In many respects Customer Management is in its 3rd generation, from a solution support point of view. While the general Business Support Systems with Billing, are at a later generation.
As an industry term, “Customer Care” started in the latter part of the 1980’s when the telecommunications industry, particularly in Europe went from being regulated to being de-regulated and as the market got liberalised through ONP and new mobile licenses.
With the waiting list for fixed wire services and, at the time, unrecognised demand for mobile telephony – Customer Care was all about handling customer requests for service IN VOLUMES.
Customer Care and Billing systems were put in place with large call centre environments. The measure for successful customer care was based on systems and systems functionality and was measured solely by the service provider based on their experience of volume handling. It was an internal “on premises” based measure.
Later, fixed wire and mobile reached saturation, the industry embarked on CRM (Customer Relationship Management). This is about being more proactive towards customers and is an outside premises measure. However, the measure of successful CRM is still internally measured.
Implementing CRM in a Service Provider’s existing IT environment has proven to be complex, resource demanding, time-consuming and very costly.
Today, the industry’s focus is on Customer Experience. Different to the 1st and 2nd generation the source for Customer Experience measure can only be the Customers themselves. It is therefore vital to take an outside in approach versus the traditional inside out approach to customer management.
The areas of Customer Experience we need to focus on are what a customer should expect once products or services are acquired excluding the sales experience. Although we do realise this is part of the overall Experience.
It is therefore beneficial to identify the touch-points service providers have within an enterprise customer especially, such as:
• What functions and who is involved managing the acquired portfolio?
• What functions and who is involved in collecting, sorting and distribution of invoices and statements?
• What functions require what reports?
• Who is responsible for Cost Centre set-up and changes?
• What are the Audit, tracking and reconciliation processes and who are involved and what are the dependencies?
All with a three dimensional view:
First. A Service provider’s single view of customer, consistent with;
Second. A Customer’s view of their hierarchies and product portfolio;
Third. Across all products and services.
As customers are more literate and cheaper alternatives are easily available and options can be evaluated continuously, adding value to the the communications solutions will become an added selling point, as well.
Going forward, what can be expected from customers are tighter negotiations including SLAs with associated pricing. The burden of proof will most likely be on the service providers, hence documentation and reporting enabling auditing of SLA’s will be expected. Offering these capabilities today will in most cases exceed customer expectation. Tomorrow it will most likely be the standard.