If you have read my previous blogs, you will have noticed that my world revolves around the service provider and customer service. The challenges faced by service providers in the context of customer experience are also firmly rooted in the history of their back office systems, but these systems are in chaos and have been for some years. This in turn has a dire impact on the quality of customer support that telcos can provide.
To use an analogy, if I compare service providers to a restaurant where the kitchen is the back office system, then the service provider kitchen is effectively using one kitchen to service several different restaurants.
To make matters worse, every “special” produced by the kitchen stays on the menu forever, and has to be monitored and managed even when it is well past its sell-by date. That means the complexity of the service provider’s “menu” increases with every new product, service idea and invention.
What service providers consistently fail to recognise is that every successful business has operational excellence at its root. Telcos, on the other hand, say innovation is their mantra. Operational performance seems to stay on the back burner – and it’s been that way for 20 years. What’s more, the industry seems unwilling or unable to change this.
What we should be doing as an industry is bringing operational excellence to the forefront by cleaning up the service provider kitchen.
Having said that, how do we actually achieve this? First, let me say that business transformation is not the answer. In this industry we know the issues, the complexity, the potential solutions and evolving standards. And outsourcing is also not the right approach, because this fails to address the real underlying problems.
What is required here is a complete change of mindset: service providers have to simplify what they sell. They have to bite the bullet and say: “We don’t do these old deals any more,” and delete them from the support systems.
If we look to examples in other industries, the approach taken by Southwest Airlines provides an interesting example of good practice. The airline operates just one type of aircraft from one vendor and provides a simple pricing model for the customer. Customer service is achieved through this focus on simplicity, rather than on endless options that only serve to confuse the customer and bloat the operator’s billing system further still.
Again, what Southwest Airlines did will not be easy to replicate in telecoms. But by starting down this path, we will begin to make progress that will ripple through the systems we have to nurture and support.
Is that all we can do? Of course not, but it would be the first thing I would do if I were in the shoes of a telecoms executive today. What do you think?