Read Customer Self-Service in Telecom text version

The Challenge of Customer Self-Service inTelecom

Bharat M. Gupta, Robert Johnson and Sailaja Pramidi

Economic prosperity in the 20th century owed its origin to one overriding development: the introduction of self-service in almost every area of our life. While self-service technology is now widely taken for granted, it has transformed the way business operates. Butler Group

The deployment of next generation services, such as broadband, VoIP, IPTV, Wireless TV, and FTTH will create customer pressure on Communication Service Providers to provide for customer self ­ control of their own services and support.

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Self-service enables Service Providers to not only reduce the cost of interaction, but also collect more customer information to enable more personalized service. This, in turn, can drive higher customer retention and increase revenue. (Figure 1) From the customer's perspective, self-service is valuable because it is convenient and flexible. It provides an autonomous communications channel enabling customers to: · Shop for products and services that fit their needs · Purchase the products they want to buy · Obtain ongoing support on an "anytime" basis.

Figure-1: Business Drivers for Customer Self-Service

Cost Optimization Customer Satisfaction and Retention ARPU Increase

Reduce customer service costs by leveraging the power of online customer service channels.

Create an overall high-quality customer experience, including 24*7 access to all information, services, and trouble logs. Increase ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) by providing innovative service offerings

Conventional Approaches to Self-service Fall Short of Customer and Business Objectives

Conventional self-service approaches fall into one of two categories: knowledge-based and transaction-based. Knowledge-based solutions: They are designed to interpret customer requests that are often based on an easily searchable and intuitively structured database, essentially a collection of possible answers for frequently asked questions (FAQs).


· They are quick and easy to implement through a searchable and intuitively structured database of FAQs · They act as a first level of customer service and serve to reduce interaction costs by addressing the most common issues in an automated manner · They work well if all customers want the same answers to the same questions.


· · · · They push customers away from direct interaction They work poorly if all customers asking the same questions expect (require) different answers They have minimal personalization since customer transactions are not tracked. They must be regularly maintained for information accuracy.

Transaction-based solutions: They encourage customers to use self-service channels by allowing them to make changes as well as enabling real interaction between the customer and operator. They do this by logging in and accessing their own personal details and services.

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· They provide first level support and encourage customers to control their service and support · They enable customers to perform self-service on 80 percent of their inquiries, including basic service functions. Typical transactions include checking remaining minutes and billing details, adding text message bundles, changing address details, and reporting faults · They provide service providers a better view of what their customers are looking for in terms of new service packages and price offerings


· Back-office integration for completing transactions captured through different channels is often done using asynchronous platforms · They do not guarantee alignment of customer processes with business objectives · To avoid intrusion from customers, they require investment in robust security architecture An analysis of conventional approaches and typical customer facing environments in the Service Providers shows insufficient integration between various customer interaction channels and backoffice systems. In the absence of such integration, the Service Provider's self-service solution is unable to provide a unified view to a customer who is subscribed to multiple products / services. Some of the questions that are overlooked in traditional implementations are: · Is my customer's plan selection the most optimal one? Is my customer able to select compatible products and services? How do I measure my customer's level of satisfaction with their interactions? How do I integrate disparate channels to speed customer problem resolution? Who are my most vulnerable customers? · How do I reduce cost without reducing quality of customer support? Are my customers being encouraged to use the most cost effective channel to submit their requests? How much knowledge and intelligence is needed to reduce average call time and reduce call volume? · How can we leverage information on customer usage, segmentation and call behavior to drive incremental revenue? Have we collected sufficient knowledge to support each service? Is the knowledge-base accurate, reflecting the most current and helpful information? It is imperative that self-service systems provide customer's with visibility into what is happening as they use the systems to help manage increasingly complex tasks and processes, but don't force them to be managed by the processes. In many cases, service providers have focused on deploying CRM applications and building web based infrastructure but may have experienced only limited success as they were challenged to: · cohesively couple (or integrate) back office applications with other channels to enable overall improvement across customer operations · Ensure a "friendly" and intuitive user interface · Provide Complete and accurate content to ensure the right information is presented to the customer, ensuring selfservice success.

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Infosys Approach for Effective Self-Care

Infosys believes delivering on the big picture as suggested in the previous section requires a new model for self-service. This model builds on the successes of conventional models (i.e. static content, online transactions) and uses the best of eBusiness applications (i.e. dynamic / personalized contents & integrated multi-channels) to enable a new generation of more complex, customer oriented process driven web applications. To achieve the right balance between the triple objectives of Cost Optimization, Customer Satisfaction and Retention and ARPU Increase, Infosys believes that Service Providers should focus on four key elements. a. Collecting sufficient, current and accurate data (customer, services and support) ­ to effectively personalize and customize the customer experience b. Establishing an efficient and cost-effective process for updating content / information ­ to ensure customers continue to perceive self-service as a reliable and useful contact channel. c. Integrating systems ­ to ensure that all customer, product and promotion data is available in a usable and integrated manner, to enable informed decisions and automated processes d. Providing control, customization and ease-of-use for customers ­ to enable them to easily choose and define their services and means of support e. Enabling flexibility for Service Provider - to ensure that new services and promotions can easily be offered as/when appropriate

An example of how such an approach could work is demonstrated in Figure 2.

Benefits of Infosys Approach

Infosys and its partners work with service providers to meet next generation self-service design characteristics without losing sight of key business objectives for deploying self-service ­ Cost Optimization, Customer Retention, and ARPU Increase.

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Cost Optimization:

According to a major US wireless provider, 70% or more of customer questions to call centers could be resolved via selfservice. These include three main categories, which are common to other Service Providers as well: · Information requests on call plans (Tariffs/Rate Plans) · Billing inquiries/disputes/online payments · Help regarding the use of devices, features and services Of these three, information requests and billing inquiries are best handled via automated voice. Based on our research and experience, Infosys recommends a voice recognition interface to natural language search linked to a knowledge base that can also be accessed through the Web. OnMobile, an Infosys partner, has developed powerful multimodal technology which integrates SMS, speech recognition, WAP, and MMS via several user friendly services including Customer Care. As illustrated in Figure 3, OnMobile "HelpYourself" solution has been shown to reduce call duration from 2 minutes 40 sec (normal IVR assisted calls) to 48 seconds (HelpYourself multimodal call).

Figure 3: Call Time Reduction using OnMobile HelpYourself Multi-modal Call (adapted from OnMobile HelpYourself documents, 2005)

Normal IVR

Total call duration = 2 minutes 40 48 seconds User info / Main 52 seconds Menu navigation

50 seconds User

10 seconds Actual

HelpYourself Call Total call duration = 1 minute 10 38 seconds User

12 seconds 10 seconds Menu

10 seconds Actual

HelpYourself Multimodal Call duration = 48 secs 38 seconds User

10 seconds Actual Secondly, Electronic Bill Presentment and Payment (EBPP) services can be combined with customer self-service and used to streamline payment disputes and provide customized views of billing data. Bottom-line savings can be measured through account personnel time reduction and reduction in accounts receivables.

Thirdly, customers can be encouraged to handle service configurations themselves through webinterfaces. As illustrated in Figures 4, research has shown that companies can realize substantial cost savings by using online self-service, for both consumer and enterprise customer segments. Online self-service is particularly effective in consumer call elimination compared to traditional Customer Service Representative (CSR). EBPP can reduce the cost of bill presentment and payment by 50-60% over traditional print copy billing. And, use of web portals and messaging platforms has been shown to reduce dispute resolution costs by 60% compared to CSRs or second line problem resolution support groups.

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Figure 4: Percent Reduction in Cost (adapted from Gartner Research, April 2003)

Percent Reduction in Cost

100% 80% 60% 40% 20% 0% Sending bills Call elimination Dispute resolution B2B B2C

Customer Retention

Infosys experience shows that customer retention is a particularly serious issue for virtually all communications service providers, including Mobile Operators, Wireline, Cable and Satellite providers. The telecommunications markets have increasingly become more competitive (around the world) and customers have choices in all aspects of their telecom services. For example, customer retention is becoming an increasing concern for Wireline Operators as new IP-based models become available, and as increasing numbers of consumers substitute mobile subscriptions for landline connections. Recent McKinsey research shows that companies can expect to retain 1-2% additional customers due to better online self-care [1]. Convenient and effective self-service can help alleviate some of the causes of customer churn: · Provides consumers with easy payment options ­ either for bill payment, or for topping up prepaid accounts. Mobile carriers can increase loyalty of post-paid subscribers by providing them with full EBPP and customer self care options in-line with post-paid subscribers. · Enable convenient plan review and changes. Survey and anecdotal evidence indicates that the perception of being locked-in causes frustration and churn. Self-service integrated with back-end workflow can reduce the cost of plan changes, and increase customer retention. Service Providers can enforce their standard plan change policies or allow more frequent changes, based on their business objectives. · Support m-commerce activities by providing over-the-air (OTA) subscriber identity mode (SIM)-card based e­wallets.

ARPU Increase

McKinsey research shows that for many telcos, customer calls trigger 85% of all incremental revenues [1]. In addition, many service providers insist on an opportunity to "save" a customer who is considering a downgrade or complete disconnection of service. Hence they are wary of upsetting the company's lifeline, by moving customers to self-care. To address this, Infosys recommends that upselling, cross-selling and providing on-demand services be an integral part of any robust self-service system. Ideally, the self-service would use business intelligence reporting and analytics to offer relevant upsell cross-sell services (in principle all relevant services should be available on a customer self-service basis). Some of the typical revenue generation services include: · VPN and conferencing services for enterprise customers and occasional conferencing as a consumer service · Premium short message services (SMS) with reverse billing for both consumer and corporate customers [* Footnote: In premium SMS the recipient is billed for the SMS ("reverse billing") instead of the sender. A daily horoscope alert is an example of a reverse billed premium SMS service.] · Web hosting for the usual data or IP services, especially for small and medium business · Video-on-demand for consumers with broadband access 6 | Infosys ­ View Point

In the case of a disconnect or downgrade self-service transaction request, the service provider can request a call between a trained, retention service representative and the customer to initiate a dialogue that is intended to "save" a customer.


A well designed self-service system can help companies not only reduce customer care costs, but also help retain customers and provide upselling and cross-selling opportunities. For optimal effectiveness, Infosys recommends that Service Providers focus on five key elements: (a) Collecting sufficient, current and accurate data, (b) Ensuring information/content is up to date and effective, (c) Integrating front-end and back-end systems, (d) Providing customers features that enable control, customization and ease-of-use, and, (e) Ensuring flexibility for Service Providers for offering new services and promotions.

Further Reading:

1. "Automated Self-Service Comes to Telcos", McKinsey Quarterly, February 2005 \ 2. "The Big Payoff of Web Billing and Online Customer Service", Gartner Research, April 2003 3. "Self-Service Shift Requires Improved Usability - Survey of North American Firms Identifies Plans for Self-Service", Forrester Research, January 2005

About the Authors:

Bharat M. Gupta is a Principal Architect in the Communications Service Providers IBU. Bharat is currently engaged in business process and solutions consulting, including thought leadership and solutions innovation. He is mainly focused on BSS layer including Billing, CRM and Enterprise Application Integration. Bharat has 15 years of professional experience in the telecommunication industry including business and technical roles encompassing Communication Service Providers, telecom product vendors and Research & Development. Bob Johnson is the Head of Consulting for the Communications Service Providers IBU. He has overall responsibility for driving business process consulting by combining IT innovation, managed services, application management, outsourcing, solution architecture, and channel support for Infosys' Communications Service Provider market segment. Bob has 30 years of professional experience in the telecommunications industry, both as an executive in management consultancies, along with communications service providers and manufacturers. Sailaja Pramidi is a Senior Architect in the Communications Service Providers IBU. She is currently engaged in solution consulting, solution conceptualization and development in the areas of Service fulfillment and Service Assurance. Sailaja has 10 years of professional experience in the telecommunication industry and extensively worked in the above areas towards architecture, design and delivery of solutions/systems for CSPs, product vendors and equipment manufacturers. She holds a masters degree in Software Systems from BITS, Pilani, India.

For more information on Infosys CSP service offerings, visit: communication/offerings.asp

About Infosys Communication Service Providers (CSP) Practice:

The Infosys CSP Practice delivers business solutions to the global telecommunication players offering their services in Wireline, Wireless Cable and Broadband segments. Infosys provides services that cover business process conceptualization, process engineering, package selection and implementation, application development, maintenance and support, infrastructure management, product engineering and business process outsourcing. Infosys is developing an innovative set of solutions to help service providers effectively launch and manage new services based on new and emerging technologies such as VOIP, Mobile Workforce/Craft Automation and Scenario-based Service Assurance, among others.

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Customer Self-Service in Telecom

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