Closing the QoE gap

Susana Schwartz
Billing and OSS Supplement

As service providers consider the possibilities of a two-sided business model where they become "enablers" to value-chain partners as well as bit pipes over which voice, data and multimedia services travel, they must consider the smartest way to pursue transformation in preparation for telco 2.0 and Web 2.0 services.

They must pay attention to the number of technology-oriented transformations that have screeched to a halt because "customer experience" had not been factored in. Too often, customers ended up overwhelmed or disenchanted, and customer care and CRM systems over burdened.

Competing and partnering with the likes of Google, Yahoo or Amazon requires that service providers think like "retailers" so they can control customer experience in the same way Wal-Mart, Toyota or Apple does. As just one rudiment of a growing value chain, telcos will have to be able to re-use and reassemble third-party offerings to create bundles that blend prepaid, real-time capabilities with hybrid and postpaid capabilities.

"As things get commoditized, it comes down to choice and control," says Gabriel Matsliach, general manager for billing and active customer management at Comverse. "As operators' financial exposure goes up, they need to find interesting ways to deliver third-party services to customers in meaningful bundles while simultaneously managing risk to recoup costs, such as payments to third parties.

To appeal to their audiences, service providers need an end-to-end view starting from pre-service aspects of the customer lifecycle (before a person becomes a customer), all the way through to procurement, consumption, assurance, customer care and billing as well as beyond to the point of recommendation of the service to other people (i.e, through social networks). Only with a holistic approach can service providers convert from reactive to proactive care, promotions, personalization and customization for customers.

As the definition between customer and end-user is made clear, there are three lifecycles to manage, according to Matsliach. First, is the immediate - the moment of opportunity where customer is encouraged to continue with service with promotion or special offer that helps customer feel he's gained something.

The second is the current-state, where the operator offers services tailored to the customer's current situation (i.e., single and relying mostly on mobile phone so giving choice and control most valuable to him). The last is the longer-term lifecycle, where service providers leverage longevity of relationship by proactively recognizing changes in customer's life (i.e., marriage and move to new home, so offer triple play or family plan).

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