Pipeline Publishing, Volume 4, Issue 3
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If You Could Know Everything,
What Would You Want To know About Your Customer Self-Service Applications?

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By Rick Schmaltz

The convergence process happening in telecommunications, based on the proven IT infrastructure and the power of IP over broadband or wireless, is promising to flood the market with the new exciting services, and potentially to deliver those long-awaited new revenues. Business models based on GPS, IPTV, micro payments, integrated home, etc., have been so widely publicized and advertised that it is already hard for providers to differentiate on features. In fact, many major operators have promised or are already delivering many of the next generation services, proving that there is little impossible left in this converged high-speed multi-media world of communications. What seems to be much harder is making customers happy with the overall service beyond the features. It has been shown over and over again that customers are constantly re-evaluating new and existing services at the level of order management, service provisioning and fulfillment, and customer service and support before they even get to the actual service. Let’s look at some new and existing approaches and technologies that are now required to secure the peak performance and availability of the customer-facing functions of the new services. There are several factors that require operators to approach the problem differently:

Luring customers to use self-service interfaces is becoming critical to business feasibility of the new services. Due to highly distributed revenue sharing models and the number of involved parties, the margins are growing low. Operators cannot afford expensive contact centers to service customers who generate small revenues but in large numbers. This is why self-service is not a matter of convenience or extra savings, but an essential element of new business models.

Customer experience is becoming increasingly based on automated interfaces that don’t involve humans as touch points with a customer. When a customer interacts with a self-service portal there is little information available on the quality of the customer’s experience. The same is true for contract-based interactions with partners (content providers, etc.). With all the automated customer self-service and partner gateways, it’s becoming absolutely essential to monitor in real time the actual customer experience, and to detect problems before customers start leaving or partner SLAs are violated. Both result in losses and extra costs.

New converged services are executed as software transactions spanning across standards-based IT components like application or Web servers, message busses, and databases. Specifically, service provisioning and activation is looking more like automated business processes that only

It has been shown over and over again that customers are constantly re-evaluating new and existing services... before they even get to the actual service.

touch the network in few specific points of their execution, and do this through standards-based enablers. Since every activation or provisioning transaction is potentially revenue-generating, it’s important to ensure the highest success rate of these transactions, as well as the performance of the overall process from the customer’s perspective.

Let’s take a closer look at customer self-service. A survey commissioned by Network World Magazine found that a staggering 72.6 percent of performance problems with CSS applications are alerted via end-user calls. To avoid this, operators need to deploy real-time, proactive monitoring of the self-service interface performance and availability, so they can assess quality of service and the customer experience before customers start complaining or leaving. These monitoring solutions should be deployed proactively as opposed to being emergency measures. They should monitor real transactions and customer interaction as opposed to synthetic artificial transactions. And, they should do it in real time when transactions happen, not when the load is quiet. And, such solutions should be able to monitor the end-to-end path of customer transactions, from the Web-based interface, through multiple involved OSS/BSS applications and infrastructure, and to the back-end databases, integration adaptors, and network enablers.

Here are two examples of real-world deployment of pro-active monitoring for customer self-service. The first one is a production deployment at a major US-based operator.

One major wireless provider with over 12 million customers in the United States launched a calling plan that enables its customers make unlimited calls to a number of destinations regardless of what carrier

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