Recent research tells us that telcos still have the lowest satisfaction rankings of all consumer sectors, worse than banks, insurers and transport companies. It also tells us that more customers are willing to pay extra for excellent service than willing to sacrifice it for a lower cost, an important principle to note in a sector where compound annual growth rate (CAGR), over the last 5 years, in the UK for example, is just 2.2%.

The research confirms what we all intuitively know: that customer service influences business performance, trust, reputation, and loyalty. But it also uncovers a less obvious truth; that the biggest customer experience differentiators between the top 50 organizations and the rest, relates to the performance of service assurance, where telcos ensure the successful operation of customer services in-life.

Why Telcos aren’t there yet

Our experience shows that transformation within a telco to enhance service assurance capability often focuses on developing more advanced capabilities, such as common multi-channel journeys, better integration between marketing, sales and service domains, and deep analytics / AI to identify customer churn risk before some of the ‘basics’, like coherent/accurate inventory is in place. Where this happens, the benefits realized from transformation often fail to meet expectations because of more fundamental issues within the telco.

What does ‘good’ service assurance look like?

Effective service assurance aims to resolve service issues before the customer even becomes aware of them, and in the worst case effectively resolves customer-reported issues through the process of customer incident management. Incident management should ideally achieve a high right first time (RFT) rate, rapid time to resolve (TTR) and minimal inappropriate high-cost action (HCA) resolutions, such as engineer visits or equipment replacement. We identify attributes of a telco’s service management architecture appropriate to delivering on these ideas across 5 themed layers that build on each other.

The 5 stages of the service assurance maturity model

The basics-

Covering the fundamental need for;

  1. An accurate, consistent and complete inventory
  2. Effective back office fault and incident management capabilities
  3. Front office incident management capability supporting effective end-to-end journey management, separation from technology specifics, common and consistent journeys between digital and direct channels, and richer journeys supporting enhanced customer visibility and ability to influence the journey

Without the ‘basics’ such as an accurate and complete inventory being substantially in place, we will see reduced benefit from attempts to address more advanced themes, for example, attempting to perform customer turnover analysis on the back of an inaccurate view of customers, their services and the in-life use of those services.

The proactive organization-

Delivering a more proactive organization tasked with preventing issues before they arise, built on;

  1. Effective back office performance management capabilities, identifying trends before they become service impacting
  2. Effective front and back office problem management capabilities, spotting patterns of previously resolved incidents and taking action to prevent their recurrence

Obviously, it is good to address issues before they arise, and even better to avoid them entirely.

The joined-up / intelligent organization-

Delivering an organization that uses the information it has to maximum potential, built on;

  1. A joined up / shared view of data and seamless processes across the marketing, sales and service domains
  2. The use of techniques from data analytics and artificial intelligence to provide insight into areas such as customer attrition analysis, identification of changing customer demographics and customer need, performance management, and problem management

A joined-up view of the organization can help to capitalize on an opportunity that might otherwise be missed – as an example, we might up-sell a customer maxed out on an ADSL connection (service domain) to an FTTC connection (sales domain). Data analytics / AI can obviously provide insight that helps the telco stay ahead of churn risks and identify opportunities to evolve their offering.

The agile organization-

Delivering an organization that can quickly change its product offering to meet evolving customer needs, built on;

  1. The use of a product catalog/product studio model where changes to the service model are configured in one place and not configured across multiple systems, or even coded
  2. Customer journeys defined/managed in one place
  3. An agile service platform infrastructure, which could be enabled by technologies such as network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN), at the network layer
  4. An agile service management infrastructure realized through an appropriate balance of service oriented architecture (SOA) aligned services and micro-services, supporting alignment on more agile development and deployment methodologies where possible/sensible

Note that agility ensures that the telco can offer and assure the right service for customer need – there is little point in being able to deliver excellent service assurance for a product nobody wants.

The learning organization-

Delivering an organization that continually learns and can adjust accordingly. Measurement of the issues that lead to a poor customer experience should be embedded within the in-life operation of a telco, so that customer experience measurement and resulting targeted transformation becomes not just a one-time exercise, but a continued endeavor. This requires increasing levels of maturity within the organization in areas such as business process ownership, data architectural governance, and enterprise architectural governance.

The 5 stages above give us significant insight into the capabilities within themed ‘layers’ that contribute towards the delivery of best-in-class service assurance, and thus improved customer experience. These layers imply sensible prioritization in transformation, and further highlight how a focus on the wrong areas-the joined up / intelligent organization before the basics, for example, can lead to disappointing results.

Good customer experience delivers improvements in customer trust and loyalty and reduces customer turnover. Further, as we deliver capability improvements as outlined, we would expect to see an aligned reduction in operational expenditure (OpEx) – it is cheaper to do service assurance well than it is to do it badly!

In part 2 of this blog series, we will consider why telcos often fail in their efforts to transform their service management estate towards such a model, and what lessons can be drawn from these failures.

Co-authored by Trevor Hackett, Senior Principal, Infosys Consulting

Ian Watts

Ian Watts

Partner, Infosys Consulting

Ian is a strategy and transformation professional with 25 years of experience in the utilities and telecom sectors. He is an expert in defining and delivering technology-led transformation programs in complex, multi-vendor environments. Ian joined Infosys Consulting as Partner last year and manages some of our key accounts in the region.