Saturday, October 1, 2022

The Carrier Innovation Gap: Unifying Infrastructure & Customer Experience

Despite digital transformation efforts, carriers are still operating as if infrastructure and customer experience aren’t part of the same journey. Traditional carrier operational models have silos that make it difficult to automate, accelerate, and simplify how customers buy their services.

They have to step back and look at the customer experience they are delivering first, then transform their systems and processes. Carriers have to understand what their current sales journeys are like then look to refine and optimise them to deliver the best possible experience for customers.  

In both the consumer and B2B worlds, customer experience has emerged as a core differentiator that often goes beyond price. People will choose Amazon for consumer goods over a less expensive option because the process is simple, reliable, and they feel like they are in control.

Enterprise customers are no different.

Self-service combined with reliable on-demand service reduces resourcing needs and therefore cost. Quoting, procuring, and managing orders should be as easy as ordering a pizza online. Carriers should be able to present out services that can be seamlessly bundled, viewed and ordered without manual processes or human intervention. 

It is just a matter of understanding the value in experience and taking steps to innovate and transform back-office systems and processes. Carriers can align infrastructure and experience to create new competitive advantages.  

Changing Expectations

The challenge is to meet the changing expectations of both service provider and enterprise customers. It is not just the consumerisation of IT, but the entire on-demand, always-on, and personalised world we live in.

When it comes to procuring and managing services, carrier customers want the experience to be as simple and easy as turning-up and tearing down digital infrastructure with Amazon Web Services or any other hyperscaler. The underlying complexity doesn’t matter.

At the same time, traditional carriers are tying up their sales reps with complex and manual processes that don’t really add value for customers. They’re crunching numbers using spreadsheets and sending out price lists in emails over weeks.

In comparison to other areas of IT, it looks out of step and inefficient. Sales reps end up negotiating multi-million-dollar deals over weeks or months by exchanging email threads. That’s no longer sustainable in a world that can change overnight, like we saw in 2020.   

The Cost of Poor User Experience

The cost of poor customer experience is often overlooked by carriers. It isn’t just about demonstrating innovation. There is a real cost to the business if they don’t take action to optimise sales journeys.

The complexity of manual tasks can result in delayed service delivery with plenty of room for human error. Slower response times mean fewer sales conversions, repeat customers and less loyalty. This reduces revenue opportunities while decreasing return on investment (ROI) in customer acquisition.

Carriers will invest resources into getting new customers enrolled in their sales process but then disappoint when it comes to ordering, provisioning, and overall visibility. More internal resources are used for pricing and executing orders, which increases costs while making the customer feel like they are at the mercy of their service provider.

Revenue leakage from poor customer experience may go unnoticed in the carrier world but that is changing rapidly. The carriers that remove the complexity from their sales journey immediately move with greater agility to serve customer needs and ultimately capture long-term recurring revenue.  

Combining Infrastructure and Experience

The key is to unify systems and processes with a single software-based platform and eliminate as many manual processes as possible from ordering and provisioning. Carriers’ processes cannot operate in silos and depend on human intervention in data flow. They need to receive, validate, and execute orders with full visibility into pricing, inventory, and billing. 

An orchestrated order management and provisioning process is critical for a reliable, timely and consistent delivery of products and services. A properly adopted BSS platform integrated with OSS provides telecom operators with industry-specific order management workflows, enabling them to deliver services in a faster and more efficient way with reduced manual overheads.

For the customer, it provides the foundation for self-service or on-demand procurement and enables them to see what is available and procure the services they need. The systems just need to be aligned and presented out in a streamlined and simple way. It is the difference between ordering from a mail order catalogue and click-to-buy eCommerce. The sales journey is faster, and it puts the customer in control of their connectivity.

For sales teams, it gives them tools to understand the opportunities they are pursuing and break down the structure of deals. A great example of this is in access networks. Access networking can represent more than 50% of deal value, carrying 75 percent of the project cost base. When you take into account a typical reseller margin of 20-30 percent, the access element can make a deal profitable.

The sales rep just needs visibility into the services, pricing and costs to make fast and accurate decisions. That speeds up the sales process for both the customer and the carrier. 

No matter where a carrier is on their transformation journey, automating processes creates new efficiencies, reduces costs and provides an optimised customer experience. 

Innovation and Interoperability

The next evolution of customer experience in carrier business is to provide an Amazon-like, instant order and provisioning across networks. The integration of these processes with API-based automation results in benefits for both operators and their partners.

They both benefit from reduced manual tasks, accelerated service delivery, greater operational efficiency, and improved customer experience.

It is just a matter of refining internal processes so that when a carrier looks to orchestrate services across networks, their back office is in order. An API-centric, fully integrated BSS/OSS solution enables carriers to rapidly quote, order, provision and invoice wholesale services across their network and their partner’s footprint.

This is a step change in carrier business and will provide a foundation for long-term innovation.

The deployment of network APIs enables carriers to not just do business on a commercial level, but open their infrastructure to partners to procure services across. It means any carrier with network APIs can present out their infrastructure and monetise services with little human intervention.

Sales reps can access pricing and inventory, then create larger deals while leveraging partner infrastructure. Enterprise customers gain immediate access to the services they need from a single vendor with a seamless experience. Underlying infrastructure partners are able to monetise their assets with little to no cost of sale.

It is a win-win across the ecosystem.