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