actually like women! - so why wouldn't they want more in their working environment?) So why then does the industry not attract more smart women or retain more of the ones it does attract?

 

Partly, as Jane Rygaard said this is to do with the education system, which in some countries subtlely or unsubtlely still directs girls towards subjects and careers they deem to be more suitable to feminine minds. The perception that maths, science and technology is for boys persists. And that's why the GSMA's programme for children - Mobile Explorers Camp  - and initiatives such #ICTgirls, coding clubs and so on are so important. Both men and women in the industry need to show our daughters and other girls that the technology industry is fun, fascinating, and a great career for both men and women.

 

This is also essential for the Connected Future, because the fact is that women bring different perspectives to bear than men. Maybe, for example, we can improve the way we as an industry tackle innovation if we have more women asking "why?" and dampening a little of the testosterone-fuelled enthusiams of men building things just because they can. By combining the what and the why we'll surely have better outcomes?

 

One example of where women are needed in much bigger numbers is the Internet of Things. I don't feel that I'm over-egging it to say that IoT simply will not reach its full potential until we have more women and family-centric perspectives incorporated into its development. We need women to design the Connected World the way they want it to be - otherwise, it will be like that really high shelf that your partner put up which is the perfect height for him, but which you'll have to get a step ladder out to reach.

 

So my thesis is that the IoT would be developing differently if there were more strong female voices. My hope is that the non-telecoms brands that are pushing IoT have a tradition of listening to the female consumer and meeting her needs. A good example of this was the Oral B connected toothbrush which was laughed at by a good many men I encountered. They thought it a silly toy that was totally unnecessary - overkill. However, when I quietly explained that it wasn't about the toothbrush, it was about dental hygiene as-a-service - combining insight into how well you cleaned, diagnosing any problems earlier, choosing the right toothpaste and mouthwash for your needs, including free check ups, reminders about your appointments, and the supply of all the things you need for true dental hygiene. Suddenly their eyes lit up. It's about connecting disparate elements into a solution, I said. Yes, now they got it. 'What mother or father wouldn't want that for their child if it led to fewer cavities in their kids' teeth?' I asked. Bingo, they could see the money.

 

Connected cars, faster and faster download speeds, more and more powerful handsets - this is all great, but actually it's old hat. We know how to make things faster, bigger, stronger. We understand machines. Where the industry lacks insight is in the quiet everyday things that will revolutionise our lives and the revenues of those clever enough to spot the opportunities.

 

I thought one of the best things this year about Mobile World Congress, was when Jennifer, Tracy, myself, and some other smart women got together just to be 'silly' about tech and play with fun ideas. Sure we were joking about connected clothes, but it was also apparent that we thought and innovated differently to men. Harnessing the imagination and skills of #womenintech will not just temper excesses and reduce risks on all-male boards; it will also massively boost the ideas and creativity of our industry. Other industries already get this and either have, or are rapidly encouraging, more participation of women at a senior level.

 

So unless we want to be out-competed and relegated to the basement of the IoT world, we need to make better use of the smart women we have, and encourage more of them to come into and stay in our industry. Half the consumers in the world are female; it's important that in the technology world we embrace their perspectives and understand their needs better.

 

You can follow Teresa Cottam on Twitter at @teresacottam 

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File:Jimi hendrix tallstig saachi.jpg

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

 

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

 
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Jane Rygaard argues that by focusing on technology 'whys' we'll actually attract more women to our industry.

 

 

Bouguereau-The shell.jpg

 

William Bouguereau, The Shell, 1871

 


 

 

I have to admit that the industry’s recent activities to embrace and encourage the female voice in ICT really got me thinking.

 

One example was the #ICTgirls activities, which Nokia and other key players hosted for many young female students around the world. While I’m happy to see so many fantastic initiatives to include young women in telecoms, I’m concerned as to why we aren’t able to keep their interest long enough to see the number reflected in employee figures. Today, women make up about 20% of the ICT workforce on average. This is the case for Nokia Networks, and I am happy to report that this average is also reflected at the leadership level.

 

Celebrating girl power and power ICT users at Nokia Networks open house in Munich. Talking shop on 5G and Telco cloud with #GirlsinICT

 

Interestingly, the current trend in the European Union finds an increasing amount of girls in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) classes at the high school level – even beyond the 50% mark in northern Europe. However, these numbers are not reflected in uptake at the university level with women bypassing the science education route and therefore not reflected in our industry employment figures either. You might ask, why do we need a higher ratio of women in ICT? In my opinion, it is not about the ratio, but about ensuring that we don’t lose out as a society by not attracting ALL of the innovative young talent, both male and female.

 

So why are women not flocking to ICT? Personally, I believe it is exactly a matter of ‘Why’. As an engineer, I love technology, but as a woman I am not very enthusiastic about it if I don’t see the purpose - an understanding of ‘why do we need this?’

 

Traditionally, we have talked about technology for the sake of technology. Think back to the initial 2G roll outs in our industry. There wasn’t a lot of discussion about what it should be used for. We built networks and made them faster because we were able to. Fortunately, this has changed over the last few years, and we're now asking more of the right questions such as what we will use the technology for. For example, when we use Customer Experience Management (CEM) for getting the experience and service right for the end-user.

 

Ironically, if I consider the area of CEM and OSS – I do see a higher ratio of women engaged with these topics than the industry average. This convinces me that we can attract and maintain the interest of women in telecoms, if we can concentrate on highlighting the ‘Why’ vs. the ‘What’ - in other words, on the human possibilities of technology.

 

This also brings to mind our industry’s hottest topic right now: 5G.  I consider it real progress when I hear the discussions actually start from how we can expand the human possibilities of technology (#maketechhuman) rather than what kind of technology we need to deliver them. If we are case driven in our approach to technology innovation, then I believe we’ll attract a higher percentage of the brilliant minds of the world, both women and men – to telecoms.

 

You can follow Jane Rygaard on Twitter @janerygaard

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File:Jimi hendrix tallstig saachi.jpg

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

 
 
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by Jennifer Fellows, SVP Product Management at MDS

 

 

John Everett Millais - Spring (Apple Blossoms).JPG

John Everett Millais, Spring (Apple Blossoms)


 

It may be that I survived over 20 years in telecommunications because I grew up as an only girl in a household of three brothers, and with a father that encouraged me to stand up for myself. As a young girl growing up, I had to find my way in an environment of non-stop sports, dirt, fighting and testosterone. Looking back now, that environment may have been the best preparation to be a woman in telecommunications.

 

Starting work right after college, I joined a large technology company.  At that time, I was just one of a handful of young woman joining an established, male-dominated organization. Quickly, I realized that adjusting to the ‘all-boys club’ took a thick skin, perseverance and getting over the never-ending wardrobe comments! Not unlike my teen years with my brothers. But one thing was a constant – if you could deliver your projects on time and with quality, then your gender became secondary.

 

But let’s be real, there were many difficult times. Evidence of the sexist culture I worked in came out in comments made by my manager in a performance review. After a good review, it wrapped up with the statement that I would move up in the company more quickly if I put my hair in a bun and wore brown suits. Well, I don’t particularly look good in brown, and my long wavy hair could not be cajoled to stay in a bun past the first morning meeting!  Nonetheless, I showed up the next day in my bright red dress, and pushed on, letting my hard work take the focus off my seemingly career-limiting fashion choices.

 

Some of the most engaging mentors in my career were men. Many of these men had daughters themselves and wanted to set a tone of inclusion and professionalism. Some just did not care about gender and wanted to provide business guidance and support to young professionals. No matter the driver, they helped me immeasurably. Interestingly, other women were often the bigger issue.  There could be jealousy and backbiting if you got a top project or a promotion, which was disappointing when women should have been more supportive to each other.  

 

My most recent mentor was a woman on the executive team. She had the ear of the CEO, swore like a truck driver and would ‘tell it like it was’ regardless of political correctness. She was both refreshing and frightening.  She detailed the challenges she faced in a male-dominated environment. Her view on manoeuvring through the sexism was simple – stay true to yourself and the right things will happen.

 

As I look back on my time in the industry, I can say that I followed that directive. Believing in yourself, keeping focus on the right things, staying driven and treating people well is what really matters in succeeding at work.

And after many different roles and managers, I still don’t own a brown suit. And I hope I never have to!

 

 

 

 #BOSSfest15

File:Jimi hendrix tallstig saachi.jpg

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

 

 
 
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Telesperience Chief Strategist Teresa Cottam looks at the business value of kindness, and explains why customer experience is a philsophy not a technology.

 

 John William Waterhouse - The Soul of the Rose, aka My Sweet Rose.JPG

The Soul of the Rose, John William Waterhouse

 

 


 

 

I write about the customer experience a lot. I've written about different components of it, how companies can improve it, what bad and good experiences look like, and how we can utilise customer experience to differentiate and create greater business value.

 

I try to explain to large companies that a great customer experience begins with efficiency, and technology can certainly do a lot to help in terms of doing the heavy lifting. It can also help in getting the business to understand its customer better - via analytics - what they're doing, where they're going, what they like or dislike etc. But technology will only take you so far. To create an exceptional customer experience requires what the South Americans call "salt and pepper" - it requires an element that lifts the bland and turns it into something extraordinary and memorable.

 

Customers have become used to the faceless, standardised, mechanised way that large businesses take to providing their customer experiences. These businesses might want your money, and may put on and act of understanding you, but they quickly turn out to be distant, inflexible and self-serving. The processes they use to deliver consistency actually result in unfairness and unpleasant experiences. 

 

In the CSP domain this means operators don't contact you until the contract is ready to be renewed (distant), won't go that extra mile to help you because "that's not our process" (inflexible), and are only interested in maximising the amount of money they can squeeze out of you (eg self-serving billshock).

 

The willingness to exploit customers or only give them the bare minimum you can get away with is indicative of an exploitative relationship with customers that drives them mad. What's more, you're not really getting away with anything, because customers are always aware that you only do the bare minimum and given half a chance will rip them off.

 

You can measure whether you're delivering against the basic level of service you said you'd provide until you're blue in the face - it still won't deliver an exceptional and differentiating experience, merely an average one.

 

That's why I always advocate that customer experience is a mindset, a philosophy. It doesn't start with measuring, but with a commitment to be a certain kind of company and provide a certain type of service to your customers. It stems from not just being able to identify the type of customer you want to serve, but having a deep understanding of what they value and  how you want to behave towards them.

 

When we start from the viewpoint of measurement we always find there are elements outside whatever we're measuring that undermine the good stuff or create negative experiences. "But we're not guaranteeing that," is the hollow cry of a company that's wriggling on the customer experience hook.

 

Companies that put their customers first are kind and generous to them. They not only want customers to be net promoters of their brand, they also feel loyalty, love, empathy and passion for their customers. This begins with a C-Level commitment to provide a certain type of service and the resulting philosophy lights up the entire organisation.But behind these ideas is the recognition that this behaviour delivers significant business value.

 

The behaviour these companies exhibit is to simply model how we tell our children to behave - they resolve problems with fairness, discussion and generosity. They treat everyone with politeness. They reaslise that kindness is its own reward.

 

And customers are not the only people treated better by emotionally mature companies (EMCs). They also treat their staff with kindness. They trust that staff know what's best for both the business and the customer, and give them the autonomy to act in the right way. They believe that kindness is its own reward, and understand that most people like to do business with those they like and trust, and reward kindness with loyalty. Since they value and like their employees, they treat them well, knowing that happy employees will treat customers well too. And they'll stay with the business longer, reducing training and recruitment costs.

 

A few years ago I read a study by Young & Rubicam which showed that several brand attributes that used to be valued had declined in value as a result of changes since the recession. For example, "exclusive"  was down 60%, "sensuous" down 30%, and "daring" was down 20%. Of the other hand, "kindness and empathy" was up 391%, "friendly" was up 148%, and "socially responsible" was up 63%.

 

This isn't rocket science: arrogant exclusivity isn't a substitute for friendly kindness in most people's book. Do you do business with someone because they're arrogant or because they understand you and are kind?

 

Some companies understand the power of kindness all too well, and even in our industry there are examples of companies that aim to be kind.  Guernsey-based telecommunications company Sure famously have a marketing budget for Random Acts of Kindness. OSS vendor Sigma Systems recently won a couple of awards for being a great place to work. Its benefits include fresh fruit every day, a fridge full of cold drinks, a free breakfast on Wednesdays, ice cream on Thursdays and a cake on your birthday. These quirky little touches set it apart, creating a homespun feeling that is nevertheless endearing.

 

The day of the faceless, standardised and fake customer experience is over. Either you really care about customers or you don't. You can't be half hearted about it or pretend that you do but then treat them badly because your kindness, funkiness, or principles are siloed or bound up in T&Cs. Fakery, lies and insincerity don't cut it with a generation of customers who have been brought up to detect photoshop trickery from birth.

 

So let's start with a few home truths:

  • Business doesn't have to be hard and exploitative. Softer qualities resonate more with informed customers who want to do business with brands that are more like them. The nice guy used to finish last, but the exploitative "dog eats dog" business model belongs where it started, in the 1980s.
  • You can call them subscribers, consumers or anything else you like, but actually they're human beings who make complex choices each time they decide to buy from you.
  • People like to buy from people and companies they like.
  • You can't fool customers into anything. They're actually pretty shrewd and each time you lie to them, nickel and dime them, or try to pull the wool over their eyes you undermine the relationship you have with them just a little more.
  • Sincerity is very important in the social age. Customers can smell exploitation, fakery and the peculiarly slick smell of marketing a mile away. Brands need to resonate and genuinely engage with customers, and that takes humans and human ideas, not just systems.
  • Businesses need to put systems where they add value in terms of doing the customer experience heavy lifting. They need to point people where they add most value, which is basically behaving like a human and interacting with humans.
  • Rules are to be broken. Humans need to have the authority to override processes and policies when needed. Rule breaking can make a customer feel exceptional and special.

What kindness have you experienced from a business, and how did it make you feel?

 

 #BOSSfest15

File:Jimi hendrix tallstig saachi.jpg

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

 

 

Teresa Cottam is the Chief Strategist at Telesperience and you can follow her on Twitter @teresacottam

 

 

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

 
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