The ubiquitous theme at the OSS/BSS Asia-Pacific Summit was customer centricity - understanding it, transforming to it, managing it and profiting from it. Another common thread at the event, organized by Frost & Sullivan at the end of March in Singapore, was that the network is no longer the main focus.
Although there was much debate as to whether the network is now a commodity, the consensus is the industry has moved from a focus on the network to a focus on services, which fundamentally changes the business models and requires a complete mindset shift.
Pawel Grochowicz, Telecom New Zealand's GM for retail transformation, noted in his presentation on 'Transforming to customer centricity' that telcos have always struggled with providing services. 'Telecom providers have no deep-rooted history of service differentiation - changing little over the past 100 years. Basically they have been provisioning communications with services added on top.'
He says operators can differentiate in three ways - price, product innovation and customer experience. While their focus has been mostly on price and product innovation, these aren't lasting as they damage profitability and are hard to maintain. That leaves customer experience, but Grochowicz argues that telcos have a poor track record and few skills to purse this approach.
'Huge change management and organizational learning are required,' he said.
To get there he recommends starting with customer experiencing mapping - looking at the ideal outcomes - and ignoring the technology. >From there translate the requisite customer experience into the processes that deliver it and then design the systems. 'Don't let systems get in the way of your customer-experience goals.'
Differentiating services through the customer experience can result in substantially lower costs brought by increased automation and empowering customers with self-service tools.
Karl Whitelock, senior consulting analyst with Stratecast Partners in the US, said that as an industry 'we probably have more data than any other industry on the planet. But we don't know what to do with it. The real challenge is making sense of it.'
He said we're seeing a move toward customer experience management from the mobile and converged services markets - both consumer and enterprise customers. 'Without clear customer experience measures, transforming to a customer-centric business will remain a desired objective rather than an achievable reality.'
The real challenge, he said, resides in collection of transaction data, aggregating and enriching it to the right levels of usability, and modifying internal processes to reflect a true customer-centric business.
Whitelock also pointed out that a common customer record is fundamental to all parts of today's real-time service needs: customer care, billing, provisioning/activation and assurance.
In his keynote address, Vodafone Pacific (New Zealand) project director David Moss discussed the many challenges in replacing the company's entire legacy OSS infrastructure. Despite the huge scale - the complete transformation will take four years and involved 300 to 450 people at its peak - he insisted Vodafone had no choice. 'It's a race so we could respond quickly to competitive threats by allowing flexible products and pricing.'
Moss explained that the key factors to success are executive support, as there is a high risk of failure, and a highly skilled team of staff and partners.