I’ve recently been asked for my opinions on the difference between Customer Experience Management (CEM) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) with relation to the telecommunications sector. This is, indeed, an interesting question, especially considering the subtle, yet remarkable, differences in the answer.
Let’s first consider CRM, which has traditionally been defined as a means for communications service providers (CSPs) to manage the contact and various segmentation parameters of their customers. For instance, these systems provide the ability to build targeted campaigns based on demographic or other more or less rigid segmentation criteria. CRM also enables CSPs to react swiftly when customers are demanding new services or to respond, after the fact, to a negative customer experience.
Yet, the perception still exists that CEM is simply the ability to understand, in-depth, the manner in which services are being used by subscribers and having the availability of related transactional data. While this helps broaden the knowledge about CSPs’ customer bases, their needs and preferences, we are now living in a time when CEM can be extended to encompass true personalised and proactive action.
Coupling real-time data from services and networks with a contextual understanding of a customer’s situation leverages both the CRM and CEM concepts to place real intelligence in the palm of CSPs. This level of contextual intelligence will, undoubtedly, bring with it great customer experience and differentiating opportunities.
The recently announced CIQ4T (Contextual Intelligence for Telecommunications) concept addresses this need and opportunity to link together CRM and CEM. It leverages advanced predictive analytics to provide a holistic, contextual understanding of individual subscribers’ usage patterns, behaviours and circumstances to proactively drive personalised interaction and improve overall experience.
After all, the battle for incumbent versus challenger in the telecommunications space is no longer being fought in the infrastructure build-out, but instead on CSPs’ ability to retain customers and build a positive reputation for service. Subscribers have so many options when it comes to selecting a CSP; it’s imperative for operators to proactively influence and eventually anticipate the needs and wants of its customers. So it really isn’t about defining the difference between CRM and CEM, it’s about making them work holistically together. #CIQ4T
Did you have a chance to vote in last month’s poll on the biggest business priorities for communications service providers over the next 12 months? Well, the results are now in, with a three-way tie between reducing customer churn, reducing time-to-revenue and finding new ways of increasing profitability. If you missed it, Comptel’s CEO, Juhani Hintikka, recently outlined two strong approaches for facilitating these types of business performance improvements.
In my last post, I touched on what LTE-A is and the benefits we can expect from it, including much more bandwidth. However, there is some room for improvement with this technology.
The Price Issue
First and foremost, there are cost issues related to the massive performance increase. For instance, if you have a mobile broadband bundle with a capacity of 2 GB, this could quickly be consumed in roughly 15-20 seconds. If you’re a heavy user today and spend about 30 GB a month, at maximum capacity, it would not last long in LTE-A. Depending on how the service is put to market, consumers could end up paying a fortune for its speed—hindering adoption and prolonging the transition to LTE-A.
So why will it be so pricey? There are a few fundamental reasons. First, the cell in LTE-A is smaller but much faster than those found in previous generations. So this means that we will have more cells (think of these as the roadside ‘towers’), but they will most likely be built into streetlight poles and other facilities in addition to physical towers. Here’s where the price comes into play—each cell has a cost. In addition, each of those cells needs to be connected to the core network somehow (typically microwave radio or optic cable), and with more cells comes more cables and more complex networks.
Also, each cell needs to transport more data as bandwidth grows. Thus, the infrastructure to support such bandwidth requires major investments by communications service providers (CSPs), including in new technologies like small cell devices for more specific locations. We can also expect more fibre rollouts, which will need to be connected to all kinds of routers, switches and repeaters in the telecom network. These will all need to be planned, installed and operated. While we assume that efficiency increases in hardware over time (smaller space and faster speed) and power consumption decreases, all this infrastructure will have a major impact when it comes to cost. In addition to the purchase and operations, the cost of labour for actually digging up the ground, laying the cables and filling the ground can really add up.
What about Vendors?
This means a lot of various things for software vendors like Comptel and others in the OSS/BSS and Service Provider IT (SPIT) field? We believe the infrastructure rollout will need to be as automated as possible to drive the need for an excellent fulfillment process, logical network connections and efficient resource management. This will, in turn, reduce wasted time and money. The increase in bandwidth will likely drive more customer offerings and drive the need for service orchestration and catalog-driven order management. The complexity of the service must be conveyed in a way that makes sense for customer segments using the network capacity, and various service bundles should be prepared and proposed.
One may, however, discover that there are so many different ways to bundle these services that they completely avoid it and allow customers to self-personalise their subscriptions in advance or just in time. CSPs will naturally want to charge and control this usage and the bandwidth that customers are getting, such as services without quota restrictions like music streaming with a fixed monthly fee. Perhaps they can consider time-, location- or service-specific profiles of policies that enable customers to enjoy the vast capacity at full speed.
With this in mind, we already enjoy a degree of granularity like watching a TV series at full capacity, while others view it at a lesser quality, all enabled by policy control and online charging systems. We’re also starting to see CSPs analysing and adapting their customer engagement through intelligent interactions like free services and campaign offers, better matching service profile configurations and other things that better suite personal preferences of usage. All of these services need to be activated, changed and deactivated in real time with a provisioning and activation engine that can scale to the vast speed and low latency.
Likewise, the usage data will be so diverse and vast in its volume that a next-generation mediation system with massive scalability is needed to enable managing the online feeds of data and transactions securely and to adapt the data from various sources and formats with all of the potential various destinations (and their formats). This layer we saw formed in the CDR/file world will also be very necessary in the new online/diameter world.
In summary, behind the acronym LTE-A, there is a promise of vast bandwidth, which no matter how you look at it, will surely benefit us, especially as many other innovations can then be applied to it. There are some hurdles to overcome, but just as many opportunities presented with the technology.
If you’re interested in talking about LTE-A a bit more, please leave a comment or come to our booth at the upcoming Management World 2012, taking place in Dublin in May, to chat with me about it.
When following the hot industry trends, I found a lot of excitement around LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) and wanted to share my thoughts on this emerging technology.
So what is LTE-A?
Well, in the simplest of terms, it’s the latest advancement in radio technology that will put one Gigabits/s bandwidth (or 1000 megabits/s) to your mobile device of choice, whether it’s a laptop, dongle, tablet or smartphone (and eventually feature phone). Network rollouts will occur once the technology is proven in trials and compatible devices are available.
For comparison, you can get up to 100 megabits/s through LTE technology and up to 24 megabits/s with ADSL technology. The bandwidth that LTE-A enables is similar to the fastest speeds from Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) technology and about three times faster than that of cable. It is also approved by the International Telecommunications Union as the true 4G technology irrespective of what industry marketing and some communications service providers (CSPs) are saying about LTE and DC-HSPA. Globally, we are just deploying LTE infrastructure, and thus, LTE-A will have its first major deployments sometime in the future.
While the maximum speed will most likely be very theoretical, at least in the beginning, the technology promises to provide all of the bandwidth we need without wiring everything together physically, allowing for true mobility. To put that bandwidth into perspective, one HD quality video stream can consume up to tens of megabits per second depending on the encoding/decoding technology used. This would then decide how much of the CPU and graphics chip on your device would be used and how much battery life they consume on decoding the video feed. The less bandwidth that is consumed (and hence tighter compression used in video encoding), the more work the CPU and graphics chip will have to do, and more battery will be consumed. In theory, you would not need much video compression with LTE-A, as there is plenty of capacity and hence less demand on battery, CPUs and other chip development needs. Think about several HD video channels being streamed to your device and having the ability to use other services in parallel. It would also enable higher upload speeds, so your multi-megapixel DSLR pictures could be streamed to your cloud storage or photostream of choice in near real time.
Is there really a need for this much bandwidth?
I’ve witnessed first-hand that once more bandwidth is available, it will get used. Remember the times of MS-DOS and the famous statement that 640 kB of memory is enough for everything? I’m feeling a bit old here, but seriously, we are masters of consuming 97% of our hard drives, for example, no matter what the capacity is—and the same applies to bandwidth. With recent advancements in HD displays in relatively small form factor (e.g. retina display in the new Apple iPad), it’s almost guaranteed we will consume available bandwidth. I’d think, however, that with such bandwidth, the need for large local storage on devices becomes less important, especially as cloud storage is becoming more affordable. Hence, we will see more video-enabled devices with minimal, built-in storage capacity.
LTE-A sounds promising, right? In my next post, I’ll discuss this technology further and highlight some areas where there’s room for improvement.
Ralph Booth joined Comptel’s Europe West services team as a contract project manager towards the end of last summer and enjoyed it so much he became a permanent employee by the end of the year. In this blog post, Ralph explains why he was impressed by Comptel’s services proposition and strategy.
Since joining Comptel in August 2011, I have found the company’s approach to services particularly refreshing and relevant in today’s market. More often than not for market-leading software providers, the description of services in customer proposals comes loaded with delivery facts, boastful methodology claims and complex resourcing suggestions. In the current market, customers look beyond these brochure-style claims and instead look for a partner to help them evolve, develop and lead. Whilst Comptel is founded on a heritage of successful deliveries, I have found we also have a more relevant services offering that expands our services footprint beyond the traditional delivery credibility into a more engaging and personal service approach. This is what makes frontline services such an exciting and important part of Comptel’s evolving business—we really are all about the customer.
Regional Emphasis: Comptel adopts a regional approach to services, positioning teams in local hubs to bring customers closer to design and implementation work. In Europe West alone, we have regional offices in the U.K., Netherlands, Germany, Bulgaria and Italy. A regional approach guarantees that Comptel builds lasting relationships with our clients.
Relationships and Continuity: During my induction programme, I learned that the average number of years of service by Comptel employees was around five. This emphasis on continuity is crucial in providing a common approach and retaining knowledge about our customers, their preferences and solutions. The experience within the business of our customers allows us to start conversations from a position of mutual understanding.
Relevance and Structure: Services in Comptel are logically structured and include the skills and expertise one would expect, ranging from solution architects, software developers, support teams, project management and ongoing customer care and contact through client management. These defined roles allow us to build sensibly sized project teams with clearly defined roles and objectives that customers understand and can relate to. Furthermore, project team members are accessible and easily contacted or brought on site. Comptel’s customers get to know the personalities who work with them on their deployments!
Interaction and Management Accessibility: Comptel values regular internal and external steering boards. These are held to share, assess and track progress of projects. Significantly, the emphasis placed on these sessions means they are well supported, with senior management attending to listen to the feedback. Feedback is also encouraged through customer satisfaction surveys that look to understand what went well and on occasions what can be improved next time.
Project Management: Comptel recognises the benefit of good, old-fashioned project management and insists on having a dedicated project manager on all of our major programmes. This approach provides our customers with leadership and direction, but also makes a very clear statement as to the level of accountability the services team feels about its work.
To sum up, my impressions thus far are that services from Comptel more than meet our customers’ expectations. Comptel is large enough to deliver, lead and influence, but is small enough to listen to, engage with and build lasting relationships with its customers.
There’s been much buzz around last week’s Mobile World Congress, and Comptel can attest to the thought-provoking discussions and ideas that were generated at the show. Analyst firm Informa Telecoms & Media recently held a webinar recapping the main themes and hot topics from Barcelona.
One key takeaway was the emergence of global players including over-the-top (OTT) providers, card networks and device manufacturers. According to Informa, these players stole the headlines and are now dominating the agenda for the telecom industry, as operators are becoming their local partners and distributors. They went on to say that with OTT players, operators must strike a balance and find a way to work together, but just how they will effectively do so is still in the works. An example of this balance coming to fruition is Facebook’s decision to work collaboratively with operators in the billing process; however, the keynote sessions indicated that there is still some friction in the operator/OTT player relationship. For instance, OTT providers are generating revenue by using traffic from operators’ networks, which is a sore source of contention.
Further, Informa noted that operators were focusing less on technology and more on the role of pricing to appeal to consumers. Some of the interesting discussions were around the concept of moving away from unlimited pricing models toward those that are much more value-centric. At the show and over the past year in fact, there’s been much talk about this change, but some operators are struggling with implementing it largely because of challengers still pushing the unlimited model. However, other operators have revealed that a successful tiered plan is possible if the pricing is structured correctly and the value proposition is effectively communicated to consumers.
In all, Mobile World Congress was a great meeting of the minds, and we’re certainly looking forward to seeing how these developments unfold in the coming year. Which trends did you find most interesting at the show?
During my recent attendance at Management World Americas, it became clear that the subject of machine-to-machine communications (M2M) had progressed from the innovative discussion stage into concepts and uses within real industry verticals.
I listened to an interesting session in which the presenters noted that M2M may well, in fact, be the biggest trend of our time; however, as it currently provides only one percent of mobile revenue, communications service provider (CSP) investment is being held back.
What the market seeks is a one-stop approach, or umbrella solution for connectivity and M2M applications—similar to the Ethernet-exchange or Cloud-broker principles currently being seen across the industry. Through this approach, there’s great potential for growth, particularly for value-added services, if CSPs can prioritize and exert discipline in M2M investments and resources.
Vendors focusing on specific vertical markets will be ideally placed to gain a seat at the table, as many verticals, such as utility, healthcare, manufacturing and retail, use some form of M2M. But as sure as death, tax and CAPEX reduction, CSPs are looking for a quick return on investment (ROI), and in order to improve time-to-market, they must first invest in the right enabling technology.
To truly succeed, they will need to build an enablement framework that includes a connectivity model, device templates, collection and data analysis—assuming that the 3G/4G network is either in place or under construction. Within this framework, a defined catalog of specific service descriptions, superior scalability and automation are all necessities, as is using collected data to make analytical assessments and provide proactive resolutions to problems. Some good examples include using smart-grid meter data for innovative pricing, or using automotive data to aid in preventative maintenance and warranty cost reduction—these, of course, are not even one percent of the potential uses of M2M technology.
A key concern related to the implementation of M2M is the massive IP scalability required for end-devices, and industry forums are already investigating how IPv6 will have a leading role to play. Another way to help address these concerns is through just-in-time device activation or dynamic SIM management, where retailers or equipment wholesalers can enable devices at the point-of-sale—bringing significant cost-efficiency. This approach could typically be welcomed in the impending introduction of new, SIM-enabled vehicles rolling off the production line.
Ultimately, initial reluctance of CSPs to make investments in M2M needs to be offset with assurances around operational efficiency and acceptable ROI dependent upon time-to-market. This coupled with an ability to automate, maintain cost control, billing models and OSS are key considerations CSPs must make in order to play in this opportunity-rich space.
Between meetings, presentations and all the other happenings at Management World Americas, we managed to steal a moment of time with Comptel’s vice president of the Caribbean and Latin America (CALA), Diego Becker, to discuss his thoughts on the event. Customer experience has been a common theme at the show, and in this short video, Diego expands on this and shares some thoughts on additional trends he’s seen arise from the event. Take a look at the below video for an update from the Management World Americas floor!
It’s been widely reported that video is making upthe majority ofmobile network traffic. Most recently, research has revealed that more than two-thirds of consumers are watching video on the iOS platform compared to other smartphone operating systems. The report from Futuresource further confirms that the increased viewing of mobile video has been driven by the huge uptake of smartphones and tablets, such as the iPad. However, the consulting firm, like many others, is sending out a warning message to mobile operators—many of which are going to start (and are already) coming under increased pressure to better manage the data and resources like bandwidth as the mobile video explosion continues.
“So with that growth in traffic from smartphones and these nebulous other devices, what are the implications for operators? Well, obviously, they’ve got a choice. Either they spend a lot of money upgrading the network in order to cope with that demand, which might not necessarily be profitable given the relative prices of mobile data compared to more traditional services. Or, they can leave money on the table, or they can provide a full user experience—none of these are particularly appealing propositions.”
Morrish and Hatton then went on to identify a number of ways in which mobile operators can manage this vast growth in mobile video usage and data traffic, but both were in agreement that it would be ideal to gain more spectrum:
“Getting hold of additional spectrum is obviously going to be a strong method of dealing with additional demand. Taking a European country as a typical example, 3G has around 150 MHz of spectrum in the 2.1 GHz band. There are two potential extra sets of spectrum available for use of data. The first is newly available spectrum, so that’s the 800 MHz digital dividend spectrum and the 2.6 GHz spectrum. Now that will add an additional 250-260 MHz of spectrum to the current 150 MHz.”
Of course, greater network capacity can only work to each operator’s advantage as better bandwidth and the ability to crunch through more data becomes more attractive to customers. For example, in the U.S., AT&T has been under attack for not being able to match the network capacity of rival Verizon, who won most of the bids for open spectrum in 2008. However, AT&T saw another route in gaining more spectrum this year, with the purchase of T-Mobile. But, it remains to be seen whether this will provide a fix to the capacity crunch.
Additionally, DNA has teamed up with Comptel in order to control traffic congestion on Radio Access Networks in real time and allow for maximum network utilisation—and remain competitive in Finland’s fierce mobile market.
Image via Mobile Marketing Watch
To read the full interview with Jim Morrish and Matt Hatton and to find out more information on Telecoms IQ’s Spectrum Management & Network Optimisation conference in September, please visit www.spectrummanagementevent.com.
Respondents first indicated that they believe CSPs, when compared to over-the-top (OTT) players, device manufacturers and operating system companies, provide the best customer experience. However, as Cisco’s Russ Kaufmann brought up, OTT players have a head start in providing good customer experience for cloud services. Alcatel-Lucent’s Pierre Dubost also made a good point—if asked the question of who provides the best customer experience two years ago, there likely would have been a very different answer. But, CSPs are really trying to invest in customer care and focus on driving brand loyalty rather just pushing products.
Supporting this, nine out of ten participants pointed to customer experience management as one of the major factors contributing to operators’ survival and success—because as Kaufmann pointed out, when things do go wrong, it can greatly affect churn. These responses support those of a Comptel-sponsored Vanson Bourne survey, which previously identified customer experience management as a significant potential revenue opportunity. Eighty-seven percent of consumers said that their quality of experience influences their allegiance to their CSP, and the majority of them would not only move but also pay more money for faster, more personalised services.
While the importance of a high customer experience was clear, there was general agreement that it’s difficult to determine what exactly will satisfy each customer. More than half (55%) of participants indicated that network performance has the greatest influence on the customer experience, yet all of the other responses varied. Dubost was right in saying that all of these factors are impactful—ultimately, CSPs require a holistic view of customer behaviour in order to better manage (and take the necessary actions to ensure) the customer experience.
Clearly aligned in thought, 100% of survey respondents recognised the value of leveraging network and other service data and their OSS; however, only about one-third of CSPs noted that they are fully utilising this information. There is a huge opportunity for operators to gain superior insight into customers and improve end-users’ experiences. With real-time data analysis and a close customer focus, CSPs can also boost their bottom lines, for example, through profiling for targeted marketing campaigns and traffic shaping for premium services.
Comptel is excited to see how operators take advantage of the opportunities a real-time, interactive and personalised OSS platform presents. What do you think of the interactive session discussion? For more information about the survey results, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.