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The Software Side of Customer Service

Sarah Thomas
5/30/2012

12:40 PM -- Selling a smartphone today is as much -- if not more -- about the software than the hardware itself. That's why EE is investing £50 million (US $78 million) in ensuring its operators, Salt SA and T-Mobile (UK) , know the ins and outs of all the major operating systems.

The company announced a new program Wednesday to train its 12,000 employees on mobile OSs, to open new contact centers and stores and to hire more staff, with a focus specifically on Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) iOS, BlackBerry, Android and Windows phones.

The move is aimed at making customer service reps jacks-of-all-trades, so they can speak to all the different phones and software without having to transfer between departments. The approach is already being trialed, and the carrier says it has dramatically improved the resolution of issues at the first point of contact.

This news caught my eye for a couple of reasons. First, in my experience at operators' retail stores, I haven't found the salespeople to be that knowledgeable on the nuances of the devices they sell. They tend to have their favorites or stick to the basic lines about apps and battery life.

This was reinforced Wednesday by a research note from MKM Partners analyst Michael Genovese, who wrote Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK)'s Lumia 900 is no longer being heavily promoted, with sales reps, who instead choose to talk up the Samsung Galaxy and HTC One models, which they report using themselves. It could be the case that a personal bias is getting in the way of really walking through a user's needs and balancing them against a phone's features. (See Analyst: Nokia Lumia 'Not a Company Saver'.)

The most important reason this caught my eye, however, was that I just got back from Management World in Dublin, where customer experience management was a big topic -- albeit one defined more by marketing than actual action. It's a mark of good progress to see an investment in the experience the customer has from day one. (See Management World 2012:
The Customer Experience Catalyst
, Analyst Questions Customer Experience Message and Where is the Customer Service Culture?)

Sure, there's still a lot of work to do on customer experience, from the senior level down to the call centers, but equipping your salespeople with all the knowledge they need to make it a one-and-done trip to the store or call to customer service seems like a logical place to start.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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DRockwell
DRockwell
12/5/2012 | 5:31:22 PM
re: The Software Side of Customer Service


Thanks for the article, Sarah. We were at Management World as well where, indeed, customer experience was a huge area of focus. The industry as a whole seems to have focused on making customer experience the core of the CSP’s business proposition – meaning lots of data analysis done very quickly, and, critically, turning that data in to information. I talk a bit more about this here if you’re interested: http://bit.ly/NopNdT

shygye75
shygye75
12/5/2012 | 5:31:21 PM
re: The Software Side of Customer Service


There's more than a bit of irony underlying the CEM push. Operators have pretty much adopted a self-serve model to resolve service issues, but they are now getting ready to make big investments in analytics, etc., to improve the customer experience. I'd think Step 1 would be to address problem-resolution issues in a way that puts the onus for problem resolution on the operator rather than on the customer. It shouldn't take a week for my broadband provider to figure out that a bad line card is causing my service to deteriorate, but it does. Actual customers may feel better served if their supplier can solve problems quickly and efficiently, whether or not there's big data involved.

macster
macster
12/5/2012 | 5:31:20 PM
re: The Software Side of Customer Service


It's interesting that everyone is talking about analytics..... but there doesn't seem to be much on the (Big) Data itself.


In a previous life with an OSS player, we supplied an OLAP system to a number of operators. It was good to have a brilliant framework and front end to create KPIs and reports on the fly, but equally important was the ability to have proper presentation and representation of the various data sources (of the various vendors). 


Note that these were structured data/datasets. Now, with Big Data, we have unstructured data to cope with. I wonder how many CSPs have considered this?

Soupafly
Soupafly
12/5/2012 | 5:31:18 PM
re: The Software Side of Customer Service


@ macster; At least two of the tier1 vendors are analysing "Apache Hadoop" to help them fulfil the need you define.


The flexibility & scale it offers is 1 of the best available. (Not the best, to state that is nonsense, as its always going to be deployment & scenario contingent.)


@ mendyk & brockwell; What suprises me is how after years of talking (and I first working on a project with CEM reqs in 2008!) few if any of the carriers have published thresholds that they publicly talk about & adhere to.


Why is setting a benchmark & stating it, so complicated? If they are still scared of doing that all these years later then CEM will remain a talking shop until someone breaks ranks and offers something attractive & relevant.


Today the carrier offerings deliver only margin relevance & nothing attractive.


 

macster
macster
12/5/2012 | 5:31:17 PM
re: The Software Side of Customer Service


Are you sure? If so, I stand corrected, but I've not heard of any major CSP implementing Hadoop.

Soupafly
Soupafly
12/5/2012 | 5:31:16 PM
re: The Software Side of Customer Service


Am I sure. Yes. They are evaluating Apache Hadoop. I have consulted on it, with them.


Implementations. None, as yet. Only a relatively small group of providers have a real & defined need today within the business that has been scoped, costed & understood across the organisation. The uses for a Hadoop cluster extend well beyond customer analytics. I would expect a strong case to be made for including finance, HR, logistics, etc.


The beauty of using Hadoop is you can extend it onto cloud infrastructure today (Amazon's platforms been 1 example, amongst many) and be operational relatively quickly. It also extends into the petabyte range of storage, so scale is less of an issue.


The fact that Yahoo is built on it and its shares some similar traits with Google's fabled "BigTable" platform, is also relevant.


 


 

macster
macster
12/5/2012 | 5:31:16 PM
re: The Software Side of Customer Service


LOL! Thanks for the Hadoop overview.


Wow! You're an Hadoop expert as well. You have to be, if you "consult" Tier 1 (I assume, North American?) CSPs. Interesting... Tier 1 CSPs, that most likely lack in-house skills, undertake such "evaluation" without hiring a proper consulting house.


Or, when you say "I have consulted...", you actually mean consulting as an employee of a company? Interesting. Are you a Clouderan then? There are very few companies that can do this..............


Finally, why do you expect a strong case to be made for HR and finance (non-transactional)? Is there something new with HR that makes HR schema unwieldy now? 

paolo.franzoi
paolo.franzoi
12/5/2012 | 5:31:15 PM
re: The Software Side of Customer Service


<ignoring the hadoop discussion>


mendyk,


I think you have hit the nail on the head with this comment and things might be different for businesses.  The question I think is that will the carrier make more money (or spend less money) with the type of proactive service you describe?  I question it as I have run a cloud/managed service offering and seen little premium placed on this by the customer themselves.  I am not saying that they do not appreciate the call they get from us telling them that their mail server has crashed (when we see it in our monitoring), but they show no tendency to give us a price differential for it.  I compare this to Google's Postini offering which they can not call and the only CS interface is a website that posts the service status.  People will sometimes switch if we give them a lower price AND better service but the switch rate on service alone is VERY low.  


seven


 

Soupafly
Soupafly
12/5/2012 | 5:31:15 PM
re: The Software Side of Customer Service


Anytime on the overview.


You have a habit of trying to figure me out, lol! I am flattered and all and I will also just smile in response.


Unstructured data-sets come in a number of guises. For someone who advised on OLAP system and its deployment for a OSS vendor, you seem to have only a cursory understanding of the data, how the sets are comprised, manipulated and mined.


The HR reference goes to 1 company with 1000's of employees. They look at multiple reference sets within the business to dynamically assess; Performance, satisfaction and key trends impacting these 2 domains from what they term "supporting" systems. Have they cracked how to do this? No.


Is the model & heuristics they are using to do this very interesting to others as a way of "automating" parts of a process which has historically been highly subjective in nature. Absolutely.


P.S: The free consulting to you & your Huawei team, has now ended for today.


 

macster
macster
12/5/2012 | 5:31:08 PM
re: The Software Side of Customer Service


When you remove all impossibles, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

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