Oct 20, 2014

CEM Planning that Spans the Entire BSS/OSS Application Stack

By David Krhut

Despite a focus on operational efficiency, telecom operators today can get seriously cornered into a downward performance spiral thanks to widespread issues like tariff flattening, offer equalization, and fast number portability requirements.

Differentiation is difficult to come by. Beyond the distinct logos, it’s hard for customers to distinguish whether they are calling with Operator A or Operator B. Their offers, tariff structures, prices and advertisements might seem all the same. Additionally if an operator somehow sweetens the deal, there is no huge barrier for customers to jump ship.

To address these new challenges, operators must invest not only in hard accomplishments (99% network coverage? – good! LTE? – even better!), but also in soft “layers” that help customers recognize that Operator B really offers something “tastier” than Operator A, even though the invoice is a few cents more.

The answer? Customer Experience Management or CEM.

CEM is huge. It cross-departmentally pokes into lots of other areas, with an aim toward providing the truly unified customer experience the company tries to outwardly project. If we imagine CRM as an umbrella that covers a company’s interactions with current and future customers, CEM would be a large tent that extends to cover CRM and most areas of the BSS/OSS domain, as well.

CEM must be a part of the overall telecom evolution; the carrier needs to implement basic or “lean” CRM first. Then the next step is working to understand and influence the kind of experiences the operator is “causing” to its customers.

The CEM challenge is heightened by its cross-departmental nature. Taken to an extreme, one could argue that a faulty workforce software used to manage the daily schedule of the cleaning staff might negatively influence the customer experience in operator flagship stores! For this post, we’ll narrow the scope to the BSS/OSS sphere, where the CEM approach can really make a difference.

The first issue is determining where the organization needs and is ready for CEM. The time may not be ripe, either due to internal factors or external issues like competitors and market projections or conditions. And once the CXO team is ready to tackle this challenge, the solution is unfortunately not an easy one. There are no CEM “silver bullets” or out-of-the-box products that can be purchased to make customers happy. Rather, CEM should be understood as an overarching initiative that impacts the whole BSS/OSS ecosystem.

Management must first create the strategy that will guide company’s approach toward achieving the preferred customer experience. Developing the strategy requires analyzing the whole customer lifecycle and identifying all the touch-points:

  • How/when/where the “goods” are bought;
  • Whether the usage is as expected;
  • If the satisfaction is low/high/mediocre;
  • Whether the bill documents are correct and accurate;
  • What the preferred/new payment channels are;
  • How flexible service modification should be; and finally,
  • How customer support and complaints are handled.

If properly considered and analyzed, CEM planning will span the whole BSS/OSS application stack. No area would be untouched by it.

The strategy should also consider the available technology and envisioned IT roadmap that would be able to support the CEM requirements. Thankfully, current IT magic is able to offer much more in the way of both inputs and outputs for this area than the previously less evolved networks or systems.

Generally, the strategy should be prepared for a two to three year time period. It does not have to be implemented in a huge “big bang” effort; there is nothing wrong with a phased approach. However, once the strategy is prepared and launched, the company should stick to its mandates (outside the expected planned revisions).

Once all the hard decisions and thinking are done, the strategy should be clearly communicated and explained to all business and technical units that will take part in the endeavor. Buy-in will be achieved – or at least enhanced – by a thorough explanation of what CEM actually is, how the company understands it, the vision, and the areas that will be impacted by it.

And then – in that never-ending process cycle “think -> measure -> change” – it should be more thoroughly elaborated how these highlighted areas will be measured and evaluated. One cannot rein in the customer expectations/experiences without some hard data about how the current business is faring from a CEM point of view.

The company should decide, develop and implement the performance framework, metrics and all relevant methodologies for each “chunk” of the CE – which includes CQI (Customer Quality Index), SQI (Service Quality Index) and KPI (Key Performance Indicators). We generally suggest this all be wrapped into a Service Quality Management system that is one of the core building blocks of CEM.

Thankfully, for these areas there are available out-of-the-box solutions/products that can significantly facilitate the collection and processing of all the necessary data. Additionally some of the new technologies available can significantly increase these collection, reporting and analytical efforts – it is after all only a lot of “big data.”

Once the results are in, it is time for evaluation and improvement. There can be many areas where the change can be applied and also many ways to react to found deficiencies. For example, if the call center support staff was lacking in professionalism and knowledge (as found through one of the call center team scoring systems), then the core cause must be found. In the end, one of the outcomes might be restructuring of the call center department or maybe implementation or improvement of a self-care portal (to ease the burden on overworked staff).

That example oversimplifies the challenge, but management should always 1) face and align these issues in accordance to the overarching CEM strategy and 2) consider the whole BSS/OSS ecosystem. Change in one area might have effects in other places (everything is interconnected these days).

CEM is a deep subject with a fast-growing literature. If you are interested in this topic and would like to hear more, we at Excelacom would be delighted to talk with you and help you in your CEM journey.

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