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.