Industry Solutions: Communication Sector Blog Conventional
wisdom tells us that the telecom industry is generally safe from
fluctuating consumer demand, but with this current recession, we may
have to rethink this rule of thumb.
By Scott Sobers, Program director, Communications sector- Tivoli Software, IBM
This popular notion was initially supported by stating that the wireless data market experienced 7.3 percent quarter-over-quarter
growth in the fourth quarter of 2008, an overall 38.7 percent increase
from the fourth quarter of 2007. However, according to Chetan Sharma
Consulting, this growth cannot be sustained in a continually
these times, both businesses and consumers are scrutinizing costs,
which leaves telecom service providers vulnerable to losing customers
looking to cut household and business spending. Customers will be
quick to drop services that don’t meet their standards, so providers
need to go above and beyond to prove their value. Subscribers have many
carriers to choose from, and for some customers, the deal-breaker may
be differing qualities of service, both at the network layer and call
center level. According to Stratecast analyst Karl Whitelock, service
providers lose a large percentage of customers because of service
issues. For some carriers, the number of lost customers exceeded 10
percent of their customer base.
customer care is positioned to be a game-changer for wireless providers
as it builds trust and drives satisfaction. Service providers are aware
that maintaining a high quality of customer service is a key factor in
customer retention, but reaching this metric is always a challenge. The
inhibitors to superior customer care include weak communication between
call centers and network operations and poor network intelligence. By
being more proactive about identifying service issues, service
providers can empower their customer care representatives with the
tools to improve customer experience and help grow business.
can employ a number of best practices to improve customer service.
These relate to boosting visibility across the network, monitoring
communications capabilities and prioritizing problem resolution.
Visualizing service quality
when a service impact occurs, determining who it affects and how it
impacts the business enables providers to pinpoint and resolve those
issues before a customer has a chance to complain about them. This can
be done by collecting key data from different systems and from multiple
vendors, which can then be used to simulate relationships across the
network, applications and databases in order to determine which factors
are most critical to the service. With this information, service
providers can more effectively oversee the health, quality and
availability of their networks and, when issues do occur, providers can
quickly identify the problem, its cause and easily “link” the service
to the system running the affected components. By streamlining
end-to-end network management, service providers can prioritize their
responses and communicate the relevant information to all parties.
Monitoring the customer experience
keeping their eyes on the internal network, service providers will
benefit from maintaining a real-time view into customers’ experiences.
For example, being aware of how many customers are using a particular
service lets service providers see how many subscribers are being
impacted by service issues, which is valuable during the trouble
Improving internal communications
communications between customer care and network operations also helps
providers solve network issues faster and more strategically. By
providing the right intelligence to those who need it – operations, IT
and customer care – snags can be resolved faster and with minimal
impact to customers. For example, if a network supervisor can recognize
an issue’s root cause, customer care can be better prepared by knowing
why a customer is calling even before they describe the problem,
thereby having a solution ready for the customer when she calls.
Prioritizing problem resolution
the event that glitches occur, service providers have to make strategic
decisions – which will they respond to first? What will each issue’s
financial impact be? By linking their network and customer
intelligence, providers can identify which issues affect the business
most and respond to those calls accordingly. As a result, companies can
prioritize efforts that offer the greatest value to the business and
resolving service issues, managing the customer experience provides
other assets beyond consistent customer satisfaction. By studying the
data collected day-to-day during the experience monitoring process,
providers gain knowledge about how customers use different offerings,
which will be useful during business planning.
are witnessing the telecommunications market migrate from a strictly
voice-based industry to one that sells Web access, rich media content
and business applications on cell phones. As this evolution continues,
service providers will have to deal with the added responsibility of
fielding service questions about data issues, which according to
Stratecast take three times longer to resolve than regular voice
service issues. Faced with this challenge, customer experience
management is a valuable tool that providers can use to deliver
positive customer satisfaction, high service quality and gain
Scott Sobers is the program director for the communications sector for Tivoli Software at IBM. In this role, he manages the strategy and planning for IBM's solutions for communications service providers.