Keeping the customer sweet

Operators need to maintain their quality of service to avoid losing customers
Telcos are offering innovative services to consumers to maintain their share.
Telcos are offering innovative services to consumers to maintain their share.

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Infrastructure development is basic for telecommunications and, in order to offer a reliable service to the consumer, operators need to invest in their mobile and fixed networks. “A reliable infrastructure offering improved connectivity and speed is central to the successful delivery of converged services that match consumers’ expectations,” states the ‘Regulation and consumer protection in a converging environment’ report published by the ITU.

Consumers are now looking for seamless, reliable and fast Internet connectivity. The ITU stresses the importance of developing broadband as “a vehicle for economic and social development and growth”.

“An increasing number of customers, 41% globally, demand excellent network and service quality, even if it costs a bit more, and they are willing to change operators to get what they want. Unfortunately 60% of customers report having problems with data services. If expectations for quality aren’t met, operators around the world risk losing 40% of their customers in the next twelve months, according to the 2014 Acquisition and Retention Study Report from Nokia.

eplacing lost customers is a costly task, hitting operator profitability significantly,” explains Samir Kumar, head of services, Middle East and Africa at Nokia Networks.

The consumers are demanding more and they are willing to change operators if the telcos do not meet the expectations that they had. Paul Black, director of telecoms and media at IDC Middle East, Turkey and Africa, highlights that operators have been increasingly using Customer Experience Management (CEM) tools to see performance indicators such as which subscriber is having which speed at which location, at which location is network used heavily and what customers' demand structure they find on a particular location.

“Basically, operators are using a combination of metrics to provide capacity where it is needed and also to know where their network expansion should be in new areas or to fill gaps in exiting coverage areas. With this approach, they are able to cater the needs of the subscribers while at the same time ensure ROI,” Black adds.

Alaa Hadi, senior sales manager, MEA and CIS at Tektronix Communications, explains that operators are willing to retain their customers and they are applying CEM tools to improve their services. “We see several initiatives in place today to improve the customer experience, and many operators have already deployed comprehensive CEM tools in a bid to increase subscriber retention.”

“There’s also an increased focus on network quality in the region, with major operators taking steps to improve 4G data speeds in a bid to increase revenues and better serve high value VIP subscribers. Operators are also recognising the growing need for more robust network monitoring, allowing for swift identification, troubleshooting and resolution of network problems and an improved Quality of Service,” Hadi adds.

Rami Boctor, CTO at Vodafone Qatar, believes that better customer experience insight gained through CEM tools is the key to knowing customer demands. Boctor explains that the result of the analysis should drive the operators’ plans to expand and optimise their networks.

“Better quality of service is being ensured through high capacity deployment where needed, utilising more sophisticated optimisation techniques like self-healing, self-configuration, and self-optimisation systems in addition to conventional optimisation routines. In addition to traditional macro and micro site architecture, smarter hot spot solutions are being deployed to meet the customer experience demands at high traffic areas. Some operators are also deploying WiFi networks in parallel to the cellular mobile networks to enhance customer experience of data service. For enhancing experience of voice quality, High Definition voice, VoLTE, TFO, TrFO and other modern techniques are being deployed that increase the customer experience index,” Boctor adds.

Facing challenges

“ICT adoption among end users is increasing and customers are addicted to speed and demanding access to services anywhere at any time. So, operators need to have robust network capabilities and platforms that whilst offering standard services to each subscriber also differentiates depending on customer profile to provide a level of service commensurate with the subscriber profile. Policy management platforms and customer segmentations helps the operator to provide differentiated standard of service to each subscriber without alienating premium subscribers,” explains Black.

Apart from this basic challenge that operators face when trying to deliver the best quality to consumers, telcos are also facing security concerns in the region and interference in the frequency band is becoming common. “Grey traffic is another growing concern that causes high revenue damages to the operators and also impact customer experience. Increasing environmental awareness is also putting more pressure on the operators to design solutions that are environment friendly with minimal radiation intensity per square-meter. In some parts of the world, energy crisis is the biggest challenge that takes major share of OPEX and network outages causing service disruptions, loss of revenue and lesser profits,” adds Boctor.

Hadi differentiates the challenges from a regional perspective: “Delivering a consistent quality of service to subscribers presents different challenges for different regions. Since the majority of mobile users in Sub-Saharan Africa are pre-paid and therefore represent a low ARPU, it’s especially important for operators in that region to ensure a consistent Quality of Service for VIP customers during peak hours. This helps to ensure lucrative subscriber revenues are not lost due to poor network performance. Increased network visibility is valuable to them.”

“In The Middle East and South Africa, however, operators have highly advanced networks that benefit from 4G connectivity. Subscribers in these areas represent a high ARPU and are increasingly reliant on data applications, leading operators to invest more heavily in VoIP and similar services to ensure a consistent Quality of Service,” Hadi adds.

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