Customer Self Service – A Game of Trust, Privacy and Complexity

The scenario is simple and compelling. You are visiting the Consumer Electronics Show, your home network is Germany and you travel (too) much of the time. You glance at your phone and see an offer of a two minute tour of the best bits of the huge show, courtesy of Samsung. If you watch the whole thing, you will receive a generous extra data roaming allowance. You watch, you receive and marvel as a neat slider, counter or bottle slide, whizz or fill up your data allowance.

Show that kind of demonstration to a customer and they want it. Show that to an IT professional from the telco world and they turn a strange green colour.

It is a odd situation. While the customer – including the customer in all of us – loves the concept, there are many conflicting issues that need to be worked out, with care.

Not least is the pace at which operators should introduce this concept. Going too fast and using too much customer information – especially without complete transparency to the customer – will damage the trust that is critical if this is to succeed.

Another critical issue is whether this kind of functionality is actually possible. New customer focused solutions that give the customer more and more control make IT guys think ‘complexity’ and the arguments against trying it start multiplying.

The question is therefore whether these compelling demonstrations will turn into normal behavior over the next few years or remain the thing of demos. Dr Andy Tiller, VP of Marketing for AsiaInfo Linkage understands the IT reaction, because “the legacy architecture in many operators is too complex to make this easily possible.” But progress is progress and he also points out that “we developed our own solution in response to customers requests. One of our customers, Nepal Telecom, simplified their whole BSS stack to introduce this functionality.”

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At some point, presumably, most operators will arrive at the point where customer requirements stretch the legacy systems past snapping point. When this happens a new, simplified stack becomes the only answer.

Compelling self-service is technically possible, at least from the point when the current system complexity (or competitive pressure) makes the decision for you by being unable to handle your requirements.

More importantly, self-service solutions will be a key tool in delivering trust. The speed at which customer data is used, how much is used – and how – will help (or hinder) customers trust their provider. Incentives will help and Marketing will have a field day designing ways to make the sliders slide or the counters count, indicating more bandwidth for more information – a win-win situation.

While the cynics in the industry remain, well, cynical, the customer in us wants to be able to play with bartering balances, trading Facebook time or topping up (or capping) a daughter’s text allowance – like now, please.

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Alex Leslie
About Alex Leslie 400 Articles
Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet.

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