Delivering superior customer experience has never been more crucial in the telecommunications industry and CXOs are well aware of this growing pressure. As new channels and devices emerge, consumers want services and support how, where and when they want it. Applications like Uber have set the stage for the on-demand economy and the age of the customer is here.
However, telecom providers grapple with the challenge of keeping up with new services while trying to provide superior service to millions of customers. The emergence of social, mobile and digital networks has played a big part in changing the relationship between telecom providers and their customers and it is forcing them to reevaluate their approach to customer experience.
As virtual communication (over web or mobile) becomes ubiquitous, so has the popularity of customer engagement software as it helps companies with communications and interactions over a variety of channels and touch-points. Any Customer Engagement System (CES) should include Customer Relationship Management (CRM), live chat, social media, marketing personalization, PR and customer self-service. More importantly, CES helps with the management of these channels by integrating, for example, the live chat, social media, email, mobile and phone support into a seamless customer experience.
Typically, telecom providers have used their existing BSS stack, usually provided by a single vendor, to manage customer experience. The BSS stack typically focuses on charging, billing and catalog capabilities. The downside of this single-vendor BSS stack approach is that these large-scale investments may be missing the agility needed to deal with the ever-changing virtual communication landscape. Modern software has to be plug-and-play so that it genuinely provides a best-of-breed experience for telecom providers by letting them be free from any artificial constraints. Not only does this avoid the ‘single vendor trap’ but allows for efficiency and revenue growth.
In terms of providing an optimal customer experience, it is important to note that CES cycles and BSS/OSS cycles are different and customer engagement systems should be given higher priority as they control the customer journey, as compared to BSS/OSS. For example, the digital augmentation of the customer journey should be independent of systems of record transformation. Trying to combine the two would delay the value derivation from digital enablement of high value customer journeys and run the risk of taking away the focus of the customer’s digital journey as it may end up taking second place to revenue collection/validation.
“For these reasons, more and more, telecom providers are keeping their customer engagement and BSS systems separate as it lowers costs and increases agility and time-to-market”, says Anshoo Gaur, CEO of Sterlite Network Software. “They must lean more towards customer experience, which is just as critical as BSS and not go blindly with a vendor who primarily has BSS capabilities and just bundles in customer experience.”
Telecom providers can provide better customer experience by being able to be agile with their engagement with customers and understanding their immediate needs. This notion of real-time communications includes capabilities such as customer-facing digital channels, automated customer-facing workflows and mobile-enabled customer interactions. In addition to more satisfied customers, the increased focus on this type of digital customer experience can also enhance the brand by incorporating contextual awareness around digital interactions, especially if interaction data is collected and analyzed.
Still significant, the next generation of “digital” BSS allows telecommunication providers to monetize and support new business models and new customer experience for future or current innovations. It helps enable digital engagement and customer-centric business operations, such as dealing with payment issues, taking customer orders, and solving issues related to income or revenue.
Today’s BSS must enable automated revenue allocation, partner settlement, and multi-party commercial agreements. It must allow for:
- New ecosystems – enabling B2B, B2C and a partner ecosystem supporting multiple business partners on a single platform, each with individual access to the full range of BSS functionality.
- Multi-tenancy – full white-labeling capabilities allow you to operate different brands/second brands, and multiple business units on one platform.
- Powerful billing and partner settlement – for consumer, wholesale, and enterprise billing, as well as complex settlement arrangements between multiple business partners in the ecosystem.
- Automated business processes – orchestrate automated business processes spanning the existing IT landscape to reduce overall operational costs, revenue leakage, and back office intervention.
- A non-invasive overlay – as part of IT consolidation, or as a separate innovation platform.
- Cost efficiency and automation – solution leverages a common workflow engine to ensure automation and consistent business processes.
- Open APIs – a powerful integration framework to existing IT landscape and 3rd party systems, built on industry standards, and an award winning set of TM Forum Open APIs.
Because they are so many elements to BSS and because some parts can stay more static than others, it is wise to take a more piecemeal approach to transformations or investments. In the past, telecom providers were signing 7-10 year BSS contracts with long implementation cycle that included a full stack. This proved costly and by the time contracts (and even implementations) were done, the BSS solutions were already dated for modern services. This proved costly and frustrating for telecom providers who also took note of lack of long-term support as they felt BSS vendors had more interest in other, new customers.
Since it is hard to predict what new technologies will arise in the market a year from now, gradual, function-by- function transformation with a DevOps methodology is proving best for telecom providers. They need to ask themselves if they are going to continue to implement legacy systems with short-term fixes or truly modernize into a truly digital player and be prepared for future innovation, products and demands of their customers.
By keeping customer engagement software separate from BSS and ensuring that BSS is updated frequently enough to support customer engagement, telecom providers will be able to offer a superior customer experience and stay relevant in their industry.