Why Mobile Operators Need to Think About Strategic Experience Design

Posted: April 7th, 2014 | Author: Special Contributor | Filed under: Industry Insights, Telecom Trends | Tags: , | No Comments »

Steve Jobs was famous for his obsession with design. He believed that to make a brilliant product, one needs to control the design of all aspects of the product and not rely on third parties if that means losing control over design.

This obsession led to many Apple products that stand out as being superior in terms of the full customer experience, which in turn helped the company grow and build a loyal customer base.

Most operators’ strategy includes the term Customer Experience in one way or another. Even so, are operators really focused on this throughout all steps of their product development process? Are they thinking strategically about Experience Design?

Comptel recently introduced the term Strategic Experience Design, explaining how this focuses on mapping journeys that customers will take with a product or service.

For example, let’s look at a mature market operator serving customers on tariff plans with data volume caps. Our operator offers a streaming music service accessed through operator-specific apps. The music service is very popular among customers and the operator has put a lot of effort into the app design to provide a good customer experience, aligning layout and functionality with other apps and websites from a set of Experience Design guidelines.

As data traffic increases in the mobile network, more and more customers reach their monthly data volume cap and need to decide whether to top-up or upgrade to a bigger plan.

What the operator might not realise though is that 90 percent of customers who reach their monthly volume cap do so while listening to music on the operator’s music streaming service. And reaching the cap results in a negative customer experience because the music pauses without any message explaining why.

To get this insight, the operator would have to combine data from several systems that are usually not combined – or get feedback from a large number of customers.

Using this insight, the operator could improve the music streaming app to be aware of the data capping and include options for customers to decide how the app should behave when they reach their data cap during music streaming. The additions to the app design could be a real-time data volume counter in the app and settings to allow automatic top-up if the customer’s cap is reached during streaming. In addition, the network could allow music streaming beyond a customer’s cap until the end of the next track or playlist.

Incorporating these levels of awareness and interaction between apps and the network is an example of Strategic Experience Design. The operator leverages all data sources to gain insights and allow apps to interact with them in real time to offer the best possible customer experience. Our operator’s current approach has resulted in a very good app, but the customer experience is hampered by the fact that not every journey has been mapped out.

By thinking about Strategic Experience Design, the operator gains a competitive advantage over third-party music streaming apps, which can’t offer the levels of awareness and interaction between apps and the network. This would act as a retention driver leading to improved loyalty and also as an acquisition driver leading to customer base growth (once the competitive advantage is understood outside the operator’s current customer base).

This is very much like what Steve Jobs did at Apple.

He applied an almost obsessive hands-on approach throughout all steps of a product design to ensure brilliant products – often rejecting ideas of development engineers on subjective design grounds. And although Steve Jobs didn’t have a term for his obsession and occasionally had an unstructured approach, he successfully used Strategic Experience Design as a true differentiator.

This is a guest post from Allan Greve, a co-owner of tefficient.

Tefficient is an international efficiency specialist providing telecom operators and -suppliers withanalysis, benchmarks, consulting and coaching.

Why Telcos Need to Pay More Attention to Strategic Experience Design

Posted: January 10th, 2014 | Author: Malla Poikela | Filed under: Industry Insights | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The telecommunications industry is no stranger to commoditisation. As over-the-top (OTT) players like Skype and WhatsApp bite into traditional sources of revenue, there has been a scramble to compensate for those lost profits elsewhere. That has generally meant charging more for data or thinking about how predictive analytics can help build more sophisticated marketing offers.

Yet all of that activity often overlooks one central theme: strategic experience design. The commoditisation of technology has changed the battleground from the technology itself to the design of the product – in short, the user and customer experience.

Together, these two elements fall under the umbrella of strategic experience design.  It’s not just your customers that benefit from that kind of holistic design; it’s your customer’s customers.

Psychology and Design

At the heart of good user and customer experience is an understanding of applied psychology. How are people using your product? What do they expect, and what’s the flow from the start to the finish?

At Comptel, we believe that good design comes from collaboration, honesty and respect. Communications service providers (CSPs) shouldn’t be afraid of listening to customer feedback on the experience of their products, or of collaborating across traditional department boundaries to apply the strengths of the virtual working team for a better final product.

When we choose to undertake strategic experience design for our own customers, Comptel doesn’t just draw a blueprint of what we want the user experience to look like – we map journeys of our customers’ needs. To do that, we directly involve customers in the process, ensuring that we never create a product in isolation of our audience. That ensures that the end result will be an intuitive and extremely efficient platform for CSPs.

A Different Approach

Strategic experience design should be created from four different best practice steps. Initially, it’s about the requirements of the user. That sets the baseline for the next step: the concept. The concept creates the abstract of the experience itself and helps to decide the design goals, and what needs to happen in order to achieve it.

From there, the experience design moves onto the base design. That’s where the different user journeys are defined within the product.  During this phase, a presentation is built that helps to visualise the flow of the design. That’s important when it comes to the last step, sensorial design. At this point, the layouts, prototypes and sensorial assets, such as graphics, animations and sounds, are input that complete the experience, finalising both the look and feel of the product interface.

A New Kind of Experience

For a long time, technology has taken the helm, steering all other elements of the product. With the commoditisation of so many telecommunications services, that’s changed. People won’t remember the technology you provide so much as the experience you provide them.

Comptel has recognised this, which is why strategic experience design is an integral part of our product creation and solution packaging, from day one to customer delivery. And why we think that we will lead the way in this space by leading by example.

Abe’s Law of Experience Design

Posted: December 3rd, 2013 | Author: Juho Paasonen | Filed under: Industry Insights | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

There once was a sharp-dressing American gentleman named Abraham Lincoln. He was a great man by many standards, and there’s also a brilliant quote from him I always use as the first slide of all of my presentations and lectures: “The best way to predict your future is to create it.”

I think Honest Abe was spot on – why wait for the world to change, when you can just roll up your sleeves and get the wheels turning? At Comptel, we’ve adopted Abe’s wise words as our unofficial slogan in our mission to drive a meaningful, usable, and delightful user journey for customers across all of our products.

Beyond UI

Good user experience doesn’t happen by accident. It’s rooted much, much, deeper than just the graphical user interface. These are self-evident fundamentals that the likes of Jony Ive from Apple have made very visible in the consumer product space over the past decade, but strangely are still not widely adopted in professional software markets. The simple fact of the matter is that in a domain as business-critical and complex as OSS, putting proper weight on your user experience – instead of just the user interface – is even more important than with consumer products.

To that end, Comptel is dedicated to making a dent in our industry through strategic experience design. For us, user experience is not an obligatory final touch at the end of the R&D pipeline, it’s a driving force that runs deep throughout the organisation – from Product Managers, UX Designers, and Development teams, who work together to lay the basic bricks for the user journey, all the way to sales and service teams. We are all responsible for contributing to the overall user and customer experience in our daily work.

In the coming months, we’ll share more on the importance user and customer experience and offer further insight on today’s design trends. You will have the chance to get to know Comptel’s creative process, as well as our research methods and the design tools that we’re using to redefine experience design as we know it.

This is most definitely not a monologue, so we would love to hear your thoughts on the current stage of experience design in the OSS space. Please take this opening piece as an invitation to an honest dialogue, whether in the comments section below, on Twitter (https://twitter.com/ediootti), or over a very real cup of coffee in a face-to-face conversations!

Juho Paasonen is Head of Experience Design at Comptel