Recently, I was walking in New York City looking for a restaurant, and I used my phone’s mapping application to see my exact location. I searched for “local restaurants Bobby Flay.” I tapped one result, which showed me the address and, with another tap, I was calling and placing a reservation. The phone’s GPS function directed me right to its door. Inside, I heard a song that I didn’t know but I liked. I opened another application that told me the song’s name and the mobile online store where I could buy it. I instantly downloaded the song to my phone and listened to it while I walked back to my hotel.
|Chambers: Apple should have worked out iPhone bugs before coming to market.|
This example shows how new services, new functions and new applications change the way we use our phones. This is good news for customers and better news for operators. However, it means customer’s expectations are higher than ever, and instant gratification is critical for intentional customer experience. This creates a tremendous opportunity for operators that can meet these expectations. Those that do will attract more customers, launch new revenue-generating services faster, and establish greater brand affinity.
We’ve heard about product introductions such as Apple’s 3G iPhone, which on release faced major complaints regarding data performance, poor battery life and service activation delays. Many articles were dedicated to these issues and often involved the three key players: the operator, the handset manufacturer and the application developer. This demonstrates how it’s the entire customer experience – from order to service delivery – that’s being assessed, not just the new gadget or service capability.
Operators must address many considerations in order to deliver a positive intentional experience when launching any new product or service. For example:
- How easy is finding and ordering products on the operator’s Website or shop?
- Is sales information easily available and comprehensive?
- Are new services or products pre-configured and ready for use?
- Are customer care representatives trained to understand and respond to common issues?
- Are bills correct and easily understood?
Fickle customers with a bad experience can result in churn with a greater loss of lifetime revenue when compared to the additional revenue from introducing one new service. Information at the point of sale (shop or Website) should clearly state available services and required dependencies, such as a handset upgrade. Once sold, business processes should smoothly enable the service and activate appropriate network and device configurations so the service is immediately ready.
NO SACRIFICE OF QUALITY
Most operators recognize the need to provide intentional and positive experiences. In a recent Amdocs-commissioned survey, operators stated they wouldn’t sacrifice quality for an early product launch. Nearly one-third of respondents ranked customer experience as the business transformation driver. Improved customer experience makes operators ensure new services are successful. Lab trials, field trials and extensive testing are common for major new services.
While testing may delay a launch, it avoids disasters and lets the service quickly scale to meet high-volume demands. Apple would have benefited by waiting a few months and providing a better overall initial experience when the 3G iPhone launched. I don’t think it expected to sell more than 1 million in the first weekend. However, customers want these services immediately and pressure is always on for early release.
Operators partnered with vendors that bring experience, pre-packaged business processes, and necessary services can get new services to market faster while ensuring positive customer experiences. In other words, quality isn’t traded for speed.
CLOSING THE GAP
Customer experience for fixed and wireless markets is different. In fixed environments, updating firmware to add services and functions was normal with equipment that had long life spans. For wireless, it hasn’t been worthwhile to manage firmware updates. It’s best to wait for version upgrades with the handsets and contracts with short life spans.
However, that approach is changing. For example:
- Apple actively pushes firmware updates to iPhones. This mechanism also can benefit consumers by expanding the range of services, improving usability and correcting faults.
- Operators are extending their average contract length and reducing subsidies on phone upgrades. This affects mobile phone manufacturer revenues.
In addition to annoying users, software glitches degrade network performance. Operators will be expected to avoid poor customer experiences by upgrading firmware via automated remote updates.
COMPLEX TECHNICAL ENVIRONMENT
Large financial investments in equipment translate to long equipment retention and higher proportions of legacy equipment. Furthermore, mergers and rapid growth often mean equipment is from multiple vendors.
The legacy equipment challenge is solved by introducing new technologies that allow a mix of legacy and current equipment with associated interworking, management and service options.
Each equipment vendor may have excellent network management tools, but coordination across multiple vendor and multitechnology networks is essential to achieving the goals described above.
The time from order to service activation is crucial to meet customer expectations. Customers used to instantaneous Internet experiences demand the same rapid delivery from other businesses, including wireless operators.
Often, an operational support system (OSS) must take each processed commercial order and initiate activation commands for all equipment involved in service delivery. One common OSS technique to accelerate activation involves pre-provisioning equipment so that it’s ready to use at the store. For example, new customers of a prepaid service can use the service immediately upon leaving a store. Post-paid credit checks can be processed offline and implemented shortly thereafter.
Coordinating across multivendor environments is critical, and investing in a commercial OSS that integrates service delivery and device management in these types of environments is the only way to achieve ideal customer experience.
We’ve also seen a growing trend for assessing the capabilities of a customer’s equipment and location to support the range of offered services. This maximizes the selling opportunity for all available revenue streams while avoiding disappointment by offering undeliverable services.
In wireline environments, many service providers have pre-tested the copper loops and can predict broadband service availability and estimated line speed. Similarly, cable operators can determine what services are deliverable and supportable in the customer’s service area.
Many wireless operators publish coverage maps and can estimate 2G and 3G performance for any address. Customers can be offered appropriate services by combining this location data with information about their current mobile device.
Mobile service providers recognize the need to rapidly launch new services without negatively affecting quality, customer service or operational costs. Improving customer experience requires further investment in OSS. Today’s solutions can identify, design and rapidly deliver appropriate services for each customer needed to meet current and future market demands.
Chambers is responsible for OSS mobile solutions at Amdocs.