This article originally appeared in the April 2011 issue of Unified Communications
With the increasing rate of global adoption of unified communications solutions for business and personal use, the importance of network quality across devices – desktops, smartphones, tablets –continues to grow.
Consumers rely on their mobile devices for a number of activities on a daily basis, creating an explosion of additional incremental traffic on the network and presenting possible customer experience issues.
A February 2011 Harris Interactive survey (sponsored by Empirix (News - Alert)) examined what services are utilized by smartphone users and how their experiences relate to the perceptions of their mobile network operator. Harris Interactive interviewed a total of 2,651 smartphone users in three major markets (750 in the U.S., 1,178 in the U.K., and 723 in Germany), and identified two disturbing conclusions:
1. A significant percentage of smartphone users interviewed struggle with mobile network service issues across a variety of services on a regular basis.
2. These users blame their MNO for their service issues. In fact, nearly half of all surveyed smartphone users blame their MNO for the issues they experience.
These findings clearly demonstrate the direct and negative impact network service problems have on the satisfaction and loyalty of valued smartphone subscribers.
The call to action is clear: MNOs must enhance their understanding of network performance from the customer experience perspective. How can they do this? By getting an in-depth view of the network.
MNOs frequently do not have a proper view of network performance that adequately addresses the customer’s true experience across all mobile applications and services. Measuring the complete customer experience involves different techniques and metrics, much more than what current silo-based monitoring approaches offer. As a result, end users continue to experience issues despite the seemingly acceptable network performance. If not properly addressed, repeat dissatisfaction will drive customers away.
Respondents in this recent survey illustrated just how frequently specific capabilities of smartphones are used:
• Texting: 95 percent
• Searching the Internet: 82 percent
• Downloading data: 73 percent
• Playing games: 73 percent
• More than 50 percent visit social network sites; search for and watch videos; instant message; shop and bank
According to the survey, more than two-thirds of U.S. smartphone users surveyed experienced issues with the most widely used activities: Internet searches, data downloads, searching for or watching videos, and social networking. Worth mentioning is that in addition to all of the broadband traffic generated by these smartphone activities, voice quality must remain at high levels, a challenge that MNOs should not take lightly.
To improve valued customers’ experiences, MNOs need to address network performance from the user perspective. They need an end-to-end approach to understand how the subscriber accesses the network, how a specific service is being delivered, and how successful it was from the subscriber’s view point.
Current approaches to analyzing network performance typically involve the collection and measurement of data from network devices. This passive approach provides a limited view of the network and does not always account for each of the network resources needed to support new devices (e.g., iPads and tablets) and services (e.g., more video). Working with a limed set of data presents an inaccurate view that the network is performing adequately, when in reality, users experience significant issues.
To sustain positive customer experiences, MNOs need to adopt a strategy to get it right and keep it right. This means a testing and monitoring program that takes into account the complexity of the customer experience, including all of a typical user’s many activities.
Testing from the user perspective validates that changes in equipment, services and applications deliver the intended result to the end user. Successful testing replicates real-world conditions to ensure the network can handle actual user traffic patterns, providing end users with the expected performance.
The success of MNOs depends on understanding the impact of growing broadband traffic on service quality and the customer experience. This comprehension is growing in importance because competition in this market is fierce and customers are incredibly valuable.
Comprehensive end-to-end visibility is essential to identifying where customer experience problems exist in a network. Proactively understanding and correcting service problems is the key to keeping the loyalty of today’s high-value smartphone users.
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Edited by Stefania Viscusi