“Improving the customer experience,” is a phrase that has captured the imagination of the communications industry. As mobile markets become saturated and ARPU (average revenue per user) continues to be under pressure just as the proliferation of tablets and smartphones is putting pressure on providers to expand their networks to accommodate more immersive and bit-hogging experiences, the need to capture, keep and mine customers has never been greater. However, with the commoditization of services and customers having the upper hand in service provider selection based on the types of devices they wish to own, what’s a service provider (SP) to do? The answer is to improve the customer experience by properly managing it. But, how exactly does an SP go about it?
Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert) (ALU), with the announcement today of its Motive Customer Experience Solutions, has given SPs some important new capabilities. The press release for the portfolio highlighted the issue:
“When consumers buy a new device or service they expect everything will work right from the start and any glitch will be quickly resolved. The expectation is that the focus is on the customer - not just the network. 15 percent of smartphones are returned because consumers encounter problems getting them to work. In two-thirds of these cases, there is no issue found. Making devices and services simpler to use and configure not only improves the customer experience, but it can also minimize the customer support burden.
The Motive Customer Experience Solutions (CXS) portfolio is a suite of software and expert services designed to help SPs manage customer relationships over a wide range of touchpoints.
At the end of the day, creation of a quality customer experience is based on giving customers an experience that hopefully actually exceeds their expectations. It is about knowledge. It is about understanding the motives of why customers buy one service versus another, leave versus stay, are willing to listen to the opportunity to purchase additional services versus won’t/don’t.
Further, it is about having enough customer account knowledge in the hands of contact center agents to enable them to provide a compelling experience along with the ability to have the analytics to learn how to improve customer experiences so that best practices can be employed and worst eliminated. It is thus probably not coincidence that ALU is giving prominence to the Motive brand, given that understanding motivations is at the heart of the matter.
The Motive CXS portfolio has four solution suites. Each addresses critical touchpoints in the relationship between SPs and their customers. The four areas outlined by ALU are:
1. Motive CX Management — focused on getting new devices, applications and services up and running quickly by simplifying their introduction on the network, managing upgrades and service modifications and providing a consistent, low-hassle experience for customers.
2. Motive CX Analytics — provides monitoring tools that track the performance of the devices, applications and services running on the network. Based on unique algorithms developed by Bell Labs (News - Alert), these tools provide key insights and dashboards that infer overall customer experience and allow for detailed customer experience insights.
3. Motive CX Optimization — uses historical data about customers, devices, applications and the network to enable SPs to examine trends, experiences and usage patterns — segmented by types of users — and take accurate and proactive actions with yield management and loyalty. Think of this as giving the communications version of “load shedding” as practiced in the electric utility industry where incentives could be used to help ease network congestion. The customer wins by getting a deal, and the SP wins by balancing their traffic better and thereby providing the potential to improve customers’ network experiences.
4. CX Consulting — a dedicated team from ALU that assists SPs in using the tools to customize who best to improve customer experience touch points within their organization to meet business objectives.
All of this may seem like a bit of a mouthful. ALU has a nice graphic that explains it well.
Greg Owens, Dir. Customer Experience Solutions Marketing, Alcatel-Lucent, told TMCnet that the value in these capabilities lies in the intelligent use of the information to drive business results. In fact, the analytics are critical. As Owens said, “They are not only valuable because of their ability to help drive network operations and facility planning, but for helping set customer expectations.” The key here is the predictive algorithms developed by Bell Labs and the knowledge of the consultative part of the portfolio in assisting SPs in understanding such things as the motivations and likelihood of customer churn, especially in relationship to their lifecycle value.
Plus, as Owens stated, “There is tremendous value in being able to make a customer’s entire billing and device history available to a contact center agent.” In fact, given that 7 million new devices were activated the day after Christmas this past year, ensuring that most do not get returned because of customer confusion is a huge opportunity for SPs to not just create trust/loyalty but to upsell services. Indeed, part of the concentration on improving the customer experience is about the transformation of contact centers from cost centers to profit centers based on their emerging criticality in the SP internal workflow and business processes.
Owens had one final message worth noting. Along with the value of the Motive portfolio in drawing attention to the fact that SPs need to make the customer the focus and not the network, and that C-levels in the SPs will not have powerful tools for flexibly evaluating and dealing with their own unique market challenges, “this is not just about mobile,” he said.
ALU’s motives are clear. Improving the customer experience is not about marketing it is about the intelligent application of information, understanding and execution. It will be interesting to see, in a world where the customers now are driving the services agenda, whether service providers are motivated to use tools and change their behavior so they can keep up with what customers not just expect but demand. Staying relevant should be incredibly good motivation.Peter Bernstein is a technology industry veteran, having worked in multiple capacities with several of the industry's biggest and best known brands, and has served on the Advisory Boards of 15 technology startups. To read more of Peter's work, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Rich Steeves