A "360 degree view of the customer" is required for 3G services

As 3G/4G services get launched and the next generation networks become a reality, it is my strong belief that it will not only be imperative but mandatory that the operators maintain a “360 degree view of the customer”.
 
What does it even mean to maintain a “360 degree view of the customer” when
  • The customer lives in regions in more than one country and speaks more than a dozen different languages?
  • The mobile sales force needs to maintain the integrated view of the customer from one office to another, from one region to another, from one country to another, and in transit?
  • The “views” of the customer include access to all customer centric data, sales and customer relationship management services, and other services that lead to customer loyalty and minimum churn?
  • Customer information is housed in multiple databases across multiple legacy/non-legacy systems?
While it is true that an integrated view of the customer becomes impossible without technology, service assurance for next generation networks differs from traditional approaches in that it demands that the operators shift their focus away from the technology oriented approach to a customer centric approach. This implies maintaining a “360 degree view of the customer”.
 
Why is a “360 degree view of the customer” important?
 
As stated above customer centric approach or maintaining a “360 degree view of the customer” basically refers to an approach of doing business in which a company focuses on creating a positive customer experience at the point of sale and post-sale. As the service providers change their businesses focus and are tackling with fierce competition trying to make an early entry into the market, maintaining a culture of positive customer experience becomes really important. In my opinion, a customer-centric approach can add value to a company by differentiating itself from competitors who do not offer the same experience thereby making a difference to the company’s bottom line, that is greater operational efficiency, higher margins, faster-than-market growth, and better ROI (return on investment).
 
Many operators even today believe that it is technology coupled with the network and its operations that are of utmost importance. But it is my opinion that such operators are actually viewing an incomplete picture. As such, they are unable to bridge the gaps that exist between function - such as customer support and network operations, or marketing and operations - which are of no importance to the customer who only wants service that is of acceptable quality at the time it is needed.
 
Moving to a customer centric approach requires that the operators eliminate the gaps between the various functions and unite the same such that the whole approach is customer focused leading to customer loyalty and resulting in minimum churn.
 
In a 3G/4G world, the adoption of the Customer Centric Model is even more important as the next generation networks will enable the enrichment of value added services, which will be contributed by market players other than the mobile network operators themselves.
 
These players will be the third party providers such as the Wireless Application/Service Providers (WASPs), the Content Providers and Service/Content Aggregators etc. Even in such a complex and dynamic scenario, the customer relationship management will be extremely complex but will still continue to remain in the hands of the operator and hence it will be up to the operators to provide the integrated and robust authentication mechanisms coupled with the rigid security features, that will aid in the establishment of trust between the operators and the subscribers. Thus the need for a holistic approach to individual customer management.
 

 
Where to begin
 
Transitioning to a customer centric model is not only complex but time consuming as well and requires that the customer be understood fully. In order to be fully customer centric, it is just not sufficient that the service providers have the customer’s name, and address, and some form of identity proof. On the contrary, they must understand the customer’s complete makeup – their buying ability and patterns, likes and dislikes, buying preferences and habits, response to sales, promotions, and enriched services, usage of various services and also their loyalty towards the provider. To add to all of these, there is another very important parameter to being customer centric and that is that the operators should make their decisions with the intent of benefiting their customers in some way.
 
Having said all the above it is my belief that every operator (big or small) is customer centric to a certain degree and their journey towards becoming fully customer centric requires a rigorous a methodical approach. In this regard, the first steps should be to:
 
1. Understand and define the standards of “acceptable quality” and then devise means of measuring it.
2. Identify Customer Experiences that are of poor Quality (based on defined ranges and benchmarks) `
3. Perform root cause analysis whenever needed to determine the reason for poor quality (eg., authentication delays, issues in the network etc)
4. Adopt measures to prevent the issues causing poor quality, along with proactive actions to secure and guarantee quality.
 
These approaches may look simple, but are in reality difficult to implement. But they can provide important information that is very often overlooked. Proper and rigorous execution of these can start the transition of the service providers to the much talked about customer-centric model. 
 
Madhushree Sarkar holds a leadership position in Accenture India and leads the Telecom Capability.

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