Customer Experience – The Final Frontier

Posted: September 28th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Events, Industry Insights | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Day one of a well-attended OSS-BSS World Summit in London, and the talk is all about customers. Networks, even handsets, are little mentioned, and bandwidth and bytes seem like yesterday’s unhealthy obsessions—the customer experience is now paramount, and henceforward, all shall be customer-centric.

Fine words and, many would argue, not before time—but what does it all mean in practise?

It could mean, as Charlie Hunter-Schyff, new media planning head of O2 demonstrated, applying analytics to location information to derive better-focused customer promotions. It could mean more sophisticated blending of policy control and charging functions to create a finer-tuned customer experience—an approach championed by Comptel. Less thrillingly, but perhaps more realistically, it could just mean, as indicated by Matthew Mason, director of billing and collections at Du in Dubai, and a compelling speaker, getting your act together in pretty much every department and making sure every process from order fulfillment through trouble ticketing to billing is as slick, faultless and efficient as it can be. That, after all, is what makes a customer perceive a company as excellent, and what makes customers stick around, spend money and even promote you to their friends. Perhaps this is the difference between having a customer-centric organisation and applying customer experience management (CEM).

What does it mean to software vendors? Really, it means that for any product or solution—not just CEM products—to be taken seriously, they need to be couched increasingly in the context of the customer experience. Does my fulfillment deliver a slicker, more faultless and trouble-free experience for my customer? Does my charging platform allow customers the payment options they appreciate? Is my policy control focused on the network or on my customers? Do all of these functions act together to allow me the holy grail of customer management, a ‘holistic’ customer view which pulls together customer information from CRM to HLR and lets me provide a wholly personalised service?

There is a compelling sense of real possibility around the customer, as Susan McNeice from Yankee Group observed in a speech at the end of the day. This feels like a real tipping point in industry attitudes and behaviour. Many communications service providers are genuinely and rightly excited by the prospect of turning to their advantage a customer understanding which would be the envy of most OTT players, and using it to create a value proposition for which the customer would be willing to pay a premium. They are sensing the possibilities—and now is the time for vendors to step up to the plate and demonstrate how they can be realised.

Around the World

Posted: September 26th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Around the World | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Around the World

Broadband Traffic Management…
Analysys Mason: MNOs Need a New Approach to Compete with OTT VoIP
A report from Analysys Mason forecasts that third parties could account for as much as 16 percent of mobile service revenue in Western Europe by 2017. Consumer interest in over-the-top (OTT) mobile VoIP applications, such as Google Voice and Skype, are forcing operators to address the issue of how to charge for these types of services. Principal analyst Stephen Sale and research director Tom Rebbeck state that short-term measures like blocking or charging a premium for OTT services fail to address the issue in a sustainable manner, and operators should instead use a scenario-based approach to engage with longer-term market developments and effectively compete. As the report notes, common themes across each scenario include the need for operators to use policy control to manage the price and value of third-party applications, along with the need for them to pay attention to customer behaviour.

Tech Central…
The State of Telecoms in Africa
Africa is quickly moving to high-speed broadband, yet the continent’s ability to offer more Internet services and data access could be hindered by the inability of operators to deliver reasonably priced, fast and reliable bandwidth. Russell Southwood, head of African telecom consultancy Balancing Act Africa, says migrating to LTE may be the solution needed to overcome this roadblock.

Despite the challenges outlined in the article, Africa’s fastest growing sector is the telecoms industry, as noted in previous highlights, which gives hope that operators will spur innovation through continued expansion and better service and greater rural coverage. In addition to LTE, what game-changing technology do you think is needed to achieve a high-speed Africa?

Pipeline Magazine…
Analysts Weigh in on the Customer Experience
Stratecast, Yankee Group and Infonetics Research discuss the customer experience management (CEM) craze and agree that defining CEM can be difficult. The bottom line though: increasing revenue and reducing costs do not automatically equal a better customer experience. However, working on customer experience first and implementing the right “technologies that allow you to do a better job of understanding your customers,” as Nancee Ruzicka of Stratecast says, “[can] reduce costs. They do improve revenues. They do have all of those positive money effects. Then you start to see your business case.” What do you think of the analysts’ points on CEM?

Comptel’s Second Day at Management World Africa 2011

Posted: September 22nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Events, Industry Insights | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Phew! The second day of TM Forum’s Management World Africa 2011 is over. Now, I’m back on an airplane but this time to Cape Town (where Comptel has an office). Before landing, I again reflected a bit on the speech I gave on “taking personalisation to the next level—exploring how communications service providers (CSPs) can optimise customer retention and profitability through SIM management.”

In the afternoon’s presentation, I explored how CSPs across most parts of the world run their prepaid businesses, giving relatively little choice to users, mostly pre-provisioning the data and logistically managing many types or packages of SIM cards. Basically, SIM packages define the product one buys with or without a number attached.

I then expressed what the basic choices of personalisation are (price or product) and raised the question of segmentation. Aren’t we already in the stage of various types of micro-segments where two people in even the same village in rural Africa, let alone in urban cities, likely won’t have the exact same desires and expectations of CSPs’ services? If we start looking at the number of devices we use and the usage patterns we have, we would find that there is hardly any commonality, except that we all call and use data services—but that is not granular enough to address our need for personalisation. We have a vast amount of segments to address today, and the old mechanisms for defining products with varying prices and other parameters need to be rethought; otherwise, they will lead to non-personalised experiences and low customer loyalty.

I went on to explore if the mechanisms of trying to guess what is hot or not is valid—ultimately suggesting that CSPs do not even try. Let users select the services and value-adds they are interested in, and enable them to choose these elements themselves. My conclusion: loyalty is driven not only through quality but also through personalisation. If we allow users to self-personalise the services they take from their CSPs, how can competitors offer anything better?

Like I wrote yesterday, catalog is left, right and center of this kind of approach, but the way we fulfill service orders needs to be well coupled with the catalog data. If you want to know more, we’re happy to discuss it with you—it’s a bit of longer story than a blog post really.

Overall, it was a tight 15-minute session with a Q&A with the audience, and there was much more positive discussion afterwards 1-on-1 with the CSP community present.

On The Way to Management World Africa 2011

Posted: September 21st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Events, Industry Insights | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on On The Way to Management World Africa 2011

I’m writing this while travelling to TM Forum’s Management World Africa 2011 in Johannesburg, South Africa, where I’ll be giving a speech on “taking personalisation to the next level—exploring how communications service providers (CSPs) can optimise customer retention and profitability through SIM management.” (Despite most of my blog posts having been about IMS or LTE, this one won’t.)

So while flying on the Airbus A380, which, by the way, is the most advanced aircraft I’ve ever travelled in, I started to think about how telcos, in general, fail at personalisation and why they should really take a serious look at other sectors like the airline industry. A major difference can be seen when comparing the way CSPs and airlines price their offerings. Telcos, for the most part, have fixed pricing with tiered costs based on peak and off-peak hours, but they don’t really personalise it at all. Whereas airline fees vary depending on the time of your flight, the number of passengers on that flight, etc.

Then, taking it a step further, upon booking, airlines personalise all communication based on your mileage program level. You can also choose your seat depending on availability and class of service, and sometimes have the option of special meals or drinks. Even after landing, I will be picked up by a personal driver, who has my name on a large sign to help me find him in the crowd.

Looking at it, aircrafts like the A380 are complicated ‘monsters’, technological masterpieces on their own. However, the airlines do not really sell the technology—but rather the experience. And although the personalisation is limited somewhat, it is still much more than just an SMS informing you that the European Union regulatory data caps and prices are valid when you’re roaming, for example.

I will be presenting around this topic and how CSPs can make personalisation real for customers. The key elements needed to see it through? Comptel believes it’s a full-fledged fulfillment suite. Comptel Dynamic SIM Management uses a configurable dialogue engine to drive user interaction, backed with Comptel Catalog to ensure that the products defined can actually be delivered with a service and resource inventory for numbers and SIM-related data and, of course, real-time Comptel Provisioning and Activation.

I know this will be published after I land, but thought of writing this to begin to explore the issue of personalisation. I will continue with this direction during Management World Africa and in some blog posts to follow.

Strategies for Coping with Mobile Data Consumption

Posted: September 13th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Industry Insights | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

By Samantha Tanner, Telecoms IQ, IQPC

Figures released by U.K. regulator Ofcom in August show that mobile data traffic has increased 40 fold over the past three years, with 27% of adults and 47% of teenagers now owning smartphones.

In the regulator’s Communications Market Report, it stated that “the recent adoption of smartphones has been accompanied by an increase in the volume of mobile data transferred over the U.K.’s mobile networks. This increased 40-fold between 2007 and 2010.”

Image Courtesy of

The report also showed that 27% of U.K. adults accessed the Internet on their mobile phones at the start of 2011, up 22% from 2010. Additionally, social networking has overtaken email as the most popular use of smartphones.

This is just one example demonstrating the exponential growth in mobile data and the need by operators to do something about the increases in the amount of data being crunched, especially when they start trialing LTE. Customers are demanding more bandwidth in order to run faster, interactive services, but at the moment, most networks just simply can’t cope.

With Cisco projecting that, by 2015, 66% of global mobile data will be taken up by video streaming, what is the solution in order to optimise mobile networks so that they can cope with the huge increase in mobile data being consumed?

Increasing bandwidth and spectrum is playing a part in how operators are attempting to accommodate increasing data usage. This is why the push towards LTE has gained such incredible momentum, especially in the U.S. The value of spectrum can be seen in the AT&T merger with T-Mobile. While the merger makes the network the largest in the country, it also gives the operator far more spectrum to play with than its closest rival Verizon. More spectrum also allows AT&T to give their customers exactly what they want, meaning more LTE coverage.

Operators are also coping with mobile data consumption by using a variety of pricing and promotional strategies to strike a workable balance between encouraging use of data where resources are plentiful, deterring it when resources are scarce and ensuring maximum payback on their network investments. However, they require the right OSS solution to give them the levers to control this service, encourage customer demand and create profitable new business.

If mobile data grows as much as it is predicted to over the next couple of years, operators are going to have to act fast in order to maintain the bandwidth speeds that their customers will be demanding, much like what AT&T has already figured out.

Telecoms IQ will be running three events in the coming months that will examine the role of LTE and mobile network optimisation: LTE Deployment Strategies, Data Offloading Strategies and Mobile Network Optimisation.

Around the World

Posted: September 9th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Around the World | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

India May Need ‘Tens of Billions’ in Broadband Network Spending
India, Asia’s third-largest economy, is targeting better public access to information and services—a move that requires billions to expand broadband connectivity. The opportunity for telecom operators and both local and global companies supporting the infrastructure build-out is tremendous in this region, where the number of broadband connections is expected to jump 13-fold to 160 million by March 2015. However, this dramatic, rapid subscriber growth is challenging the scalability and affordability of India’s broadband network and 3G services.

As the article notes, overcoming growth issues requires new business partners and ways of structuring to make money, in combination with some innovation. Flexible, dynamic OSS solutions are also essential for enabling operators to manage and monetise these offerings.

The East African…
Global Cellphone Makers, Telcos Scrambling for East African Market
Like India, East Africa’s fastest growing sector is the telecoms industry. According to Jolyon Barker, global leader at TMT Deloitte, this will continue to be the case in the coming years, as more international companies invest in the region, operators heighten the competition and people own handsets and connect to the Internet anytime, anywhere.

Some of the key challenges facing the telecom sector in East Africa include the need for better infrastructure and energy supply to meet the demand for newer technologies and more connectivity services. There is also increased pressure on operators, particularly small, local ones, to find innovative ways to grow while maintaining a high quality of service on tight margins. Communications service providers (CSPs) can effectively handle this pressure with the right levers to control service/resource supply and further encourage customers’ use of data services. What advice would you give to CSPs looking to survive and succeed in the East African market?

LTE Asia: Can Mobile Operators Sell Volume-Based Pricing to Customers?
Sabah Hussain of Informa Telecoms & Media believes that with the capacity crunch, it is not economically or technically feasible to provide unlimited broadband for all. But will customers be able to understand volume-based pricing, and will they accept it?

CSL, one of the first operators to launch LTE, has proved that volume-based pricing can indeed be implemented while keeping customers satisfied. The operator has accomplished this by educating subscribers on how to keep track of their data consumption. It has helped them avoid bill shock via text messages, made it easier for customers to upgrade their price plans or buy additional capacity at any time, and ensured high-quality over-the-top (OTT) services. Sabah goes on to explain that “a more controversial strategy has been to migrate all CSL customers to LTE no matter what.”

Overall, Sabah concludes, moving everyone to LTE is an advantage because customers will no longer have to worry about the variations in quality of service they’ll receive or wonder about the differences between 3G and 4G. Do you agree with Sabah’s points about the benefits of moving all customers to LTE?

Back to Futurecom: 12-14 September in Sao Paulo

Posted: September 6th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on Back to Futurecom: 12-14 September in Sao Paulo

Comptel is again looking forward to attending Futurecom in Sao Paulo, Brasil next week. More than 15,000 attendees from 40 countries have attended Latin America’s key ICT event in past years, and the 2011 event is likely to be just as popular, with more than 240 exhibitors displaying their offerings at the Transamerica Expo Center.

On booth B14b, Comptel will be demonstrating our dynamic OSS solutions and policy control, mediation, fulfillment and charging expertise. In particular, we expect customer experience management to be a hot topic at the event, and are on hand to discuss this as well as other Caribbean and Latin American telecom trends and customer success stories.

In addition to the tradeshow area, there will be a three-day-long international congress, where speakers from Telefonica, the ITU, Oi and various communications ministers, among others, will discuss the connected society and the changing world. Comptel, with our strategic partner Alcatel-Lucent, will be presenting on femtocell fulfillment on Tuesday, 13 September 13. Comptel’s Thiago Bardosa Melles and Alcatel-Lucent’s Roberto Murakami Falsarella will cover how femtocells can benefit residential, business and public hotspots. We think there will be great interest in the topic, and hope that you will attend the session or meet us at our booth!

What are you most looking forward to at Futurecom next week: the expo hall or a particular congress track or presentation?