The future of mobile lies with a happy customer

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SAP Africa
Telecommunications is currently caught in a major transition, one that is reshaping every aspect of the business.

In a world that seems increasingly hostile towards connectivity providers, many operators are being forced to deliver a service that is crucial to the productivity and gratification of modern consumers. But there is always the other side to these aspirations with hidden challenges such as coverage, skills and cost and it’s a hard picture to change for mobile operators.

Telecommunications is currently caught in a major transition, one that is reshaping every aspect of the business. Yet keeping the lights on remains as important, and foremost is the problem of simply staying in the game. Network infrastructure is expensive and initial investment costs billions, never mind maintenance costs. On top of that is the impetus for upgrades: with 3G a newly comfortable tenant, 4G/LTE had to be wooed and talk of 5G is now constantly in the wings.

Data has now become a major revenue replacer for voice and texts waning in stature, yet data margins are much thinner. The challenges are multiple for operators and many resort to hyping the consumption of data which means better and faster networks, larger maintenance and upgrade bills. It appears that the next best thing is to develop new set of service experiences that will entice the market.

So, the mobile operator battle continues and the punches keep coming. Modern consumers are anything but passive; a demanding group, they are quick to voice their discontent in social circles – online or through social media channels. Many consumers, particularly in the developing markets, are also not bound to network operator contracts and can easily jump ship on a prepaid model.

“A big question is how I can encourage prepaid customers to stay on my network?” asks Sheriff Hamoudah, Head of Telecoms Industry, Africa, Middle East, Turkey and Pakistan at SAP.  “Those users make up a huge part of the network, so it is critical to keep them engaged and offer more services that could eventually entice them towards taking up a contract or additional services in case of post-paid account.”

A growing number of consumers use more than one sim card and they readily reflect on differences between network rivals. This potent mix has left operators with few answers: the normal route to maintain solvency is to raise prices, but even a small and reasonable adjustment is met with almost unanimous and loud negativity.

Becoming Customer Personal
So what does one need to do as an operator? Lean somewhat on a clichéd saying, ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get… smart?’. The relationship with a customer on a network is not simply a matter of exchanging connectivity for cash. That is certainly the raison d’etre of network operators, but not necessarily the full scope of their potential. The network operator relationship with a customer is as important as the quality of their experiences, more than the cost. Speed and availability can often lessen the problems associated with charges and could serve as the real differentiator for users.

The use of personas for customers is not a new practice and instead is well-established. In fact, perhaps a bit too established. Personas or customer profiles tend to be built slowly and, while critical, they are hardly sufficient for the real-time connected environment. A customer has no interest in having their dropped call resolved a week, a day or even an hour from when it happened. They want results now.

“The world is changing. We never had location as part of the analysis in telecoms. Now it is,” said Hamoudah. “Social sentiment is another aspect that has to factor into calculations. When a customer says something positive or negative, a company needs to know about it immediately.”

Ironically network operators are perfectly positioned to tackle this head on, as they have a valuable commodity right under their noses: data. Network interactions create petabytes that can predict behaviour of customers and the network. As user reliance on connected devices evolve, the depth and meaning of that data will only grow more significant.

Not only that, but network operators are the backbone of the connected world. Harvesting relevant data from third parties is well within their reach. Imagine being able to respond immediately to an unhappy customer venting on a social network and responding in a manner that is exactly what that customer desires. For example, offering extra free data or locating a good coverage area the second something goes wrong. To do this, operators would need to have access to data and through a tailored software environment to provide results in real time. Collecting data is easy enough, but divining quality data requires the right skills and execution.

The Right Analytics
Jargon such as big data and predictive analytics are worn from overuse, but they have also come of age. Robust analytics can help operators make sense of their customers beyond a technical sensibility and even expand the conversation across the entire business.

With the right solution in place an operator can quickly deliver on promises. It can offer new value-added services through the ability to rapidly design and deploy different offerings.

If this paints a new picture that is optimistic and simple, then this is the picture of successful telecommunications. Talk is cheap and selling the hallmarks of data analytics has diluted the potency of the discipline. In truth not all analytical solutions are alike and proper results require a software solution that anticipates the challenges. For one, it needs to be sector specific, highly scalable and lightning fast. The companies that meet those standards can be counted on one hand, with SAP sitting at the top.

“We have the solutions,” says Hamoudah “We have very powerful technology infrastructure through our flagship product, HANA, and Analytics on Hana. This will enable operators to reach customers at any time, to know exactly what happens in seconds and to respond quickly. From a consumer and B2B point of view, it’s very potent and the SAP technology allows one to spot problems before they happen.”

While getting results won’t be easy, the road to those results is clear. Quality is the new game and that quality starts with a satisfied customer. It is possible through real-time personas to make them feel like kings again: unique and cared for. And the right software solution can turn a network operator into the court wizard.

Staff Writer