Why data analysis is the layer cake of customer experience

In a competitive marketplace, telcos are at the forefront of a revolution – using customer data as a way to delight those very same customers with a great experience. Shukri Dabaghi, VP for the Middle East and Eastern Europe at SAS, discusses how telcos can not only build their data ‘cake’, but eat it, too.
SAS, Data, Big Data, Analysis, Business, Tech, Technology, Analytics, Telcos, Telecommunications, Strategy, Customer relations


Data analysis is like layer cake, says Shukri Dabaghi.

Telecommunications operators have been at the forefront of the discussion around changing customer dynamics, characterised by increasing demands and reduced loyalty. The average revenue per user (ARPU) has shrunk for traditional voice and SMS services, and data packages are where the focus is now. This transition also puts telcos in a fairly unique situation, wherein their customers use their services to access what could be seen as competition. A telecoms customer using a data package for WhatsApp is an example of this.

On the flip side of this is the fact that the telco is able to access very detailed data about their customers’ usage patterns, placing them in a very unique situation of being able to anticipate their needs and ensure customer delight.

Much is seen of the serious marketing and branding initiatives, by which one’s choice of telco is made out to be a lifestyle choice. World over, people probably pay more attention to the brand of their smartphones than their telco, and this view of the telco as a commodity will likely only be accelerated by marketing activity that is too broad and irrelevant, which can quickly get intrusive.

The need of the hour – and started well by many telcos around the world – is a customer-centric culture. Traditionally, usage data has been used to inform product and marketing decisions around launches, geographical availability, and partner offerings and content, which are then offered widely across the customer base.

Today, analysis of their wealth of data allows the telco to offer much more targeted services and solutions, to the point of communicating directly with individuals at their point of need. An example we use at SAS is of a user watching a movie on their mobile device while commuting. With a proper data analytics system in place, the telco will be able to reach out to the customer with a data booster pack before their current package expires. Imagine the customer delight in just having to click through to continue enjoying their content!

The data that a telco generates on their customer engagements and preferences have numerous touchpoints – contractual, which are when the relationship is first established and the customer onboarding process is done; operational, through analysis of usage patterns, preferred services, device choice, and more, and; reactive, built from interactions initiated by the customer with the contact centre and other customer-initiated touchpoints.

So we now have a strong volume of data, varied in its sources, and sufficiently dynamic to represent historic as well as the most recent updates. To this, we would add the dimensions of variability, since not all usage patterns are representative, and can be one-off instances, leading us to the element of complexity. Now this is where we start to see the true power of Big Data.

Think of Big Data as a layered cake: you could choose to have only the base, the fluffy centre, or the creamy icing, or you could slice it so you have the best of everything. Simply put, the process of slicing and dicing this data for the best insights and intelligence is data analytics.

The need for data analytics becomes evident for a telco when they consider the criticality of the customer experience, and realise how the data that they already have can be the platform on which they build this transformed experience. There are five distinct advantages that telcos can unlock with a considered data analytics solution.

Recognition: Interestingly, it requires a larger data stack to be able to address small-group or individual customer behavior more accurately. A consistent 360-degree view is essential for a telco to transform the customer experience, and this is a dynamic, constant process that begins with being able to identify unique customers and needs, and interact with and support them in a relevant manner. The good news is that the returns on investment can be startlingly beneficial.

Prediction: Elevating recognition to the next level is through analytics-enabled prediction of the customer’s needs and enabled up-selling and cross-selling. For the customer, it means that the telco is reaching out to them in a timely and relevant manner, and with solutions to the issue they are currently faced with. As they say, the best solution provider is the one that provides the solution when needed!

Influence: This is one of the areas that directly addresses churn, itself caused by low response rates or poor quality responses from telcos. Customer needs can be predicted, but without a business-driven, relevant response to address those needs, it remains purely as a function. Establishing influence among customers calls for a shift in marketing efforts, going deeper from market trends to addressing individual needs.

Optimisation: This is the age-old worry: is a high-quality-low-income sale preferable to a high-volume-high-income sale? From a business point of view, it is the high volume one, but from a customer experience perspective, it is definitely the high quality one. When the telco evolves their customer-centric outlook, the monetization strategy around deep customer relevance will become even more evident, leading to a win-win situation for telco and customer.

Innovation: Customers will stay with innovators – that’s a given in today’s competitive market. The advantage of Big Data, with analytics overlaid, is that the telco is quick to identify new business opportunities, and even grow their alliance ecosystem for the benefit of the customer. New third-party services, even offered to a small audience, shows a customer centricity that demonstrates an innovative mindset.

The need for a telco to focus on the customer experience is now evident, now we look at another critical element – multi-channel uniformity of this experience. Organisations still continue to build their engagement strategy geared towards the platform, rather than around the customer. Imagine that the telco has fabulous experiences designed for social media, for the contact centre, its website, and at the store. Now imagine that a customer who accesses all of these has a different experience on each platform, with the same brand! With a focus on the customer experience, the objective needs to be on a uniform customer experience irrespective of the platform or channel of interaction.

To enable this, what telcos need is hindsight, insight, and foresight, which can only come from converting Big Data from a business byproduct to a business asset. This is the key to transforming the customer experience, which in turn is the very foundation of business success and growth in today’s world.

Shukri Dabaghi is vice president for the Middle East and Eastern Europe at SAS.

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