Telecom to Spark: A journey of customer experience

Communication is the backbone for every single person on the planet to achieve more. And effective communication becomes the need of the day to stay productive and result oriented. Further, required resources needs to be in place at the right time to communicate efficiently.

The world of telecom is rapidly changing and one has to be agile to cope with the need of efficient and effective communication. That is organisations has to be ahead of time to recognize the needs of their customers (internal and external) in order to empower them.

I have implemented Microsoft Dynamics 365 customer engagement at many telecom companies across the globe. I have seen how technology can embrace the desired outcome to improve the real customer experience. Honestly, technology is an enabler or a catalyst which helps organisations to achieve their objectives. But more importantly, experience within the organisations has to be taken care first in order to reflect it to the external world. And that is what Spark (earlier known to be Telecom), a leading New Zealand telecom company has done to enable the effective communication channels inside and outside its periphery.

Inside view

Spark, implemented new ways of working. It has been an excitement and a sense of pride to be the first telco in the world to go “all in” agile. Spark was able to infuse the excitement in to their staff for leading mission to become digital services company. Staff bought into that vision quite quickly, and leadership backed it up with the most massive internal-communications program. It was extraordinarily well handled by the team, but it was a heavy load on leadership.

In Spark’s pre-agile world, they would have had seven or eight layers between the top and bottom of the company. Now, across much of the company, they have three. The result is that things are massively faster. For example, process reduced to nearly two weeks from three months. Emails have dropped off significantly, because back when the developers lived in one part of the building, and the marketing people lived over there, and the product people were in another part of the building, just to organize a meeting was 27 emails. All of that has gone. Now, all of them are sitting around each other. In fact—and not surprisingly—there’s been a big drop-off in the use of our designated meeting rooms because of this. When organisations have a multidisciplinary team already working together around a table, why bother getting up and decamping to a meeting room in another part of the building when they could simply stay where they are and solve the problem in real time?

It has been disruptive shift from traditional ways of working to the new digitise world behaviour. They have created a foundation in terms of the infrastructure and the IT, especially in terms of their workforce.

The decision making is also a lot richer now, and transparency improved immeasurably. Agile had put the direct ownership and real-time accountability with the squad so everyone has absolute clarity about the fitment of the blocks.  And this is what is called employee engagement or employee experience because people have richer jobs, they’ve got a broader perspective, and they’re focused on solving problems. They don’t feel like hamsters—they feel like they’re part of a squad that’s on a mission. Inviting customers and partners to work with Spark has exponentially speeded up the time from idea to design to commercialization.

For example, Spark partnered with Network for Learning to provide the fiber broadband and security layers to 2,500 New Zealand schools. In the past, the design process alone would take many months, with lots of documents flowing back and forth before testing or any migration of schools even started. Whereas in an agile model, they’ve already designed the new solution, rolled out the proofs of concept for different-sized schools, and migrated half of the schools in eight months. And it’s changed the way they work with the customer. Customers and partners didn’t come to the squads to observe—they were coming to be part of the change, to have tasks and responsibilities like any other squad member. It helps them refine their own thinking and helps us build a much stronger working relationship.

Leadership became an agile top team. They worked on a 90-day cycle—what they call the quarterly business review, or QBR—and what this means for leaders must be alert and ahead of the game.

Not putting all the eggs in to one basket has turned things up in an unexpected benefit. They’ve always had a diverse organization when you count up the numbers, but like many organizations it shows up in career groupings. For example, IT team had an Indian influence, marketing and HR teams had more younger women, and network engineers were more likely to be older, Caucasian men. And like any traditional organization, the teams tended to work as compartments. Making them sitting at multidiscipline squads around tables, it was a dramatic change. That actually made Spark on thought process of diversity and inclusion.

Agile by its nature starts to break down barriers between groups, between cultures. “Where have I come from? What have I done before? Oh, you’re marketing, you must be in the ‘coloring in’ department. You’re tech, so you won’t know anything about what customers want.” Squads break all that down very quickly because they are one team, buddies, the ones those work with every day to deliver to customers. And because squads are limited to no more than ten people and have a clear mission and purpose, everyone has to have a voice. There isn’t a place for anyone to just cruise along.

And not only Spark growing into positive financial results, but the perception across New Zealand has changed. Spark is now seen as an innovative company, which is ready to try new things.

As Spark moved to agile to improve customer experience, improve speed to market, and, finally, to empower people, and the hard numbers are beginning to stack up. From the “soft number” side of things, it’s also been pretty good. Improved customer NPS [net promoter score] results—across all customer journeys and interactions—and almost a doubling of employee NPS scores are the major outcomes. In some key areas of the company, eNPS results are +80—which is extraordinary.

Current opportunities

As I mentioned that technology is the catalyst to the organization which let people to achieve more. The right use of technology ahead of time is what makes the difference. While we’ve seen that customer experience is the key in the telecom sector; the service management is what drives the sales for most of the telecom companies.

Customers control their own journey. They want to engage through the channel that they choose—when they choose—and they are demanding a consistent and personalized experience as they move across touch points. An optimal customer experience enhances the customers’ journey as they move through touch points during the life cycle of their relationship with a company.

Personalize service with a 360-degree customer view

By deepening understanding of customers and enabling connected service conversations by remembering the details of every interaction— whether in-person or via phone, email, or social media—to deliver service experiences that are personalized, proactive, and predictive. Microsoft Dynamics 365 CE provides a comprehensive suite of integrated social marketing and social listening capabilities to help you listen and engage your customers better.

Empower customer service agents to deliver contextual customer service

Siloed tools and knowledge bases lead to lower performance and increased customer churn. Empowering agents with a single, unified experience to deliver fast, contextual service experiences whether in a call center or in the field as a mobile field service worker. Microsoft customer service solutions will help to break down operational and technical siloes to help you deliver the fast and contextual omni-channel customer service that retains customers and improves efficiency.

Deliver a consistent service experience across all touch points

Increase customer satisfaction by enabling customers to define their own preferences for service engagement. Enable rich and consistent omni-channel experiences with consistent information across all channels for sales, support, and product information and the ability to seamlessly move between self-service, contact center, and retail channels without the need to repeat information.

Transform rich customer data into actionable insights

Enable intelligent, personalized customer service interactions based on a deep understanding of customer buying behaviors, profiles, and service history. Analytics platform stitched with Microsoft Dynamics 365 CE helps media and cable companies combine rich customer, market, and social data through a single advisory dashboard, enabling employees to identify and address problems before they begin to affect the customer relationship.

High level solution overview for telecom companies

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Future – the road ahead

Delivering automated 70% to 80% customer experience is going to be the immediate need. Providing service to the customer well before customer can expect is the food for future. No longer limited to providing basic phone and Internet service, the telecom industry is at the epicenter of technological growth, led by its mobile and broadband services in the Internet of Things (IoT) era. This growth is expected to continue, with Technavio predicting that the global telecom IoT market will post an impressive CAGR of more than 42% by 2020. The driver for this growth? Artificial intelligence (AI).

Telecoms are harnessing the power of AI to process and analyse these huge volumes of Big Data in order to extract actionable insights to provide better customer experiences, improve operations, and increase revenue through new products and services.

With Gartner forecasting that 20.4 billion connected devices will be in use worldwide by 2020, more and more CSPs are jumping on the bandwagon, recognizing the value of artificial intelligence applications in the telecommunications industry.

Following are the roads for upcoming telecom service provider. Below solutions can be implemented with the help of Dynamics 365 CE. 

Network optimization

AI is essential for helping CSPs build self-optimizing networks (SONs), where operators have the ability to automatically optimize network quality based on traffic information by region and time zone. Artificial intelligence applications in the telecommunications industry use advanced algorithms to look for patterns within the data, enabling telecoms to both detect and predict network anomalies, and allowing operators to proactively fix problems before customers are negatively impacted.

IDC indicates that 63.5% of telecoms are investing in AI systems to improve their infrastructure. Some popular AI solutions for telecoms are ZeroStack’s ZBrain Cloud Management, which analyzes private cloud telemetry storage and use for improved capacity planning, upgrades and general management; Aria Networks, an AI-based network optimization solution that counts a growing number of Tier-1 telecom companies as customers, and Sedona Systems’ NetFusion, which optimizes the routing of traffic and speed delivery of 5G-enabled services like AR/VR. Nokia launched its own machine learning-based AVA platform, a cloud-based network management solution to better manage capacity planning, and to predict service degradations on cell sites up to seven days in advance.

Predictive maintenance

AI-driven predictive analytics are helping telecoms provide better services by utilizing data, sophisticated algorithms and machine learning techniques to predict future results based on historical data. This means telecoms can use data-driven insights to can monitor the state of equipment, predict failure based on patterns, and proactively fix problems with communications hardware, such as cell towers, power lines, data center servers, and even set-top boxes in customers’ homes.

In the short-term, network automation and intelligence will enable better root cause analysis and prediction of issues. Long term, these technologies will underpin more strategic goals, such as creating new customer experiences and dealing efficiently with business demands. An innovative solution by AT&T is using AI to support its maintenance procedures: the company is testing a drone to expand its LTE network coverage and to utilize the analysis of video data captured by drones for tech support and infrastructure maintenance of its cell towers.

Preventive maintenance is not only effective on the network side, but on the customer’s side as well. Dutch telecom KPN analyzes the notes generated by its call center agents, and uses the insights generated to make changes to the interactive voice response (IVR) system. KPN also tracks and analyzes customer behavior from home — with their permission — such as switching channels on their modem, which may signify a Wi-Fi issue. Once identified, KPN proactively follows up, driving greater successes for technical teams.

Virtual Assistants

Conversational AI platforms — known as virtual assistants — have learned to automate and scale one-on-one conversations so efficiently that they are projected to cut business expenses by as much as $8 billion in the next five years. Telecoms have turned to virtual assistants to help contend with the massive number of support requests for installation, set up, troubleshooting and maintenance, which often overwhelm customer support centers. Using AI, telecoms can implement self-service capabilities that instruct customers how to install and operate their own devices. Dynamics 365 CE omni channel experience embedded with chat bot framework can provide greater services which can cut down costs by 40%. 

Robotic process automation (RPA)

CSPs all have vast numbers of customers and an endless volume of daily transactions, each susceptible to human error. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a form of business process automation technology based on AI. RPA can bring greater efficiency to telecommunications functions by allowing telecoms to more easily manage their back office operations and the large volumes of repetitive and rules-based processes. By streamlining execution of once complex, labor-intensive and time-consuming processes such as billing, data entry, workforce management and order fulfillment, RPA frees CSP staff for higher value-add work.

According to a survey by Deloitte, 40% of Telecom, Media and Tech executives say they have garnered “substantial” benefits from cognitive technologies, with 25% having invested $10 million or more. More than three-quarters expect cognitive computing to “substantially transform” their companies within the next three years.

Video highlighted below is an excellent example doing intelligent telecommunications by providing deeper insights, personalised service and better experience. Click here to watch the video

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