Customer care professionals: Don't ignore the elephant in the room

Industry Marketing Manager - Communications, IBM

In a 2015 Heavy Reading survey to identify the most important factors driving customer loyalty in the telecommunications industry, price—the assumed choice—was not the most important factor driving customer behavior. Network service quality was regarded as the most important factor. Subscribers choose and stay with service providers that provide them with reliable networks offering consistently high-quality customer experience and proactive customer care.

Customer experience in telecommunications

What constitutes customer experience on the network? Here are five factors to consider: 

  1. Connectivity: Quick connectivity for subscribers is imperative; regardless of channel—mobile, fixed line, video or WhatsApp call—we’ve all experienced a few seconds of complete silence when punching in or selecting a number on our smartphones. Ensuring that subscribers can connect every time and in a few seconds is crucial.
  2. Mobility: No matter the location, the switch between radio towers must be handled seamlessly, or it can result in a dropped voice or Voice over IP (VoIP) call.
  3. Subscriber device: Consider the experience for iPhone versus Samsung smartphone users. How is the network quality of experience for iPhone 5 versus iPhone 6 or 6S users?
  4. Location: Do subscribers get a dropped call when they take a particular turn on the highway or approach the same tunnel on their way to work every day?
  5. Applications: Application quality can make or break the customer experience. Whether users are engaging in communications on Facebook, Skype or YouTube, the individual application needs to be strong and consistent throughout. 

Why do network operations and service-quality management teams in telecommunications find measuring and improving customer experience quality so challenging? A 2,500-year-old story from India may shed some light—and offer key lessons.

The emperor and the elephant

An emperor who ruled a large part of western India was very generous but made decisions in a hurry without looking at the whole picture. For example, when the farmers from the southern part of the kingdom visited him and complained about drought, he had all the water from rivers diverted to fields in the south, leaving the fields in northern parts without sufficient water. And when the emperor saw enemy forces gather on the eastern border of the kingdom, he directed the entire army to the east, leaving the western borders vulnerable.

The wise men in his court wanted him to see the folly in his ways. Because the emperor was very fond of games, they requested he participate in a game in which he had to guess the identity of an object by touching a different part of it while blindfolded each of four days.

On the first day, the emperor touched the object, laughed and said that it was a rope. On the second day, the emperor felt a round, solid part of the object with a rough texture, and he declared that it must be a tree. The following day, he touched a part of the object that felt flat and wide. He thought it was a wall. And on the final day, the emperor felt the sharp tip of the object and said the object was a spear.

The wise men then removed the blindfold from the emperor, who was amazed to see that the object wasn’t a rope, tree, wall or spear. It was an elephant. The emperor then understood why the wise men wanted him to play the game; he needed to look at all aspects of the object before making a decision.

Much like the emperor in this story, network operations and service-quality management teams are currently guessing how each customer is doing by looking at only part of the picture at a time. They are looking at separate network operations tools monitoring each part of the network—the traditional cellular voice and Short Message Service (SMS) network, 3G and 4G networks, fixed-line and IP TV networks, and so on. All these network monitoring tools are showing events for each network and measuring quality of service delivered.

But what about the individual subscriber’s quality of experience as a whole? Who is correlating the network quality of service with the individual subscriber’s quality of experience across all services, all technologies and at different locations in the case of wireless services? Unless the network operations and service-quality management teams can see and analyze the customer experience data holistically across the entire business, they will keep guessing about customer satisfaction and needs.

The entire customer experience and service-quality picture

If you are interested in learning how network operations and service-quality management teams see the whole picture of the customer experience on the network, check out “Proactively Managing Customer Experience with Real-time Analytics.” 

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