15 Oct 2014

Spending money where it counts!


Written by: Erik Couture, EVP Sales at Polystar

Despite spending millions of dollars on expensive advertising campaigns, CSPs are still uncertain about where higher revenue can be found and how better customer loyalty can be created. It’s a bit like shooting arrows in the dark: they hope they will find the target, but they can’t be sure. It would be better if CSPs could find a way to be more focused and to choose more visible targets.

Consider the problem of churn. When an individual customer moves to another provider, there’s a huge cost involved in trying to win them back. The cost is much higher if it’s a large corporation with many employees, but the rewards are greater, as it is likely to have a correspondingly higher level of expenditure. Such customers regularly spend significant amounts on premium services, such as VPN, or international voice and data traffic. If one of these customers moves to another CSP, it can have a significant impact. Put simply, CSPs can’t afford to lose such high-value accounts. Large corporate accounts represent hard-won assets: they must be protected and nurtured.

These are clearly identifiable and highly visible targets. CSPs have to prioritise their efforts so that, while they take a broad-brush approach to mass-market advertising, they also adopt a more focused approach with such accounts. One way to achieve this is to invest in enhancing customer satisfaction, so that they reduce the likelihood of the most significant customers churning to a rival.

Time after time, market studies have shown that quality of service factors – and how they’re interpreted by customers – are the single most important predictors of user satisfaction. Customer satisfaction is the key factor in churn. Increased satisfaction increases customer retention. This doesn’t mean that things have to be perfect all of the time. In many cases, customers can tolerate temporarily degraded service qualities but only if they’re proactively alerted in advance to specific geographic or service-specific issues or, again proactively, offered bill reductions or free service to compensate for any impact on their experience.

But CSPs can only adopt such tactics if they have systems in place to  identify potential service-affecting issues before they hit the customer. Such service assurance systems need accurate information that provides the required service performance data. This information can deliver insight that can be used to support active, agile account management and a more customer-centric orientation. In addition, these insights will lead to enhancements in overall network quality, to the benefit of all customers. It’s a far better strategy to invest in appropriate CEM and service assurance systems and tools to ensure that any service issues don’t accumulate to create churn in the first place. Customer satisfaction is paramount.

These insights also have the potential to help CSPs in other ways, First, they can enable CSPs to direct network investments to the places in which they will deliver the best return, both in terms of revenues and customer experience: real-time network insights help target investment and enable CSPs to proactively manage service quality for their customers. This helps drives efficiency, as costly investments can pay better dividends and are not spread where they will have least impact.

Second, the same information can yield insights that allow new service offers and enhancements to be delivered to key customers. As we noted, delivering better customer satisfaction is key – but it’s just the initial step in a journey towards putting the customer first and delivering services and packages that really meet their needs. Information obtained from service assurance systems enables such processes to be created, based on objective information and not guesswork.

To deliver this kind of information, you need to first gather data in format- and vendor-agnostic ways from multiple sources. All elements involved in service or content delivery, spanning all relevant parts of the infrastructure must be covered. By converting this data into standard business objects reusable across different platforms, it becomes possible to expose it to all relevant supporting systems across the entire OSS/BSS environment. This enables the interpretation of the collected data, driving insight and improvement in vital areas, such as customer account management, as well as providing tactical information on user behaviour that can then be used for upselling new tariff plans, new devices and for enabling the targeted delivery of new services, tuned to actual user needs.

Service assurance has become a critical function, not just for the smooth operation of the network but also for ensuring consistent customer satisfaction. Gathering and delivering the required information to the right systems is a fundamental aspect of a CSP’s business. Quality of service, which is the foundation of service assurance, accounts for more than 50% of the influencing factors in customer experience. If customers experience poor service quality, all other efforts CSPs make to influence their experience will be wasted. CSPs therefore need to implement service assurance and optimisation programmes in a cost-effective manner. In essence, if CSPs don’t deliver the right quality to the right users, other investments will be seriously undermined.

This is a huge topic. It involves all aspects of the CSP’s organisation and can consume many resources. As such, it’s essential to minimise risk and to focus investment where it can deliver the most immediate returns – and support a customer centric strategy that targets the most valuable customers, such as large corporate accounts. While the integration of multiple sources of data for different platforms to consume is one option, another is to deploy a standalone platform that performs all of these tasks, including the presentation of data to other solutions.

Polystar provides both standalone and fully integrated solutions that can be deployed quickly to collect the information required to support such a programme. They include integrated CEM functionality and can be used to deliver subscriber, customer and marketing analytics, which enable CSPs to build new offers and specialised programmes for their customers, and to enhance network quality and optimise investments.

To spend money where it counts, you first have to know what matters. If you choose the right targets and use objective data to deliver exceptional service and performance, then everyone else can benefit too – but the CSP will be more certain of obtaining return on investments. More importantly, these investments will be more likely to have a positive impact on the bottom line. Data helps illuminate the target and ensures you don’t shoot arrows into the dark.

Meet Polystar at AfricaCom stand B36 to discuss how you can deliver a better experience for your customers.