CRM for prepaid customers

Dominic Smith, Cerillion Technologies
Billing and OSS Asia

Most telcos are used to engaging with their postpaid customers using sophisticated customer relationship management (CRM) solutions and highly efficient CRM processes. Operators typically draw on classic call center techniques such as knowledge of customer history and key demographics, for example, to inform the overall approach to service delivery and drive up-sell and cross-sell opportunities.

By contrast, prepaid customers have traditionally been serviced using only basic administration systems and rudimentary self-care, supplemented by text messages and handset alerts.

Today, this situation is changing. In advanced markets, many operators have made significant progress in upgrading their prepaid CRM capability. In emerging regions, however, it is now becoming an area of critical concern and telecom providers who can quickly address the CRM challenges can take the lead over their competitors in this area.

Keeping the customer happy

Operators have always been painfully aware that because their prepaid customers are not contracted, it is easy for them to switch to a competitive offering. For this reason, operators are increasingly recognizing the need to develop closer relationships with prepaid customers and raise their loyalty levels. After all, while postpaid customers are typically contacted once a month through the medium of a printed or electronic bill, the way prepaid accounts are structured means that there are few natural opportunities for dialogue between operator and prepaid user.

The key for operators then is to encourage and promote more effective engagement with their prepaid customers and then ensure that they have the tools in place to manage this communication more effectively.

Providing an incentive

Operators in the past have typically delivered two different levels of service to prepaid customers. The most basic has been provided to customers that wish to remain anonymous. In certain parts of the world, where regulation still permits prepaid anonymity, this group represents a significant proportion of all prepaid users. However, operators in the more advanced markets have been providing incentives to those prepaid customers that are prepared to give more information about themselves in exchange for a reward.

They might, for example, give each customer an extra bundle of text messages or throw in additional services free of charge, if those users supply their name, address and information about their interests. If operators are serious about offering more effective CRM, it is critical that they capture this kind of basic information as the foundation for developing and enhancing the customer experience.

Putting it in context

Operators regularly use techniques like data mining and data warehousing to analyze usage patterns and build customer intelligence. Yet, to deliver a better level of service, they need to understand much more about who their customers are, what they do, to whom they are related both in a family and a business context and, most critically, whether they are likely to be influential in the way other people use the service. This is more important than ever in the new era of online social networking.

For these reasons, they need to pinpoint each user's precise role. Are they the head of the household‾ Do they have a prepaid service for home, but also a key senior management role within the workplace‾ These factors will, and indeed should, influence the approach that the operator takes in providing CRM.

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