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Border Services Solutions Featured Article

October 11, 2006

Experience is King

By Erik Linask, Associate Editor,
Internet Telephony magazine

As end users — and we all are end users of one or several products and services — it is important that we are happy with those products and services. In fact, it is considerably more important today than it was several years ago, according to data published by J.D. Power, which shows that the churn index is rising, at least as it applies to call quality. What that means is that customers are becoming increasingly less tolerant of a poor user experience.

Chalan Aras, vice president of marketing for Ditech Networks, keynoting at INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & EXPO, explained that, while the growing fickleness of the end user can create problems for the service provider, IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem (News - Alert)) is poised to counter with opportunities, that IMS can provide ways for service providers to differentiate themselves in today’s commoditized market, where price holds but a shadow of its former power.

The truth is, Aras explained, the “this is an age of experience,” and that while people may initially choose their provider based on services, the real key lies in the user experience, and customer retention is based on how satisfied a service provider’s customers are.

What this amounts to, continued Aras, is that, while service providers are driven to introducing new services — especially anytime, anywhere IMS-based services and applications — the underlying service remains voice. “It is the foundation,” said Aras. “It is still the killer app.”

The point is, with voice still being the primary service, it also becomes the primary measure of QoE (Quality of Experience), and service providers need to fully satisfy the voice need before other IMS-based apps can be realized. Aras claims that service providers that want to truly own their customers will always include voice in their bundled offerings.

And the reason QoE is critical is that it is the primary driver of customer loyalty — which is directly proportionate to customer retention/churn. For today’s customers, “loyalty relies more on satisfaction than on contract,” explained Aras, “and satisfaction is a personal, an individual measure.”

As a service provider, then, if you are able to understand and manage customer satisfaction, you will have the all-important ability to win the customer’s loyalty.

The question, then, becomes, how, as a service provider, do you accurately assess your customers’ satisfaction? The fact is that, regardless of the true cause, most all problems are blamed on the provider. So, it then behooves the provider to do everything it can to understand the user experience, especially through real-time testing of the network, which is the only way to truly understand what the customer is experiencing.

“You have to be able to understand what the customer is hearing, not what the network is delivering.”

Aras says providers also must be aware that most calls run across both TDM and IMS networks, and they need to be able to combine info from both. They need to be able to understand what happens when a call moves between two different types of networks.

Ultimately, while IMS is how providers can transition from services to experiences, in order to benefit from those opportunities, they have to understand that the majority of their revenues still come from voice and, as a result, they must take care to understand what is happening across their voice networks. Ultimately, as Aras says, “It’s what the subscriber thinks that matters.”

As if on cue, TMC president and ITEXPO chair Rich Tehrani took the podium to demonstrate Aras’ point. He explained that, while filming a clip for his blog (, he received a call on his mobile multimedia device, cutting off the video he intended to post … not once, but twice. While the service provider might claim success in reaching Rich, he said that it was more of an annoyance - that he had to re-record the scene to meet his needs.

And that is the essence of Aras’ comments: while the service provider might think it is providing anytime, anywhere communications capability, it ultimately comes down to what the end user needs and wants. In this case, it might have been better for the call to go directly into voicemail — unless, perhaps, the call came from a number specifically designated by the end user to interrupt his current application any time.

Tehrani’s experience depicts all too explicitly the difficulties service providers face in meeting the various, and often very specific, needs of their constituencies. But it is the ability to understand and, more importantly, accommodate those needs that will, ultimately, separate the nest from the rest in the communications world.


Erik Linask is Associate Editor of Internet Telephony. Prior to joining TMC, Erik was Managing Editor at Global Custodian, an international securities services publication, where he also managed the magazine’s survey research. Erik began his professional career at management consulting firm Leadership Research Institute.



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