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Harvesting operational data to improve the customer experience

The operators that deliver a unique, superior telecoms service can expect loyal customers to be willing to pay more for the service.

This piece originally appeared in Telecoms software perspectives, an exclusive Analysys Mason publication for TM Forum Management World 2012.

Telecoms softwareNetwork operators have realised that a good customer experience means more than providing a reliable network service. This is a departure from the thinking that dominated the business tenets of most incumbent operators during the past 50 years. I am not saying that network reliability and resiliency are not important, but other factors in the market are driving how the network operator provides a better customer experience. One particular driver is the move from simple voice and data communication towards more-personalised, multimedia-based services delivered over many different access channels. In the consumer market, communications service providers (CSPs) are moving from mobile voice and messaging services to more-advanced multimedia services that provide Internet browsing, music downloads and video services. The operators that deliver a unique, superior telecoms service can expect loyal customers to be willing to pay more for the service.

Although many approaches exist to measure and monitor the customer experience, I intend to only focus on structured network data. This is data that is collected from network elements: passive probes in the signalling network, deep packet monitoring appliances, subscriber data in the home location register (HLR) or the home subscriber server (HSS) and software agents on smartphones. Figure 1 provides a simple information flow of data sources, via the analytics layer and reports specific to roles in the organisation.

Figure 1: Network monitoring structured data sources for analytics and customer experience management [Source: Analysys Mason, 2012]

 Network monitoring structured data sources for analytics and customer experience management

Customer experience management (CEM) is the ability to manage each interaction between the subscriber and the CSP in different parts of the business. CSPs are driven to invest in CEM primarily in order to put relevant business information in front of customer care, service quality specialist and product managers. The data collected from the network is a treasure trove of information about subscriber usage, perceived quality of service and behavioural patterns. Some of this data is structured and other information is unstructured but valuable.

CEM is a strategic approach taken by the CSP to augment business processes and integrate a myriad of data sets and software systems in order to improve the subscribers’ experience. In order for a business to assess the customer experience, each interaction must be managed across each part of the business where the customer evaluates, orders, uses and pays for the product or service.

The market forces increasing the awareness of customer experience are in part being driven by the commoditisation of telecoms services – particularly voice and the threat posed by new participants in the telecoms economy that offer premium services over a broadband network. The threat posed by these new entrants is accelerating investments in CEM. CSPs are investing billions of dollars in capital to provide convergent mobile and fixed broadband services to consumers and businesses but this has not led to improvements in customer loyalty, which is reflected in price concessions and churn in mature segments of their business. Despite the incumbent status held by most Tier 1 and Tier 2 CSPs that serve millions of broadband and mobile subscribers, CSPs have acknowledged that their ability to assess customer satisfaction is limited. In many cases, subscriber information is scattered throughout different parts of the organisation making it difficult to gain a unified view of the customer. At the same time, the convergence of services brings with it technology and operational challenges. Instead of a single domain to manage, CSPs are faced with managing a tenfold increase in network and information technology (IT) domains.

CEM has many facets because to effectively manage the customer experience, different types of interactions will occur between the customer and the CSP during the lifecycle of the relationship. CSPs are actively investing in CEM for call centre customer care, which puts relevant information in front of customer care agents in near real time, allowing them to resolve problems faster and avoid costly escalation procedures.

As mobile operators improve their systems to understand patterns of customer usage, measure network quality and understand how their businesses are performing compared with those of their competitors, real-time data collection must be matched with customer experience. Many sources of data are available from passive probing systems, gateways, subscriber registries and endpoint devices. The challenge is to take all of this data and put it into the context of the user, which could be a customer care agent, network engineer or product marketing manager.

The marketplace is moving from highly customised solutions to more-commercial offers. Some of the major suppliers that have deployed solutions include Ericsson, IBM, HP, Nokia Siemens Networks and Tektronix. Other niche suppliers that have announced new products include Astellia, CommProve and The Now Factory.

Telecoms software perspectives


To help you get the most out of TM Forum's Management World 2012, we asked our experts to identify some of the key issues that will be important to you during the next 12 months.

We have collected the resulting articles and opinion pieces into one exclusive complimentary publication, Telecoms software perspectives, which is now available to download.