Telcos become smart enablers

The single biggest challenge for the telecoms industry over the next decade will be managing the customer experience end-to-end. From a customer experience perspective, Hong Kong's CSL CMO Mark Liversidge said, 'There does responsibility end for operators as we effectively become broadband smart enablers?'

'If someone is streaming a high-definition movie and they've not getting a great experience, are we responsible' Liversidge asked. 'If you say you've not responsible, then frankly you've just a dumb pipe. If you become a smart-enabler, you have the challenge of understanding and controlling the massive volumes of content.'

Which customer-oriented business functions receiving the most attention?A Telecom Asia-Stratecast survey of operators across Asia Pacific supported that view as customer experience management (CEM) and customer care/self-care were once again the customer-oriented functions receiving the most attention, with 55-56% of those polled indicating each was a top priority (see figure 1).

Business analytics together with business intelligence (BI) was ranked third - with 44% of respondents saying the area was receiving the most attention, up from 32% last year.

't's no coincidence that customer care, customer experience management and business analytics are the top three concerns,'Karl Whitelock, a senior consulting analysts with Stratecast, a division of Frost & Sullivan.

They are related, and a focus on one creates a need to update the other. Customer self-care and knowing the customer's overall service experience is vital in today's always-on environment.'

In see-saw moves over the past two years, content partner management fell to seventh place from fourth last year, with the percentage ranking this a priority dropping to 25% from 31% in 2010 (it was just 15% in 2009). Interconnect and cost management also shifted back to 2009 levels - rising to 35% after dropping last year to 23% from 33% in 2009.

Turning to the number of operators offering customer self-care or e-care for most of their service, 57% indicated they did, while 13% planned to in six months. Some 21% were looking into the option and 10% had no plans to do so (down from 24% a year ago).

Just 10% of the operators polled claimed that issue of business transformation had been resolved. Almost 31% indicated business transformation was somewhat a concern but that no action had been taken while 59% said it was a major concern and initiatives had been started.

What are your most important company initiatives right now?Looking at operators' most important initiatives, this year's survey results showed a continued focus on service quality, which was No. 1 for the third straight year (see figure 2 to the right). No surprise there, as without quality, there is only one way for the customer experience to head.

'Support for new business models'- added for the first time this year - took the No. 2 position along with network upgrades/convergence (54%). Faster launch of new services was third, with 48% of respondents considering it a high priority.

Whitelock said service quality continues to be a top concern because there are more competitive alternatives and more complex service options available. If service isn's done right and doesn's stay right, customers will find another provider they perceive that does a better job.'

Support for cloud services and social networking oriented services are major drivers for an increased need to address both service quality and support for new business models, he said. 

Is your company actively working tio bring cross-industry business models and cloud service capabilities to market?'In a related question, 27% said they were enhancing their OSS/BSS to support cross-industry business models and cloud services. Another 36% were evaluating how to best transform to this way of doing business while 30% were still watching how others were adapting (see figure 3).    

Despite the strong momentum toward cloud-based services and storage, security remains a concern for many. A quarter of those polled said they weren's convinced that the data is secure. Another 6% believe that the data would be accessible by anyone who wants it bad enough. Almost 37% felt that cloud-based storage is security but were concerned about access, and 31% indicated data was well-protected and had no worries about unauthorized access.   

Whitelock noted that security, reliability and access to any information placed in the cloud external to the customer's physical location would always be a concern. There are advantages and disadvantages to data storage at the physical site or online. For consumers it is a personal choice; for business we believe online storage will become the default standard approach in the future as cloud-based business becomes a significant reality.'

Nearly half (46%) of survey respondents stated they currently have a CEM program or will have one in place within six months, with another 36% investigating the best implementation options. Some 18% indicated they have no plan in place to implement a CEM strategy.    

CEM and BI

Telecom Asia-Stratecast Survey Respondent ProfileCustomer-care departments are the dominant leaders, heading 27% of CEM programs, while sales and marketing and product management both came in at No. 2 (15%).

Whitelock believes that as customer lifestyle changing services become more prevalent and as customer service assurance (CSA) business strategies work through all parts of an organization with the help of near real-time data analytics, the need for CSA data will become much more equalized between all work teams.   

Asked what specific areas in their organization need help to improve the customer experience, 42% of those surveyed said service quality management. Customer care/self-care was a far second with 22%, billing third (14.5%), external supplier/partner management (12%) and order management fourth (10%).

Whitelock said that successful service providers over the next five years will be those that can deliver new services with customer personalization functions. They must also be able to make changes and create new services in minutes and hours, not days or weeks.'

This year's survey found that 59% of those polled said have data analytics and BI software in operation or plan to in the next six months. Another 30% said they were investigating options while 12% have no plans to implement a BI/data analytics solution.
Sales and marketing departments were again the dominant user of this capability (41% compared to 48% last year). While customer care and product management both remained at last year's level (12% each), IT jumped to 13.5% from just 7% in 2010. The executive office and networking also remained unchanged, with 8% or less using this capability.  

Subscriber data management, which involves linking common customer data from multiple sources, is receiving attention at the majority of operators surveyed, with 57% saying that initiatives are underway to address the issue. About a quarter indicated that work on such initiatives was completed while 17% said it wasn's a priority.

'Let us not forget that getting the customer experience right isn's easy or cheap. Going customer satisfaction well is expensive,' said Lois Kraus, an executive director at AT&T. 'At a billing conference in Bangkok last month she said that billing and revenue assurance are key to the success of strategy on the data side, because you can's sell it unless you can bill for it.'