On Big Bang day last week, Telcordia's Pat McCarthy told an audience of press and analysts that his company was, "much more interested in humans and how they drive the market," than technology. He insisted this is the only way to get service delivery right.
McCarthy is VP of global marketing, service delivery solutions, so this was a refreshing start, but it didn't last long. I pointed out that most telcos are so very far from achieving this, that you might as well as me to design a Hadron Collider.
I cited BT making a huge song and dance about its new, user-friendly bills not long ago. One of the major breakthroughs was getting the ten character customer account number on the first page AND the phone number it covers.
McCarthy (who has a considerable track record in billing himself) gave an explanation of why this had probably taken so long to fix - thereby missing the point.
None of us gives a colliding proton about the complexity of moving fields around a legacy billing system, all those of use with more than one phone line care about is being able to see what the bill is for instead of having to ransack a sheaf of paper to find out.
The reason I didn't move lock, stock and barrel over to TalkTalk (which offers "˜free' broadband as well as discounted phone calls, thereby avoiding ever having to deal with BT again) was because I was thoroughly alarmed by the mess it made of migrating my records when Carphone Warehouse acquired Tele2.
This is nothing compared with the mess it made of offering free broadband.
TalkTalk's systems were overwhelmed by the demand and the massively publicised failure, which took months and months to sort out. It did so much harm to consumer confidence that, as analyst Point Topic pointed out, it slowed broadband take-up right across the UK for most of 2006.
As experience has taught me to be mistrustful of all telecoms service providers, I use a different one for each of the following in the hope of spreading my risk: mobile data (dongle), mobile calls/SMS, ISP, line rental and fixed line phone calls. The idea is that it's unlikely they'll all screw up at the same time. (I have been proved wrong - my dongle couldn't get a signal when the phone lines/DSL were taken out by a lightening strike.)
This blows to pieces a central tenet of the new mantra of service delivery - building an all-round view of the customer and her activities, tracking her actions in real-time to provide the most appropriate options and offers at any given moment and being able to see when something has gone wrong.
Also known as a unified and persistent view of subscribers.
While my execution might be a bit extreme, I am far from unusual in my approach. Graham Cobb, Telcordia's director of service delivery marketing, acknowledged that one of its operator customers in the Far East has asked Telcordia to come up with an enterprise solution whereby employers can set parameters to separate employees' business and personal use on a single mobile handset.
This is an attempt to dissuade users from carrying two or three mobile phones, with each used for a specific purpose, typically on different networks, and gain all their business.
Will the convenience of only needing a single device overcome the fear of your employer (however unfounded) being party to your personal activity‾ Probably not - even if your company can't see who you called or texted, they might be put out by the time spent on personal business when you're supposed to be working and your boss couldn't get through.
Not to mention giving up the personal benefit of cheaper international calls or Skype, say, offered by one provider, while another perhaps has the best SMS bundles. And there is always the issue of one type of network topology offering better coverage in certain areas, which probably wouldn't be overcome by carrying a single handset either.
This service delivery stuff is certainly tricky, with the human element arguably the trickiest of all. I'm going to follow this piece up later this week with some real life examples of operators getting their offers just right.