The mobile industry has seen such significant shifts in recent years that the days when a CSP simply provided the network to make a phone call and send a text message seem a millennium ago.
At the time the challenges were arguably no less significant than they are today but looking back now it seems a much simpler age. Ensure the network is functional, give the customer a free or discounted handset and charge them a pretty penny for usage – especially for roaming and cross net calls. Then came the introduction of GPRS, which caused a few billing difficulties (for some systems at least) but that was resolved through bundling – 30 or 50 MB bundles for £1 a MB anyone? The customer experience wasn’t exactly high on the list of priorities back then.
Jump forward to 2012, and we see a hugely dynamic and fragmented ecoystem. The proliferation of technologies inherent within not just the phone network itself but also in the delivery of on-device and App-centric services, have created a huge opportunity for CSPs. However, this brings with it more responsibility for quality delivery, and thus more risks in poor service or mediocre customer management.
Alongside this explosion of services, content and products is a fundamental shift in customer expectations – there is an ‘always on’ mentality and expectancy around mobility, and any loss in access or low quality service will undermine even the finest overall offering. With the networks providing the channel through which these are delivered, it is they who will be the first to come under fire for the underperformance of any element within this universe – the entire offering is only as strong as its weakest link.
Throw into the mix the groundshift around social media and the fact that now everyone has a voice with which to share their grievances and bad experiences, and we’re looking at a perfect storm brewing for those unable to deliver a high quality, reliable service across the board.
The challenge therefore is not only to ensure that all elements of the service are robust enough to deliver against the high expectations of the customer, but that throughout the customer lifetime they are constantly measured against.
In this respect, Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with all partners involved in the contract can be monitored and each can be held accountable for quality delivery of the elements they are responsible for. The result for the customer is a reliably high quality service – or a call to arms to move to a new provider.
With the incessant need to keep pace with rapidly advancing technologies, such as with LTE, and the inherent complexity of an O/BSS infrastructure that has grown organically over the years, it must feel to the CSPs like they are required to perform brain surgery with a Swiss Army Knife against the clock.
By their very nature, the ever-shifting sands of multi-system network infrastructures are unlikely to ever settle, but with the introduction of proven business processes, sophisticated data transformation tools and the introduction of automated monitoring and controls, customer SLAs can be delivered against and the customer experience can be better than satisfactory – maybe even excellent.
In this regard, SLAs that mean something to the customer and are diligently delivered against are the true ‘killer app’, the antidote to churn, and the up-sell / cross-sell winning lottery ticket.