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Applying-Business-Intelligence-Analytics--Becomes-Imperative-for-Outsourced-Services-
Mahesh Dhillon
Friday, April 29, 2011
Competition drives efficiency in our world. There are numerous industries exemplifying this, world over, including; automobiles, consumer electronics, travel sectors, and others. Companies in traditionally oligopolistic industries (with three to four major players controlling majority of the market) now with changes in technology are exposed to the harsh reality of competition i.e. provide more creative pricing, better customer support/experience, differentiated product/service mix and more.

The case in the telecom, cable, and broadband industries (“Operator(s)”) is no different. This is an industry going through drastic changes, where at one time, the end customer was subject to limited choices, technologies, and was at the mercy of the operator with regards to both pricing and customer support, today has significant power. This reality is starting to slowly sink in into the operators but many still continue to think from an angle of managing churn versus taking the changed environment as an opportunity to differentiate themselves (from the competition) along any or many of the various dimensions discussed earlier.

Operators have numerous opportunities to differentiate themselves routinely when they interact with customers/subscribers in answering their questions or resolving their issues via the phone, chat or email support channels. This opportunity though exists, is limited or deeply constrained as this function has been greatly outsourced to third party call center service providers. These providers support the customers, manage the customer experience, and contribute in a very significant manner to the customer perception of the operator. Supporting customers is a critical issue and given the uptick in competition, if operators expect to continue down a growth path, the customer care process must be treated with a core competency and most likely, outsourced.

The change in the competitive environment now requires companies to be more aggressive and try answering the five chief questions; what, where, who, why and how. Clearly these questions can be answered by evolved technologies such as Business Intelligence which companies need to invest in real time or near real time.

The evolution of the telecom industry of India serves as a remarkable case study for understanding the complexities of developing successful and long term customer relationships. With convergence of voice, data, video, and wireless; competition and growth are going to go hand in hand. If growth and relationship with current customers is not managed effectively leveraging smart BI driven processes and delivery partners who get it, both the brand and future business opportunities are likely to be impacted negatively.

Even today, after the exponential growth of the Indian telecom industry and application of various CRM platforms and strategies, service providers for the most part hurt their brand every time a customer is supported by a call center agent. This mindset has to change — sure the Indian market is large and to a great extent untapped but at the same time is also a market with many aggressive competitors. At the end of the day, the customer is the king.

Take Bharti Airtel as a leading example. Strong advocacy of the belief that the customer is at the heart of business for Bharti Airtel that bases many a decisions on addressing customer needs and affordability. This focus has led the company to become the country’s biggest operator in just 10 years. Clearly Sunil Bharti Mittal and team were able to achieve this because of their efforts towards continuously focusing on connect, trust, and strengthening the relationship with their customers. Having said this, can Airtel or for that matter many of its tier-I competitors like Vodafone, Tata, Reliance, or Idea take their eye off the customer focus or has the aggressive growth already adversely affected this focus. Some would argue that this focus has already drifted.

To adhere to the demand of ‘staying connected’ in every manner possible, the telecom ecology is struggling to understand the end consumer and help improve the customer experience. Many are leveraging self-serve technology to reduce the dependence on human intervention.

As simple as it may sound, the formula to customer retention is a combination of leveraging Business Intelligence with Differentiated Services, Responsible Customer Support, and Smart Pricing. A smart vendor partner can help an operator with this however most incumbent providers would be challenged in this environment — it actually goes against their business model — repeat calls help a call center company increase its revenues, why would it invest resources in additional processes and technologies that results in their revenues potently being adversely affected?
The central idea of Business Intelligence, analytics and smart solutions should recognize business patterns and help bring focus on such findings. The study of back end data and symptoms of operational issues is capable of identifying fascinating inferences that can lead to the service provider in flagging tasks at the right time to the right consumer. The ecology becomes successful when the back end is able to simplify the task of the BPO that sits in the middle of the pyramid and handles the end customer.

Business Intelligence and Analytics is being applied successfully while handling routine functions such as:
* Revenue Assurance
* Order Accuracy
* Customer Interaction Measurement
* Vendor Management
* Tiered Technical Support or
* End-User Support
As transactions are processed for the above functions, data is pulled as well as additional data points added to a record that helps allow analysis to be done at an aggregate level. The analysis results identifying trends, challenges, and opportunities that may be missed otherwise or may be come to light much later.

By always keeping Business intelligence as the foundation for every process, the data captured helps flag close to real time actionable information that call center management teams can leverage to plug any problems, identify rouge agents, flag confusing business rules and at the same time help improve the overall customer experience and help reduce customer churn. Moreover this accelerates the possibility someday moving towards talking about building brand loyalty, something that today is nonexistent in the fiercely competitive and transaction oriented telecom world.

Author is the President of Agilyst
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