Can telecommunications players work across the network and marketing divide?

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"OH, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet"

When Rudyard Kipling published his famous “The Ballad of East and West” in 1889 , he probably wasn’t thinking of the Marketing and the Network departments of a telecom operator. Yet this telco twain, too, hardly meets.

Locked up in their towers, the great men and women of Marketing and Networks too often stay put in their own domains, with the customer and his or her experience stuck in the middle. How often do we see a customer with a bad service experience – like many dropped calls or a malfunctioning set-top box at home – targeted by East for an upsell campaign whilst West only monitors average network performances, and reports “all quiet on the Western front”?

The average customer, as we all know, does not exist. Only real customers, like you and me. And even if all network element KPIs are in the green, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the customer experience is too. And if our service experience is bad, chances are that we’re not going to buy anything extra, and that we won’t “promote” our provider.

That is something Christos Palaskas, Network Director at OTE-Cosmote in Greece, realised when he set up a customer experience management project combining data and analytics across the network and CRM domains. As he explained at the SAS Telco Executive Connect conference in Athens this February, monitoring customer experience will become paramount. Particularly because the growing complexities of new technologies such as 4.5G  and future 5G potentially increase the gap between measured network element performance and the quality perceived by individual customers.

Telecom use cases in customer experience management

The real revolution is collaboration between different departments.

But the real revolution probably is not bringing data and analytics together across the “divide.” The real revolution is collaboration between different departments: Networks, IT, CRM, Marketing and Sales. Enabled by enterprisewide data and analytics platforms, of course. Working across the divide. Sharing best practices, ways of working and models.

Relevant use cases in customer experience management – working across the divide

Moving from network-centric KPIs to customer-centric KPIs, operators such as OTE monitor the end-to-end services as experienced by individual customers. So, for instance: call drops, access failures, SMS delivery time, video start delays, device performance per application, HTTP page loading time, voice over IP speech quality, Wi-Fi optimisation and even VIP customer real-time monitoring. And it’s not only reactive. Predictive maintenance is also brought into the equation; for example, advanced analytics to predict possible outages and service interruptions of a network element or an IPTV set-top box. So before the affected and often annoyed customer calls about a bad service experience, a preventive action can be taken. So less call centre costs, a higher ARPU and a better – or at least, not lowered – NPS. And a happy customer can be targeted better for the next upsell campaign by Marketing.

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Returning the favour: How marketing models can help steer network investments

The analytical propensity and customer value models made by Marketing can in turn also help Network roll out prioritisation, whether it’s 4.5G, future 5G or FTTH. A model of customer revenue per site can enable rollout prioritisation based on a much more precise estimate of current and future revenues, as well as expected increases. Improved customer experience, as well as the ROI, is crucial for an asset-heavy industry like telecoms.

Caution: The coming AI need for collaboration

For those who think learning and improving models and algorithms will in itself solve the problems arising from disparate islands of data and uncooperative departments, I say think again. Being data-driven in the wrong direction – without the proper guidance, governance, collaboration and value creation – can create bigger problems, certainly with the rise of new techniques such as deep machine learning and AI. All models need data, and you want your models to learn from the best possible data your teams across the company can feed them. And that requires guidance and collaboration. More than ever before.

It is therefore important not to stop at the first line of Kipling’s often misquoted poem, but to read on and understand it’s very much about collaboration:

"But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!"

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About Author

Matthieu Joosten

After finishing my PhD in comms sciences at City University London I worked as a strategy consultant, wholesale director and later as an IT director at a European telecom operator. Advised operators in the US, Middle East and Europe on their B2B, wholesale and digital strategies before joining SAS being responsible for the telecom market in South West Europe.

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