The S in SLA Should be for Satisfaction

Service providers have for several years been urged to learn from the retail industry on how to connect with their customers. The argument is that retailers have the correct perspective on things: they pay attention to what the customer wants, and constantly reinvent themselves based on buying behaviors.

In contrast - and I paraphrase from the panel on Networks: Delivering Quality of Experience Despite Capacity Challenges at Mobile World Congress -historically, the carriers have focused on the point to point. Having given so much mindshare to connectivity, service providers find themselves unprepared for the connected world, which implies usage of convergent services across interoperable technologies.

I wondered, is it possible for a complex business to base its entire supply chain and infrastructure around customer satisfaction? Yes, IKEA. The Swedish company delivers on its promise of superior, inexpensive design by starting with what they think their customer will pay, for say a table lamp, and then working backwards from there to adjust the supply chain, including manufacturing components, to make that possible.

Picking up on the spirit of this analogy, carriers must start with what the customer wants, and then pay attention to how to (re)architect their networks and infrastructure from there, constantly tweaking various components in response to usage andservice delivery demands. It used to be that the pipe was the end; now, it’s the means to an end: letting customer satisfaction drive your supply chain and infrastructure.

So instead of the traditional service-oriented SLA, we need a new type of agreement: the Satisfaction Level Agreement.

Satisfaction Level Agreements

Service Level Agreements were almost exclusively impacted by network health. Satisfaction Level Agreements, perforce, impact every aspect of a business, dissatisfaction can occur anywhere in the supply chain, and has cross-domain implications. For example:

  • A subscriber can get unhappy about the wait time for issue-resolution or be unable to connect (customer support agents need visibility into service issues and device information – even for disconnected customers)
  • Enterprise customers could get frustrated with complex order management processes (intuitive self-help portals must be designed)
  • Users in a particular region may encounter unique issues (network engineers need to know usage and complaints by region or manufacturer), or there could be service interruptions when transferring from cellular network to wi-fi (service has to be delivered across multiple touchpoints seamlessly)

Deploying new LTE/ 4G networks and services is an opportunity for carriers to reinvent themselves technically and reorient themselves to being customer-driven organizations. It was therefore heartening to see that the most popular taglines at MWC included “Connected” - after all, a connected world mandates a strong connection with the customer.

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