With the advent of the converged everything and the move towards a digitally connected life, there is an increasing need to enable a Communities based Customer interaction model using Customer Empowerment as the operational foundation. From my perspective, Customer Empowerment is a Customer’s ability to control all facets of their data (e.g. using a form of “My Personal Cloud(s)” and related “mini-Clouds” – my home cloud, my business cloud, my social cloud, my financial cloud, my medical cloud, etc.) and under a Customer’s control “releasing/exposing” elements of their cloud and the data within it via the communities that they participate in. Under this model, possible “Providers/Brokers” would bid for access to elements of the data by offering up “transactions/services” or value (into a virtual wallet[s]) that would be used to fund the transaction/services and to share the value obtained from their use of “my data” with me. This would put the Customer at the center of controlling their data, how much of it they would expose, the value associated with their data and how that value is used.
Naturally, not everyone wants to have this degree of “control” and will abdicate this to a lifestyle provider or providers who will service data access on their behalf. The KEY is that it is the Customer who decides NOT their provider as it is today (whether a CSP, Facebook, their Medical Provider, etc.).
The Customer Empowered model also embraces and recognizes the range of Communities that a Customer participates in and the varying roles that they have in these communities. The main Communities that most people relate to today – especially in the communications space - are home communities and business communities that generally have a primary "financial" owner and a number of members who consume services against a set of service type and/or payment thresholds. There is also a recognition that a Customer can also be a member of other communities (e.g. social networking, affinity groups, medical health groups, sports groups...) where they can consume services and offer their data (information about their interests and preferences) but under a different charging model (e.g. paid-for advertising, subscription to the community, range of services provided, ..). With the support of profiling and personalization, these Communities and their members can receive more tailored offerings. The more tailored offerings referred to here are not the traditional ones related to communications (voice, data, media streaming) but more innovative offerings around e-QoL© (enhanced Quality of Life) - real-time remote health management, smart home, smart commerce, e-payments, green life management, M2M interactions, etc.
In addition to the above, we also need to enable these various "community memberships" to be managed by a designated "owner" and to provide them the flexibility of deciding how charges and related payments are enabled (e.g. not just the standard pre-paid and post-paid models offered by communications, utilities and insurance companies but with master and multiple sub wallets - each with cash, debit, tokens [green credits, carbon offsets, etc.] and credit options). By making this available, we can move to the creation of individual and Community specific offerings with Community specific pricing and even enable the Community owner (or designated member[s]) to create temporary packages – all based on real-time transactions for the consumption of services (services in this instance can be a medical service, electricity, e-commerce service, communications, etc.). In reality, we're driving towards an environment of the Customer Empowered world where the data relating to me (in my personal Cloud) not only relates to my preferences but all facets of my data – including financial management, medical health records, personal details, etc. Access to the “sensitive” elements of my data would be via strong forms of bio-metric and algorithmic encrypted means while “less sensitive data” would be more available – of course with ME having the right to define what I view as more or less sensitive. Trust is a BIG issue for many people so the integrity and reliability of the potential cloud hosts/brokers is critical - with the CSP still being one of the more trusted parties at least for today!
The BIG question concerning the above is whether the services industries (communications companies in particular) are willing and able to change their role and relationship with the Customer (mainly the consumer) to facilitate this model. Even though the communications companies are losing their “perceived” control of the Customer (to the OTT players and device/apps companies), they still believe that their Customer data repository is the reference about the Customer – even though in reality it is only a subset of the data about the Customer.
From my perspective there are two ways forward:
continue capturing “limited” data views of the Customer using the “traditional” CRM/Billing systems with their communications centric views of my data (if I’m lucky)
embrace a more holistic view of my data and establish a SECURE/TRUSTED personal cloud(s) model that puts the Information Enablement Providers (IEP) (the enlightened CSPs – see www.telcoprofessionals.com/COrviss/blog/924/ for a definition) as a master gatekeeper of MY DATA.
These concepts are not just fiction but are being seriously considered by many Providers – including Information Providers (the more advanced communications providers) - around the world with some, most notably in APAC, actually moving to make these a reality.
The main challenge is that these permutations put a significant strain on the traditional way that we (the communications and utility companies) deal with Customer interaction and bill/charge for services as well as the vendors/partners we can engage to provide solutions. The problem is that traditional CRM and Billing systems tend to use data models for Customer and Product that are hierarchically based, deal with processing in delayed/quasi-real time (rather than real-time) and are structured as an almost bespoke (heavily customized) application.
To meet the needs of the Customer empowered model we need to move to a revised architecture using P(C)-DM - Personal Cloud Data Management concepts where data entities are associated with each other in a dynamic fashion to create real and virtual structures (e.g. virtual Community, dynamic products, etc.) and process driven functional modules with web-services based interfaces that interact with each other to support a transaction (a business transaction or service transaction or technical transaction or commercial transaction or...).
This change is something that I am heavily involved in both at the business model and architectural definition level with IEPs, vendors and other industry verticals. It would, however, be interesting to understand whether you believe the above are too ambitious for the Communications industry players to embrace and play a significant role in or whether you view they are not forward looking enough. Any comments on pros and cons and observations of how you are or could make this become a reality would be appreciated.