Guest post by Shira Levine, Directing Analyst, Next Gen OSS and Policy, at Infonetics Research
As we approach the end of 2011 and I try to summarize the top trends of the year, three words keep flashing into my consciousness from countless PowerPoint presentations, trade show signs, and conference agendas: customer experience management. Suddenly, the customer is a hot topic, and how to manage him has been fodder for endless conversations of the last year—and, dare I say, a certain amount of hype.
What exactly is customer experience management (CEM)? It depends on who you’re talking to; there’s no standardized definition put out by the 3GPP or the TM Forum. A network management or test vendor would probably discuss CEM in terms of service management, while a CRM or billing vendor would frame it in the context of customer care. Nor do operators seem to have a universal sense of what CEM means, with varying views based on factors such as the competitive environment and regulatory requirements, and even variation between the departments of a single operator.
My personal opinion is that CEM is all about understanding how the subscriber wants to interact with his/her CSP, and acting accordingly. That could mean an acknowledgment and an apology after a certain number of dropped calls, and possibly even a credit. It could mean personalized advertising and promotions based on past usage. Or perhaps it could mean interacting with the operator via a social networking site such as Twitter or Facebook, or through more traditional means. I think CEM is about giving customers options, and letting them make decisions about their services.
And though CEM does indeed have a lot to do with customer care, billing, and service assurance, policy management plays a huge and often underappreciated role. Policy may have once been all about bandwidth control, but the next generation of policy management solutions is focused on how operators can offer subscribers more targeted and personalized services with demonstrable value—characteristics most operators’ service offerings sorely lack.
Take most data plans as an example. We all know by now that flat-rate all-you-can-eat data plans are unprofitable and unsustainable, but operators looking to transition to tiered billing models face subscriber backlash—in large part because customers question the value of tiered plans. For them, a tiered plan means a bucket of bandwidth per month, without a way to understand how that translates into usage, and a constant worry about exceeding that quota (and incurring overage fees) or under-using the bandwidth and leaving that money on the table.
Policy management allows the operator to add context to those new service models, by correlating service requirements with available bandwidth and presenting that information to the subscriber in a way she can understand. Rather than selling subscribers buckets of data, an operator could sell a movie package that includes four HD movies each month with guaranteed quality of service plus a set number of hours of Internet browsing, or market a service to Twitter junkies that exempts traffic from social networking sites from monthly quotas. Or in the case of a shared data plan—the subject of a white paper I recently co-wrote—a family could share a certain number of movies or hours of online gaming or Internet usage across devices, as opposed to a bucket of Gigabits each family member pulls from.
Why, then, aren’t more operators deploying these new service plans? It’s certainly not a technical issue—these business models are all feasible, given the relative maturity of the commercially available solutions. I believe the stumbling block is the far more pervasive one of service provider mindset. CEM is a giant paradigm shift; the service is no longer about what the network can support, but about what the customer wants. For this to occur, operators need to break down their traditional internal silos—departmental silos, network silos, service silos, etc.—and work more collaboratively, sharing information and solutions. Until that occurs, the term “customer experience management” is likely to remain a buzzword instead of becoming a reality.
With 15 years as an analyst and journalist in the telecommunications industry, Shira Levine joined Infonetics Research in April 2009 an accomplished expert in the OSS, billing, and service delivery platform markets. She authors several Infonetics equipment market size and forecast reports on policy servers, service delivery platform (SDP) software and services, and subscriber data management (SDM) software and services, as well as an ongoing series of Continuous Research Service (CRS) notes and surveys on important communication industry players, technologies, and service provider trends.
No related posts.