In-Service Customer Experience Management: Include the Customer for a Holistic Solution

Last week we conducted a webinar for mobile service providers on Customer Experience – "In-Service Customer Experience Management – Include the Customer for a Holistic Solution" – which generated many interesting insightful questions on Customer Experience implementation challenges and solutions for wireless, fixed, online, and cloud services.  We received more questions than we were able to answer in the time, so I wanted to make sure and take the time to answer all of the questions. The responses for these questions are detailed below.

If you missed it, please click here to view the recorded webinar.

Q: With such an emphasis on smartphones and wireless devices how do non-smartphone users and landline users get treated in the process and when it comes to brand perception, can the experience of both wireline and wireless be combined for same customer?

This webinar focused on the wireless or mobile experience for subscribers; the concept can be easily taken forward to other mobile users as well as fixed-line subscribers.  A customer experience management program depends on establishing what criteria is needed for measurement to attain a metric to reflect the actual in-service customer experience.  Measuring experience on a feature phone is also possible.

For combining experience of a subscriber with both wireline and wireless access, the concept of a single “customer” must be defined in the operations environment to enable a single view across platforms.  This can be done through a capable service assurance platform that can correlate across networks – combining the definition of a customer to arrive at a single experience as defined by established Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Key Quality Indicators (KQIs).  Although the analytics required can become quite complex, it can be readily accomplished with planning and implementation with assistance from an experienced systems integrator.

Q: How do you measure the experience with third-party application performance

If the third-party cannot (or will not) provide application performance KPIs directly, then there are some options.  Tools including probes and Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) tools can collect all data directed to a particular service or application – and determine overall performance such as throughput, delay, jitter, etc.  Again, for an individual subscriber performance, such tools provide the traffic information but not the experience received.  By combining these tools with a device resident app or agent can measure the application performance as the subscriber is using it. By monitoring these applications in real-time operators can troubleshoot customer transactions from user interface to the network.

Before attempting to measure and monitor each application available on a smartphone, we propose careful consideration of the performance impacts on the device and application, and limit the measurements to key applications, or on selected user devices as required to verify continued acceptable performance.  In general we advocate this being done through a testing or verification team and not with paying subscribers.

Q: Are there standard CE metrics with which service providers can be compared when it comes to CE

There are certainly companies with programs that provide for benchmarking of customer experience against their industry and others.  These indexes and other industry methods for comparison are great for understanding where a service provider stands in relation to others in the industry, but they are not necessarily translated to what can be measured from the subscriber device, the network, services or the traffic.

In relating the issue to measuring and monitoring the in-service customer experience, metrics must reflect what is capable of being collected and compared across all types of available devices.  Some metrics are relative – the performance of one device to another make comparison of some services difficult, if not impossible.  We propose establishing both a bottom-up and a top-down approach for customer experience management.  Create the KQIs that are desired to reflect the customer experience and service quality (Top-Down).  From this the relevant available KPIs (bottom-up) can be evaluated and determine the data that must be added to fulfill the KQI requirements.

As each service provider has a unique history, culture and approach to supporting the network and services – so too are creating a holistic Customer Experience Management solution.  Even in the event of a published, standardized list of KQIs required to provide CEM – the available information and approach to implementing a solution will also be specific to the service provider.  This is where an experienced Systems Integrator such as Aricent can be so valuable in creating an optimal solution.

Q: Will devices be equipped with CE tools or does that present a traffic problem?

We approached this issue by creating a subscriber initiated app that will execute and report information when the subscriber requests.  This limits the traffic to periodic transmission and does not represent a significant traffic load.  For an agent version, i.e. an app than will run at specific intervals without the subscriber initiating its execution, we have multiple options for reducing the traffic load – which can be as little as a few bytes.  There is no need to continue to transmit data related to the handset type, OS version, installed apps, etc. unless something changes.  This keeps the required data to changing parameters such as location, signal strength and available memory, to name a few.

For two-way communication, where a service provider wishes to respond to a particular app report, SMS can be used to minimize traffic, but still allow for enough information for the subscriber to benefit from the feedback.

Q: In the old days, Customer Sat was measured by companies like JD Power.  What happens to that?  How can an outside source measure CE?

Many Customer Experience and Customer Satisfaction measurements are done by surveys in combination with other factors which I am sure JD Power and others have their methodologies.  These tend to measure the entire customer experience spectrum, including what customers think of customer service – both telephone calls, in-store, installation, bill accuracy, and many other factors that can influence an individual’s opinion of a company’s service.  This webinar was focused on the subscriber’s usage of the service – which plays a key role in the opinion of the service, but is not the entire picture.  For example, perfect delivery of a service on a device is critical to establishing a quality experience, but an incorrect bill or unpleasant experience with customer service can destroy that perception.  But we maintain that poor delivery of service cannot overcome the best customer service and billing capabilities – hence our push for being able to measure, monitor, review and act upon the in-service customer experience.

Q: What is the best delivery method of your service? SaaS? Licensed?

What is “best” is an individual assessment of a service provider’s business and objectives.  We can support virtually any service model to assist a service provider accomplish a Customer Experience Management program.

Q: Do you partner for probes, dashboards, data warehousing, etc

As a systems integrator, we primarily partner with vendors for individual solutions or tools, including probes, dashboards, data warehousing, etc.  Aricent can help provide the integration or additional functionality not provided in these applications and tools – to arrive at an integrated, completely functional solution to meet the goals and objectives of any operations environment.

Q: Many organizations are assigning a Chief Customer Experience Officer...assuming you believe this is a critical position...what is the biggest challenge for this role (internal politics, technology, etc?)

Due to organizational challenges in every service provider, assigning a Chief Customer Experience Officer is not only a great idea, but may be the only way to effectively implement a program that crosses organizational boundaries and meets the objectives.  Customer Experience spans an organization, from marketing, sales, networks, services and support – and each have objectives for customer experience that may not be consistent with other groups or divisions, at least not in how improvements can be made in one division that can negatively impact others.

But even with appropriate authority and accountability in a Chief Customer Experience Officer – the challenges will continue to exist until an organization-wide program is established that accounts for all pieces of the Customer Experience puzzle.  A program must be inclusive and consider the impacts of changes on all groups.  We recommend hiring a consulting company to provide an outside perspective to help establish a program.  This gives an independent source for all assessments and changes and can help remove some of the political challenges in an organization.

Q: Customer experience data collection from devices (like phone, data connect etc), how do you see customer collaboration and legal challenges are (or to be) addressed in US market?

There are several issues with using subscriber data – not just in the US market but globally, and privacy issues vary country-to-country.  This has also been one of the challenges behind not only trying to put an agent on handsets, but also with analysis of IP traffic resulting from subscriber usage.

One approach we have taken is to include a necessary disclaimer for the subscriber to agree before they use the customer experience application on the device.  It simply states that they agree to allow the service provider to use the information to improve services and to assist them with their problems, but not to be used in any marketing or other purposes.  This provides a basis for permission to use the data collected from the device, although how it can be used and the extent are subject to laws in each country.  But if an individual does not want the data to be used, then the application is not executed – the same as if someone refuses the End User License Agreement (EULA) for using any installed software program – it is simply not installed.

We are continuing to work on this particular challenge and our approach is adaptable to not only conform to individual country laws, but also to meet service provider guidelines for protecting subscriber privacy.

Q: Any experience w/ OSS solutions that you are comfortable sharing?  Particularly focused on CEM

As a systems integrator we partner with several OSS and BSS vendors to provide solutions.  In many cases our service provider customers ask us who we recommend, or have us engage in the RFP process to select the right vendor.  In others, we are asked who we recommend, and we propose the “best fit” solutions for that service provider’s situation.  We would be happy to discuss our experiences and partnerships with anyone individually, but offering opinions and experience here without proper context is not possible.

But let me say that there are many vendors claiming to have Customer Experience Management capabilities.  It could be probe-based, DPI, analytics or other approaches.  Service Providers need to be careful when choosing solutions to solve a particular problem area as it may contribute to further silo operations and redundant capabilities across the operations.

Q: How would you sell to a CEO/Board the benefit of putting expenditures to the CE?  How would you "prove" the benefit of reducing "Churn"/"Attrition"?

Although every CEO / Board would require a different story, in general every service provider benefits from improving Customer Experience – from the bottom-line improvement by reducing churn and improving customer loyalty, to reducing customer support calls and technical queries.  The approach is focused on the bottom-line, reducing expenses and improving revenue.

How this is accomplished varies widely, depending on the capability and maturity for the service provider to accurately measure their churn and attrition, and the sources.  But by focusing on improving the customer experience, those subscribers that churn because of bad experience can be reduced.  And, with a proper solution that provides real-time information to customer service as our approach includes, by knowing information about the subscriber’s situation and not spending time playing “20 questions” – the incidence of first-call-resolution is improved while reducing the time per call.  That is a strong starting point for any Customer Experience Management improvement program, and can show immediate results through a relatively short Return on Investment (ROI).

Q: How to get buy in for committing resources to CEM?

A decision to implement a program or solution includes the business case, and if a service provider is focused on the return on investment, then we work with the service provider to maximize the return – within  shorter time and with bigger benefits.  A successful program will require resources, but by clearly linking those needs to the measurable benefits, generally executives would agree to commit those resources.

There are some clear benefits that can help with convincing the appropriate executives to invest in customer experience improvement.  Although the benefits and the approach will vary by network, service and subscriber base, we tend to focus on helping to reduce the customer service load and provide them with real-time information on the subscriber’s situation.  But there are many other benefits with CEM that must be considered and used to position with an executive’s appropriate scope and responsibility.  This also brings me to my answer related to cross-organizational effectiveness of CEM – the value of CEM extends across the organization and benefits may occur within divisions who are not part of the investment – so decisions to invest must be made at a level reflective of overall benefit to the company.

Q: Today’s presentation seemed to be geared towards mobile CSPs.  Is there Holistic CX presentation for online portals?

Agreed, the webinar was focused on mobile service providers and the problems they face with measuring and monitoring the customer experience on the device.  The same concept applies to fixed access or gathering metrics from online portals as an example.  Similarly to the smartphone application, a user on a portal is accessing from a device that is not under the control of the service provider – the computing device may have limited memory, many other processes running, or any other thousands of situations that can impact their experience on the portal.

Creating a capability to monitor the interaction on a portal can be implemented to capture the particular performance on the device, including response times for entering/requesting data, navigating the site, etc.  However, differences occur in the satisfaction to the level of information available, or how to navigate the portal effectively (and intuitively).  Aricent has extensive experience at providing portal design to optimize these aspects of ensuring the customer’s expectations for accessing the portal are met.

Q: Do you have a model to connect customer experience with customer life time value

To date we have not been requested to link the subscriber experience with a life-time value as might be tracked in a CRM system or other Customer Experience solution.  We have performed historical analysis on the experience to determine relationship to churn and ARPU related to various metrics available to service providers.

Q: Fault, Performance and service quality can be measured by monitoring the devices and services but how to involve customer or measure his/her experience via your solution implementation?

Great question and unfortunately we did not cover possible architectures and how to integrate available data with measurements from the customer device to arrive at a more holistic service assurance solution.  Service quality is a general, or average indication of the level of service provided to subscribers – and does not reflect the service received by a subscriber on a device.  Many factors influence the quality on a device in a mobile network, including radio interference, weather, location (outdoor vs. indoor), device type, network configuration, and many, many others.  So a general service quality may not reflect a significant portion of subscriber received quality.

Our solution includes the ability to collect the experience on the device through available metrics.  It enables the collection of key parameters such as location, signal strength, device type (vendor, OS version, release, etc.), and many others that add to the service quality information to help identify problems and gaps that are not reported by the network devices themselves.  These can include  coverage gaps, service unavailability, inconsistencies with different devices, etc.  The combination with service assurance information is a function of the implemented solution – to which we can integrate or provide an umbrella solution to tie silo solutions into a single dashboard capability for a unified presentation capability.  Details of such a solution are specific to each situation.

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