You can’t look at any industry publication without reading about “Big Data”. Big Data is the next Big Thing, but what does that mean? To consumers it means more attempts to sell me all that stuff I can’t live without. But to businesses it means putting the oceans of transaction and behavior data collected from and about customers, business processes and operations to work to better serve customers, achieve operating efficiencies and make money. The key for service providers is transactions. Whether on-line, on the phone, at a point-of-sale terminal or on the factory floor – Big Data is collected and available because customers, employees, partners and businesses are connected.
So Big Data requires connectivity and getting the connectivity right has never been so complicated. Connecting smart meters or sensors in a warehouse requires small amounts of bandwidth that is continuously available. Sending CT scans from an ambulance to a hospital requires large amounts of bandwidth available on demand. Every connection contains important data, but is it more dangerous to receive incomplete heart monitoring data or have to reload a YouTube video? The challenge for operators is to prioritize data traffic and yes, even customers. The need to give all users what they expect must be balanced with the levels of service they are actually paying for. The solution starts with ordering and provisioning. Fulfillment is no longer a one-time act of ‘set it and forget it’. Customer needs are continuously changing and the ability to send, receive and collect data is entirely dependent on delivering and maintaining the proper connections to customers, partners and employees.
Creating a Customer Fulfillment Profile
Service providers profile customers. What applications are accessed, how often, where, when, what do they buy, and who do they tell? Data is collected and mined for every nuance of customer behavior. Sometimes all this mining and searching loses sight of the fact that these users are customers – real, paying customers – that should be valued and served, not just sold. The first time a service provider actively interacts with a customer is during the sales and ordering process. The data collected is the basis for a fulfillment profile that then becomes the foundation for the customer profile. Who they are and what they are actually paying for becomes the basis for customer care, billing, product planning, infrastructure planning, and assurance.
Starting with the sales process, better data must be captured about potential customers and how each will use the products being considered. That translates to a better understanding of product and pricing plans so that the offer presented satisfies the customer without over-charging or under-delivering. Woven into the ordering process are the requirements for provisioning and activation. Where is the customer, how will they use the products, will they be on the road or at home, domestic or international, business or pleasure? That initial data is used to prioritize traffic and better manage access and capacity, but it is only a place to start. Once activated, customers make changes and those changes will modify and enhance their fulfillment profile. Maintaining the right balance of customer preference and priority relies on an accurate, up-to-date fulfillment profile.
Right – From the Start
As the basis for Big Data, it is important to recognize that a customer fulfillment profile is dynamic. Circumstances change, usage changes, and application preferences change. An enlightened service provider will recognize that and proactively propose an offer that better meets customer needs. Of course any offer includes modifications to the fulfillment profile that enable order processing and provisioning without restarting the process and without burdening the customer.
Service providers, or any business for that matter, can be quickly overwhelmed by the volume of data available to them. Ensuring that Big Data becomes quality information for service providers will be a struggle, but getting the fulfillment profile right is a good start.