Putting the Service into Service Provider

Putting the Service into Service Provider
Dominic Smith, Marketing Director at Cerillion, says CSPs must stop selling technology and look to the Clouds to really understand what makes a great customer experience.

A recent Infographic [link no longer available] that caught my attention states that 95% of people have used the Cloud but don’t actually realise it. What a great statistic to be able to quote?! Ergo the vast majority of people using Gmail, Dropbox, et al, don’t actually know (and probably don’t care) that they are using a cloud service. And why should they? Customers just want services that work.

So what is it with the Telco sector? The industry seems to be continually sucked into technology-led thinking and positioning. Remember the fanfare when ‘3’ launched as a newly licensed 3G operator in the UK on 03/03/03? And we are now in the midst of a frenzy over ‘4G’, with for example EE in the UK branding their network as ‘4GEE – the biggest, fastest and most reliable network’.

Inside the industry it seems we are also technology obsessed – all the news and events are about NFV, SDN, HetNets, VoLTE, and so on. Aargghhh! I recently spotted a headline proclaiming the deployment of the “World’s First” Commercialised SDN Service in China. And having read the story, I’m still none the wiser about what it will actually do for the customer experience?!

Don’t get me wrong, technology is absolutely fundamental to the industry, but customers don’t need to know how their service is delivered, but what it does and why it will benefit them. BSS/OSS applications provide the how for service innovation, but consumers don’t need to know if something will be ‘real-time’, it just needs to work when they need it; It also needs to work seamlessly on all devices, every time; And if there is a problem, they need to know it will be fixed without being passed from department to department.

Dare I say it, publishers and the media are probably to blame – they need to put a badge on something to promote it. Big Data is one of the most recent marketing phenomena, with a whole series of dedicated events and publications inflating the bubble. But do you hear Google talking about Big Data? Not a chance, because they know that customers don’t want to know how their search engine works or how Google Now helps them to manage their lifestyle.

In recent weeks I’ve travelled around the UK quite a lot and the most noticeable ‘experience’ I’ve had from my communications services provider (CSP) is a massive variation in signal strength and the performance of my smartphone. Applications have stopped working and the battery life has been very poor – is there a problem with my phone? Not directly.

As an industry insider, I know it’s the network – the data speeds have frequently dropped to 3G, Edge and often GPRS. Have you ever tried using the Facebook app over GPRS? Forget it, it is unusable. And when the signal strength has been low (sometimes non-existent), the battery is drained much more quickly whilst the phone strains to gain a better signal. But try explaining that to an ‘outsider’!

Customers want services that work, and services that either solve problems or make life easier or more entertaining. Over the past 6 months I’ve had a number of calls from my CSP trying to upsell me to their ‘4G’ service. Will this solve the problem of no coverage when I visit family and friends in Lincolnshire? No. Will I notice any difference when browsing the web or looking at my email when I am in London? No – HSDPA+ is plenty fast enough when I’m on the go and the rest of the time I am using Wi-Fi anyway. So I think I’ll save that extra £5 a month they were hoping to extract from my wallet.

CSPs do need to be expert engineers to provide a seamless network experience for their customers, but if this is their only selling point then they are on the slippery slope to network provider only status. If they want to become real service providers, they need to take a leaf out of the book of their Cloud counterparts by dropping the technobabble and delivering more lifestyle-oriented and aspirational services that ‘just work’. And our role as BSS/OSS providers is to supply them with the underlying technology that helps them do it.