The Data Experience

Convergence Corner

The Data Experience

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director  |  December 01, 2011

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 2011 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY.

As I enjoyed my children’s first trip to Walt Disney World recently, I couldn’t help but notice the number of mobile devices being used in the parks for a variety of reasons, from uploading photos to Facebook and Twitter (News - Alert), to finding information about attractions and other activities at the parks using Disney’s mobile app (which, incidentally, became quite useful in planning each day’s activities).

What I also couldn’t help but notice was the amazing variation in network response speed. In some instances, on Verizon’s (News - Alert) LTE network, access was almost instantaneous, while out of LTE range, 3G speeds were almost painful, and quite frustrating.

It reminded me of a number of conversations I had at TM Forum’s Management World America’s event, focused on the need operators have to manage effectively subscriber experience to create sticker services and build subscriber loyalty.

“With all the devices coming onto networks and sending and requesting information, it will create a demand orders of magnitude greater than what has ever been experienced previously,” says Oliver Suard, marketing director at Comptel. “It’s creating a scalability problem.”

Network operators have a tremendous amount of data about their subscribers at their disposal – much more than simply what services they purchase – but most have not yet figured out just how to turn that data into useful, actionable information.

“We are seeing a data explosion, but operators are treating the data as just data, and are not making that data useful,” adds Suard. “They have to be able to react quickly to the information in their data – instantly.”

For instance, operators can tell when subscribers experience a higher than normal rate of dropped calls. The question is: What do they do with that information? Perhaps they could proactively send a message to their customer, letting him know they are aware of the recent difficulties, and offering 60 additional minutes as a gesture of good faith.

They also know when data speeds are slow, which should be a clear indication they might need to build out additional infrastructure in high-activity areas, such as amusement parks, where usage is only going to continue to grow exponentially. Again, for operators, there is, at the very least, an opportunity to acknowledge the problem and let subscribers know they are taking steps to resolve it.

This goes well beyond the CRM aspect of operator businesses – it’s a precursor to direct customer service activities. HP recognizes it and is looking at customer loyalty in a broad sense from an actionable intelligence perspective, combining subscriber data management with analytics to create a new view of the customer experience.

Through its Customer Experience Assurance program, launched this past May, HP provides visibility into individual user experiences based on number of difference dimensions and associating them with what’s happening in the network itself at the same time.

According to Sigge Andreasson, marketing manager, HP Communications and Media Solutions, Actionable Customer Intelligence needs to become a key element of overall customer management. At the heart is a customer analytics engine that combines subscriber data with usage and network information to create proposed action plans to help not only drive loyalty but increase ARPU.

A major part of the problem is operators have traditionally not had to worry about the subscriber experience like they do today. As long as calls were able to be placed, they were safe. But in the new world of data, subscribers expect more and operators must take appropriate measures to meet those expectations and avoid being just a dumb pipe. Regardless of how big their pipes are, operators are finding out quickly that subscribers come to them, not to application vendors, when they experience problems – regardless of where the problems occur – and expect the operators to be able to address their concerns quickly and effectively.

“Accessing content how and when they want it is becoming critical to users,” explain Laurence Alexander, vice president of marketing, and Alisha Goff, director of business communications, at Tektronix (News - Alert). “It’s about optimizing the network and, in particular, optimizing it for each unique experience,”

In order for operators to cope with unique subscriber expectations and usage patterns, they are going to have to find a way to handle a distinct paradox in user behavior, according to Steve Shoaff, CEO, UnboundID (News - Alert).

Do users care about data privacy? Yes.

Do they get patently upset when their data is not secure? Yes.

Would they trade privacy for convenience? Yes.

So, operators must balance privacy and security expectations – which vary by user – with their demand for convenience, to enhance the overall user experience. In addition, they must still find ways to cope with the data overload in their networks. Only by deciphering the massive amounts of user and network data they already collect and turning that into actionable intelligence, including a proper understanding of where and how to build out infrastructure – including Wi-Fi offload or small cell deployments – will they be able to steer user experience positively, in the Magic Kingdom and every other center of user activity.

Erik Linask (News - Alert) is Group Editorial Director of TMC, which brings news and compelling feature articles, podcasts, and videos to 2,000,000 visitors each month. To see more of his articles, please visit his columnist page. Follow Erik on Twitter @elinask.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi