CEM and Outsourced Functions

 CEM  Comments Off on CEM and Outsourced Functions
May 022011

As CSPs, we may have several outsourced functions in our customer operations. These are typically Call Centers, Field Services and some Billing functions such as dispatching. As these functions are run by different companies, we only have a partial visibility of the quality of their operations. Since , any delay or inconsistency will directly impact the perception of the customer, we have to monitor the performance of these functions very carefully.

There are SLAs (OLAs) that are in place with these vendors and most of the times the provider has no visibility over the services given by the outsourced company. Trouble tickets are generally the only measure to take into account , packed by additional KPIs that are sent by the outsourced company. (and of course these are manipulated some times..)

How OSS can help in this field? There are several solutions that we can come up with. First category is the robotics tools, that can run a specified scenario(called as script) over a specified channel. For call centers, this could be automatically calling IVR at random times, press some buttons and try to reach a CSR. All the response times are recorded for further review. For billing, another bot can OCR the printed bill and compare it with the data in the billing system (or a revenue assurance solution). Any inconsistencies, again will be recorded. At the end of the monitoring period, these records would be used for reconciliations between the measures the outsourced company sends, and the measures we get.

A robotics solution even more meaningful while we are moving to external cloud infrastructures. I have mentioned about robotics solutions in my previous post Application Performance Managers. Investing in such a solution in our CEM strategy will bring many improvements in end to end business processes area.

Moving to a Network Datawarehouse

 CEM  Comments Off on Moving to a Network Datawarehouse
Apr 152011

Communications Service Providers(CSPs), have lots of OSS/BSS applications that are running to support their business and operations. Those applications do manipulate some kind of data based on the domains they address. Obviously, applications touching the same domains cause data duplication. They may also maintaining the same data with separate representations.When one domain’s data is updated by it’s manager application, the other applications’ data that touches the same domain should also be updated. Weakly designed business processes cause inconsistencies between data sources. Synchronization mechanisms that are built to solve these problems bring additional integration tax and maintenance resources.

The solution is to build a centralized place to maintain the domain data and share this data among the OSS/BSS applications. We call this “Master Data Management” or MDM and it deserves a separate topic to be explained in detail. In today’s topic however, I will discuss the benefits of such kind of a centralized scenario and possible practical implementations of it.

Most of the CSPs, already invested on datawarehouses in order to run some business analytics functions that will help them to offer campaigns that will increase their sales. Mainly stemmed from CRM perspective, these datawarehouses are maintained by IT departments. That’s why, they are also called IT Datawarehouse systems. IT Datawarehouses maintain transactional data (new product purchase, up-sell, cross-sell, ask for information, churn) and the customer data that include the demographics information. This datawarehouse shares it’s data with all the BSS systems (Billing, CRM, Campaign Management, Order Management). Unfortunately not all BSS applications are capable to use an external data model and sometimes the central data needs to be duplicated to the applications database via integration enabler like ESBs. Another approach is using this datawarehouse just for reporting purposes and not as an MDM.

Regardless of it’s usage type (as an MDM, and/or reporting solution), the missing part of IT datawarehouse is the lack of network related information. IT datawarehouses are fed by the CDR information to understand the usage patterns but this data gives information about the successful usage information and mainly useful for basic churn analysis and CRM campaigns.

However, apart from the CDRs (or xDRs) there is a huge data that is waiting to get analyzed. The network data include performance management KPIs, Faults, Signalling information, network facing trouble tickets, service activation and resource provisioning results, test results, SQM performance KQIs etc. This data is maintained by several OSS systems and these systems deliver advanced reporting and analytics capabilities in the domains that they address.

Is it possible to merge these data sources? There are multiple quick wins. First quick win would be a common reporting platform that allows the CSP to remove the reporting functionality from the application level. This will allow the CSP to get rid of the licensing of these reporting systems and their databases. Second, the maintenance cost would dramatically reduced. 3rd and the most important reason would be the cross-domain or cross-technology analytics that would enable the CSP to understand the usage patterns and combine these with the analytics data that reside on the IT Datawarehouse side. This will also support our vision to reach to 360 degrees customer view , where we understand the customer not only the services we are running.

A question comes up in mind again : Is it possible to utilize the current IT Datawarehouse system in place? The answer is: It depends. Network Datawarehouse systems utilize the Massive Parallel Computing (MPP) technology to cope with the huge amount of network data that is flowing into the system. Traditional datawarehouses cannot handle this load. So, it would be wise to invest on a separate platform without changing (and impacting the performance of) the IT Datawarehouse on hand.

A successful CEM strategy will need to include NW datawarehouse concept. Removing the boundaries between IT and the Network means Network Aware Business. Up to now, business business were asking network related data from the network/IT departments and the those departments were going to the related OSS Applications to grab some reports. After that, it was again technical team’s responsibility to translate these reports to the business language. This process is a waste of time for both business and the technical teams. However, with the help of a Network Datawarehouse platform, business people will be able to reach the data via advanced reporting in their “language”.

Network Aware Business will be in the center of the  next generation CSP architecture, which is  designing and delivering business processes that targets the positive customer experience at all times.

Introduction to CEM

 CEM, OSS/BSS Transformation  Comments Off on Introduction to CEM
Mar 042011

Customer Experience Management (CEM) is a relatively new term that entered to the telecommunication service provider’s  jargon. Customer Experience Management is managing all the interactions of the Customer with the service provider. These interactions could be made over all available channels that are defined in the Customer Interface Management process. Call center, e-mail, Web, WAP , Stores could all represent those different channels.

CEM focuses on the customer and his/her experiences. It focuses on monitoring, measuring and improving the customers experiences.

Each interaction that the customer experienced, will create a negative or positive perception in his/her mind. Obviously, an overall good perception will ultimately lead to higher ARPU and lower customer churn.

When first introduced, CRM (Customer Relationship Management) aimed to improve the “relations” of the provider with it’s customers. However, CRM became a sales/product oriented tool and mostly forgot the relationships part. Today’s CRM focuses how to sell more to the current customers by analyzing their transactional behaviors. Buy this, take the other 20% off, today is your birthday so your first product in your cart is 10% off, here’s a coupon that you can use for your purchases $500 or more etc. The aim is simple: To sell more to the existing customers. Some initiatives include basic user satisfaction surveys after a sales experience but these are very primitive. Also, features such as remembering my birthday and sending a happy birthday email may indeed generate a negative experience sometimes.

CEM is a holistic approach to look to the customer from a 360 degree perspective. It addresses pre-service and in-service needs of the customer and it is not a “single tool” solution. Rather, it is a cross organizational culture where all the shareholders should commit to. It may and will include several OSS/BSS components to monitor and act upon the customer interactions.

Monitoring all the customers in the organization is not feasible. That’s why CEM initiatives rely on segmentation. Ofcourse an overall enhancement can be applied to all of the customer interactions however, features like real-time monitoring and analytics will require resources. Because of this, we see that most service providers who implement CEM start with corporate and VIP customers.

CEM will require a shift in company culture. CEM will require a shift in the way of working. It will, for sure, bring transformation of some kind but this time not for reducing OPEX and CAPEX, but understanding the customers.