In a study of mobile operators by management consultancy Accenture, quality of customer experience emerged as the biggest challenge for 75% of top telco executives while over 90% said they needed new tools to understand customers better. The customer driven operator is emerging but has many hurdles to overcome before the old-style carriers - focused on minutes, megabytes and network efficiency - are consigned to history.
A study of mobile operator senior executives by Maravedis-Rethink's MOSA (Mobile Operator Strategy Analysis) service highlighted similar trends. About 75% of the respondents said they needed to transform their business processes to be driven by customer needs not network requirements. But only one-third of those cellcos believe they have achieved that, and only 10% have a full visibility of their subscribers' preferences, experience and usage.
Three main short- to medium-term goals need to be achieved to enable the customer driven telco:
- Achieve a single holistic view of each customer across all their devices, plans and applications
- Relate that customer information tightly to network information such as the user's location and quality of connection, on a real-time basis
- Establish strong two-way communication with customers to understand their needs and to respond proactively to any problems
All this requires investment in new tools and skills, and in creating far tighter ties between data traditionally held in IT systems such as billing and CRM platforms, with real time network information including quality of service, faults and charging.
Two other major developments are encouraging operators to take a very different approach to their users, and to rethink their business processes. One is that, increasingly, the shift from voice to data is actually a shift to internet services, and the customer experience has to be measured in terms of web services and identities rather than conventional data rates and apps. The other is that the operator's own back-end systems are moving away from dedicated hardware and even in-house data centers, toward private clouds and software-as-a-service.
Both these huge trends may help companies become more customer driven, since many are re-evaluating their processes from scratch anyway. But they can also add yet another layer of complexity to a transformation that was already daunting to most telco management teams in terms of the cost, risk and disruption involved. There is also a cultural issue, as IT and networking teams - with very different skills and approaches - must work together closely and even converge entirely, while also taking on board the new demands and relationships of the cloud world.