The buzz has been building around Customer Experience Management (CEM) for several years now as many operators in mature markets, along with some in fast-growing markets such as India, look for ways to differentiate beyond tariffs and bundles in their efforts to hold on to valued subscribers. (See SPIT Week Focus: Customer Experience Management and India Needs Radical Rethink.)
As Heavy Reading analyst Caroline Chappell notes in her recently published Service Provider Information Technology (SPIT) Insider report, Customer Experience Management Still Needs to Bridge the Chasm, "the ability to capture and understand the events that can affect the customer experience in time to be able to influence and optimize that experience is a major source of differentiation for telcos."
At this stage of the market, operators face the challenge of implementing the right, future-proof CEM solution. It is no longer sufficient for a telco to collect silos of customer experience-related data in customer relationship management (CRM) systems or fault management systems and to ship them off to data warehouses where they are analyzed -- in isolation -- days or weeks after the event. They need solutions that will collect the comprehensive set of data about the customer experience in near-real time from a wide range of sources across their organization, correlate and analyze this data as rapidly as possible and disseminate the resulting intelligence to the multiple stakeholders in charge of the relevant business processes, who can act on it.
But it isn't just a case of deciding which SPIT tools need to be added to the back office and customer care centers. As Chappell notes, "for CEM to succeed, operators need to overcome the political barriers to such a solution. CEM ought to be the ultimate unifying initiative that spans the business/IT/network chasm that exists in most telcos. Yet telcos report that network functions are unwilling to share sources of customer experience data with other organizational domains, and vice versa." (See Turf Wars Threaten Telco CEM Initiatives.)
In essence, "many telcos lack a joined-up view of their customers across networks, processes and lines of business, so an end-to-end view of each customer's experience with their organization is beyond them. CEM is often being tackled piecemeal by individual telco functions, which reduces its effectiveness and can cause duplication of instrumentation, analytics engines and dashboards in an organization," writes the analyst.
As well as engaging with key CEM technology suppliers, then, service providers need to look at the way they are organized and their internal cultures. In particular, they need to start bringing their network and IT teams closer together to enable that "joined-up view" referenced by Chappell.
That process of bringing networks and IT together is something Light Reading calls Bridging the Chasm. (See Bridging the Chasm: A Manifesto and The Top 20 Bridge Builders.)
That particular cultural shift and the deployment of new CEM tools still only scratches the surface of what service providers need to address, though. Automation, long the goal of many OSS and BSS managers within telcos, is key to providing the right people with the right information at the right time. "Those telcos that are successfully addressing CEM increasingly want to cut the manual element out of the feedback loop between CEM systems that create intelligence and the management processes/systems that control, respond to and optimize the customer experience," notes Chappell.
So what do service providers need to know to develop their CEM strategy? Here are some key points and issues to consider from Chappell's report.
CEM is still a nebulous and misunderstood concept -- it is not just real-time CRM. It is arguably larger in scope than CRM, not a subset. CEM is all about building an emotionally weighted relationship with each customer and is as much about managing services, and the infrastructure they run on, as it is about managing CRM-related customer touchpoints.
From a technical perspective, CEM is about collecting the complete set of near real-time event data that has an impact on the customer experience; correlating and analyzing this data, including matching it with historical data about individual customers, such as their historical experience of the telco, their predicted lifetime value and their known needs and desires; and using this combined intelligence to take appropriate management actions.
The key challenges telcos face in implementing a successful CEM strategy are: dealing with internal political issues; dealing with the fragmentation and volume of data being gathered and processed; implementing greater real-time automation of processes; and identifying and communicating the CEM strategy that best suits an individual telco (CEM is not a "one-size-fits-all" scenario).
The shift to CEM will have a profound impact on the OSS/BSS stack, particularly the service assurance function.
Amdocs Ltd. looks set to take CEM to the next stage with its AIDA (Amdocs Intelligent Decision Automation) engine.
Among the major telecom systems suppliers, Nokia Siemens Networks stands out as having a well thought out and articulated proposition, though it could face challenges from Alcatel-Lucent (with its Motive platform) and Ericsson AB (once it closes its acquisition of Telcordia Technologies Inc.). (See NSN Gives Facebook a New Status, Ericsson to Buy Telcordia, Ericsson + Telcordia: What the Analysts Say and Motive Touts Device Milestone.
CEM vendors of note, as profiled in Chappell's report, are (in alphabetical order):
â€” Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading