Data analytics is the key to perfecting the customer experience
VanillaPlus Q&A w/Neil Lilley, Solution Marketing Manager, Ericsson Digital Services
How big data analytics can help service providers get closer to their customers and compete on quality.
Despite brisk demand for broadband mobile services worldwide, telecom service providers are facing downward pricing pressure and increased competition, resulting in stagnant growth.
The reality is that, while they’re striving to maintain and expand an increasingly complex, multi-domain network infrastructure, they must simultaneously provide an optimal customer experience if they intend to keep their subscribers happy and prevent costly churn.
This means that service providers must offer more relevant, personalized service, all while integrating the advanced telecom technologies—like Vo5G and IoT applications—that are poised to transform the industry. To learn strategies for achieving these important goals, we turned to telecom industry expert Neil Lilley, Solution Marketing Manager, Ericsson Digital Services, for advice.
In the following interview, Lilley explains how the Ericsson Expert Analytics platform—powered by big data analytics algorithms and processing engines—can uncover real-time actionable insights that can help service providers fine-tune their enterprise customer experience, streamline their operations, and empower them to market next-generation mobile broadband and IoT services more effectively.
Many telecom service providers may feel that they already have a lot of key performance indicators (KPIs) and data about their subscribers, sales, and services. Why do they now need big data analytics?
Lilley: With the pace of market growth and technological change today, it’s not enough for service providers to have large enterprise databases, a.k.a. data lakes, especially if that data is simply a reflection of uncorrelated data silos across the enterprise, and not in a form that is readily insightful or actionable. It’s far more advantageous for this vast data to be analyzed holistically and interpreted based on expert knowledge in order to reveal instances where the service provider’s network performance and customer experience could be improved.
Our latest solution, Ericsson Expert Analytics, is a telecom-specific big data analytics platform that is designed to gather and analyze the right data from multiple points and nodes across the enterprise. Then, by applying powerful, proven algorithms and data models, the software provides actionable insights – including symptoms, impacts, root causes and recommended resolutions– that can be used to improve customer care, network performance, marketing, security, and other vital customer-facing services that impact the company’s bottom line.
What technological changes are on the horizon, and how can service providers position themselves to benefit from these new opportunities?
Lilley: Considering how dynamic this industry is, laying the groundwork for robust, efficient data analysis today will make service providers much more resilient as they deploy new technologies, and much more effective in terms of marketing and operations.
Vo5G—Voice over 5G—is right on the horizon, and we can expect many more “G’s” to come. There are also exciting, new IoT applications—like smart homes, smart cars, E-health, and retail—that promise to enhance the way we live and work. Ericsson Expert Analytics will help service providers manage what is becoming an increasingly complex, cloud-based network infrastructure to better support the dynamic nature and scalability of these services.
To fully realize these transformative, evolutionary changes, the industry is moving towards partner-based ecosystems, with contributions from many external partners. Service providers will need big data analytics to effectively define and target attractive new service offers and bundles for each customer segment, and to garner the largest possible share of the potential revenue.
One of the biggest challenges facing service providers today is churn, and the losses stemming from customers taking their business to a competitor, sometimes never to return. How can big data analytics help them prevent churn?
Lilley: Our market research indicates that many mobile broadband subscribers today are experiencing high levels of frustration—and spending too much time—whenever they attempt to get specific issues resolved by their service providers. Often, their frustration leads them to consider taking their business elsewhere or venting on social media, both of which negatively impact the bottom line.
A recent Ericsson Consumer and IndustryLab study found that consumers have high expectations, including that their problems will be resolved quickly and easily. The report also found that 70% of smart phone users expect their telecom service provider to improve their experience through better use of data analytics, AI (artificial intelligence), and other advanced algorithms and techniques.
Our telecom-specific big data analytics platform can support the efforts of service providers as they strive to offer seamless personalized service that can be delivered equally well via a variety of means and channels, such as online chatbots, email, and phone, throughout the customer journey.
An Enterprise Case Study published by Ovum (July 17, 2018) found that one of our customers, DNA Finland, has been successfully using Ericsson Expert Analytics to improve its customer experience, network performance, and the overall perception of its QoS in the marketplace. By using the real-time, in-depth customer data derived by the platform, DNA’s customer care agents were able to solve more matters on the first call, making their customers feel better understood and appreciated. As a result, DNA also saw a reduction in the number of issues they needed to escalate to more costly, time-consuming tier 2 & 3 technical experts.
Many service providers already utilize sophisticated network performance monitoring solutions. What more can they expect from a solution like Ericsson Expert Analytics?
Lilley: First of all, our solution integrates with the OSS/BSS infrastructure they already have in place but kicks it up a notch. This is because we go beyond conventional network monitoring and alarms to provide automated network analysis and actionable decision support.
For example, our data analytics platform can raise awareness of technical issues that are not otherwise easily detected—such as garbled or one-way audio calls—that can deteriorate VoLTE and VoWiFi call quality. Our platform looks across mobile RAN, Core and IMS components to pinpoint where problems are along the workflow and suggest the most probable cause so technicians can resolve them faster. These capabilities are setting operators up to efficiently handle voice calling over 5G networks.
If service providers decide to deploy Ericsson Expert Analytics at their network operations centers, what is the value proposition or return on investment (ROI) they can expect?
Lilley: Ericsson Expert Analytics analyzes, correlates, and interprets data from across domains and multiple points along the network, allowing operations and engineering centers to react sooner to budding network performance issues. They can smartly focus their resources on the problems that pose the greatest financial threat, and even take proactive steps to resolve issues before users notice.
Besides operations and engineering, the resulting insights our big data analytics solution produces can also be valuable to other departments, including customer care, marketing, and promotions.
Getting back to our Consumer and IndustryLab report, we found that 51% of consumers want marketing offers that are more relevant to them. So, armed with richer, more meaningful customer data, the marketing and promotions departments can now recommend services, devices, data plans, and other offers that take into consideration the user’s unique needs and usage patterns, resulting in more effective upselling efforts.
All of these capabilities reinforce the goal of satisfying today’s customer expectations to prevent churn, and in turn promote a better ARPU (average revenue per user) and more stable, steady growth overall.
Any time a telecom service provider relies on a third-party software or cloud-based solution at the crux of its daily operations, there’s a natural concern about reliability and whether the vendor will be there to support them going forward. Is Ericsson Expert Analytics ready for primetime?
Lilley: Our solution has proven itself in deployments by prominent telecom service providers across the world. In each installation, the same solution adapts to and supports the individual company’s unique business models, network configurations, and operational goals.
UK-based EE is deploying Ericsson Expert Analytics’ data analytics, as part of its customer experience management solution for their extensive mobile network, in order to evaluate and improve their subscriber satisfaction and NPS for 2G, 3G, 4G, VoLTE and VoWiFi services.
And, T-Mobile US has been using this solution to improve the quality of its VoLTE, mobile broadband, and other advanced services. They now aggregate and process data that was previously trapped in silos to predict, prioritize, and resolve customer issues faster, and automate the actions that lead to increased loyalty, ARPU and NPS.
Lilley: Yes. Our solution is flexible and scalable, processing billions of records daily to support tens of millions of subscribers worldwide, along with many demanding new business models.
Our smart data insights are invaluable to future network planning, such as pinpointing which customer segment has been or will be impacted by a particular technical issue, when the issue occurs most often, and any customer behaviors that may be contributing to bottlenecks.
With these valuable, timely data insights, service providers are better positioned to determine how and where they should invest in their networks to expand in a smarter, more focused way that addresses changing customer behaviors and usage patterns. More importantly, they can start laying the groundwork for 5G, new-age IoT applications, and the heavier data traffic of tomorrow.