Operators are using analytics tools to enhance the customer experience and offer their clients the packages and offers that they are expecting in order to maintain their subscribers and attract new customers.
• Paul Black, program director, Telecoms and Networking, Middle East and Africa at IDC
• Riad Hartani, partner at Xona parters
• Tareq Masarweh, senior consultant MEA at Ovum
• Inge Nieuwenhuis, consultant at Inque Business Consultancy
CommsMEA: How can data analytics help operators to create new packages?
Black: IDC considers social business, mobility, and analytics, together with cloud services as the four pillars of the fast emerging third platform. Although the investments in customer experience management (CEM) have started to move in the right direction, among the Middle East operators, a holistic third platform strategy and integration of the components (data analytics and social business channels) with CEM tools are necessary for predicting changing customer requirements. A combination of social business channels and data analytics forms the basis for designing innovative service packages and delivery channels.
CommsMEA: How should operators secure customers’ privacy when analysing their data?
Masarweh: I can surely tell, from research, that customer privacy is currently the biggest concern and that it’s the biggest bottleneck facing big data from proper execution. On one hand, the absence of well-defined cyber laws or data protection acts in most countries creates a big cloud of uncertainty that leaves operators and regulators confused. On the other hand, the defined data protection acts nowadays are very conservative and are in favour of customer protection. To answer that particular question, I believe operators should start by anonymising end consumers when they’re trying to sell knowledge or sharing insights into other industries by acting as the privacy gatekeeper. Operators and data privacy official bodies can then see the value or grant the operators a higher trust level that frees them from current constraints.
Hartanni: Various models are available to tackle customer privacy challenges. Most models would include data anonymisation and integrate appropriate authentication schemes for data access, and appropriate encryption schemes for data transmission and storage. Still, significant challenges will have to be addressed to ensure reliable protection against privacy and security threats. This is specifically the case when offering SaaS based services, which requires a rethinking of the overall security/privacy architectures in place today in operators’ networks.
Black: Protection of customer data privacy should be made a business priority, rather than just an IT priority. Operators should take the complete responsibility to curb the use of customer data for marketing or for any other invasive purposes. To this effect, custom data privacy policies should be charted by operators and by putting a mechanism in place to update the policies with the changing technology trends. Additionally, clearly defined processes and systems restricting undue access of customer data are required. Risk management and auditing, recruiting experienced people, and imparting a sense of responsibility and ownership among them are some other important measures.
CommsMEA: How important is life analytics for operators in order to create new offers and customise packages?
Nieuwenhuis: Before making things more complicated with complex analytics and detailed analysis, I believe it is more important that operators simplify their offerings to customers and make services easy accessible and highly transparent. The more complex the packages the more difficult things are for a customer and in the end the more distorted customer analytics becomes. Be close to your customers and make their life easier is the best place to start.
Hartanni: Analytics will be increasingly important to operators, and would require them to re-architect their information systems, databases and data management models, and augment their capabilities with the inclusion of data sciences and analysis tools. Moreover, a closer integration between engineering and marketing is key in order to put in place adequate analytics engines.
Masarweh: I believe that data/life analytics are the answer to protect future ARPUs and to ensure customer loyalty or satisfaction, in an age where being customer centric matters the most.
To clarify that, the more the operator understands the user and ensures that his/her individual needs are met, the more the customer is likely to be loyal and to spend the right amount of disposable income with that operator.
CommsMEA: A research released by Ovum said that customers left operators because of phone faults, as the customer service was not satisfactory. What should operators improve to maintain their customers?
Black: Quality of Services (QoS), both network and service related parameters, is an important area of differentiation for operators. While call completion rate, network uptime, latency, and jitter determine the network quality, time to provide connection, resolution time, and after sales support features determine the service quality. Operators need deliberate measures such as additional capital expenditure (CAPEX) on network infrastructure or network upgrade, setting up more call centres, investments in hiring and training service staff, investments in to the improvement of customer experience at various touch points to enhance the customer experience.
CommsMEA: What kind of packages are consumers demanding in the region?
Black: In view of the high mobile service penetration and smart phone penetration rates, and high numbers of young digital natives, we see an attractive market for mobile data packages preferably bundled with smart devices (smart phones and tablet computers).
We are also seeing a higher demand for local (with a preference for Arabic apps) information apps, m-commerce apps, and infotainment apps.
Masarweh: As the industry would and should expect, people are expecting higher speeds, more stable connections for lower prices.
Hartanni: Customers are demanding better data optimised services, with adequate quality of service, which is required by the quality of experience needs of various OTT applications. Customers are also aiming at having services pricing packages that are more tailored to their usage needs.
CommsMEA: What should operators enhance to offer a better customers’ service?
Masarweh: Our EMEA research (aligned in order of importance) shows that most consumers were looking for better broadband speeds, better priced deals and better customer service while they were churning from their current operators. This of course applies to both the fixed and the mobily industries. However, when it came to mobile, looking for better network coverage came in at the same level of importance as customer service. I think prioritising network investments and proper quality of network service while considering proper data strategies should be on the top of an operators’ concern list in addition to the inevitable customer centric transformation.
Nieuwenhuis: Any service that an operator offers, should work seamless. In the exceptional case that it doesn’t, customers should have access to a consistently fast, reliable and knowledgeable customer service.
CommsMEA: How operators can attract new customers?
Black: With the commoditisation of voice services, operators are turning to data services in the region. They are exploring innovative ways of bundling voice and data services such as multi-play offerings (voice, video, and data), device (smart phones and tablets) bundles with high speed data services, and bundles of data services and over the top (OTT) services. In the enterprise segment, operators are focusing on bundling voice and data services with digital services such as machine to machine (M2M) / Internet of Things (IOT), smart city and vertical solutions, data centre services such as hosting, collocation, and cloud, and a variety of managed services.
Hartanni: Operators will be in direct competition with OTT players as well as Services companies in going after residential and enterprise customers respectively. Various operators are having different strategies to access new customers, but overall, defining the right partnership strategy with the other players in the eco-system will be the most important angle to tackle. This is specifically true for the delivery of IoT based services, which calls for smart partnerships with the various other business verticals, as in automotive, health, finance, energy, etc. Partnerships with a new generation of MVNOs and specialised OTT players will also be required to attract and retain new customers.
CommsMEA: Which operators are leading the way when attracting new customers in the Middle East and Africa region?
Black: Not one operator sticks out in leading the way and a lot more must be done. Innovation and understanding the customer needs and expectations is definitely required within the region.