Assurance from the customer's perspective

29 Aug 2006

As Asia's mobile markets continue to grow and become increasingly competitive, cellcos are faced with the challenge of increasing revenues via new next-generation services while differentiating themselves in a way that increases customer loyalty and reduces churn.

If that wasn't a tall enough order, they are also facing challenges in managing the quality of these services, which are becoming more complex thanks to IP convergence, via their existing, outdated stovepipe OSS systems. And complicating things even further is the need to assure the successful delivery of these services across multi-vendor/multi-technology network environments at low cost.

As such, cellcos in the region are focusing on service assurance solutions, which promise to address not only operational costs, but also service differentiation, says Marco de Booij, Asia director of global telecom business solutions at LogicaCMG.

'They are increasingly adopting sophisticated causal analysis techniques to bolster their fault management capabilities, and adopting service quality management [SQM] solutions to invigorate their service level agreement capabilities,' he says.

But while SQM solutions enable operators to monitor and manage services from a network performance perspective, they provide no direct measure of actual service quality as perceived by the end-user, says Nathan Rae, director of channel sales and marketing at Vallent.

'The challenges facing mobile operators today is that network management solutions are designed to monitor network level faults and performance, but they do not provide a view of the customer experience,' Rae says. 'This makes it extremely difficult to prioritize engineering activities toward the most valuable customers.'

Business support systems (BSS), on the other hand, are focused on managing customer activation, provisioning, billing and basic care processes. As a result, Rae says, the customer-facing customer care and sales departments have no view of network data like dropped calls, unsuccessful attempted calls and a number of other variables that impact the customer's perceived experience of using a service.

'The only level of detail customer care has is 'successful' calls made, as those will have been billed for,' he says.

To bridge the gap between network data and customer-facing teams (and their tools and applications) vendors say operators should move toward a customer-centric SQM process that gives them a view of the customer experience coupled with holistic end-to-end service transparency.

Holistic view

Companies such as Vallent and Telcordia have already introduced advanced SQM solutions that analyze services through advanced service modeling and correlating feeds from performance management, signaling and network probes. IBM is also introducing a similar concept called 'user quality management' (UQM), which extends service management and monitoring to the end-user experience.

One of the key benefits of customer-centric SQM/UQM solutions is that they deliver different views of quality required by several groups of people across the network from the same communications thread, so it can be rolled up into a single view, says Dan Baker, research director of OSS/BSS KnowledgeBase at Dittberner Associates.

In this way, 'SQM has the long-term potential of breaking down organizational barriers within telecom operations, helping to promote cross-departmental efficiency and cost savings,' Baker says.

More significantly, customer-centric SQM/UQM enables operators to manage and monitor their services and network in a pre-emptive way rather than a reactive way, solving network and server problems before they affect customers.

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