Amdocs’ CES 9 Provides Operators the Tools They Need to Deliver the Services and Customer Care Subscribers Are Looking For
Cable operators have reached a moment of truth where technology-driven shifts in market demand combined with unacceptable levels of customer satisfaction require new approaches to running their businesses.
Until now, growth in cable was about adding content and building new service silos, which necessarily put the focus on managing relationships with content suppliers and expanding network capacity and functionalities. These are still important components of operations, but the defining characteristics of what it will take to compete successfully in an era of unbounded customer choice are to be found in the IT domain, where the challenge is to transform customer experience from the anonymity of today’s bundled one-size-fits-all templates to unprecedented levels of personalization and convenience.
The need for this transformation and, with it, a commitment of time and resources equal to the challenge, is obvious. Too often operators find they are inhibited by slow, labor-intensive and less than customer friendly operations support processes in their efforts to benefit from the opportunities now before them in both the consumer and business markets.
With time-to-market, personalization and ease of use now the benchmarks for success across an expanding matrix of service categories operators must find ways to improve their responses to the market at every point in the workflow, from service inception to cataloging, provisioning, activation, billing, marketing and customer care – the core functions of business support systems (BSS) and operational support systems (OSS) that cable providers rely on to manage their businesses. In so doing they not only will position themselves to keep pace with market demand; they’ll eliminate the costly inefficiencies of silo’d operations at a moment when traditional service margins are squeezed by mounting competition from over-the-top (OTT) as well as facilities-based providers.
Specifically, the new BSS/OSS environment must support:
- Service Personalization – Every facet of the emerging cable services paradigm requires the ability to personalize the user experience. Today this is virtually impossible, because back-office systems are set up to identify users by address, not individually. This is one of the most fundamental changes that must be made in support systems if operators are to keep pace with market demand.
- Service and Billing Flexibility – With the emergence of options that allow users to pay for what they want to watch wherever and whenever they choose, the days of take-it-or-leave-it package bundles are numbered. While it remains to be seen how the need to expand options on the video entertainment side will play out in business discussions between operators and content suppliers, operators must have in place a back-office system that will support a far greater variety of purchasing options than is possible today. This applies as well to other service categories such as broadband, where usage pricing is rapidly gaining traction, and commercial services, where service applications tied to very specific niche needs abound.
- Service Acceleration – As operators enhance users’ flexibility to formulate highly individualized service portfolios across multiple service categories they must keep pace with demand through rapid, automated introduction of new services and special promotions. Today’s back-office solutions, requiring manual coding to define services and additional coding to connect them into provisioning, activation, Web portals, customer care and billing, turn every service or marketing initiative into a time-consuming project.
Not only must operators be prepared to accelerate introduction of new offers in the traditional service domains, they must be able to exploit the rash of new service opportunities such as home and office security, energy automation and a host of other new “Internet of things” applications impacting the residential and business markets. Being able to define and provision any product for any customer on any device quickly will define what it means to be a full service provider from now on.
- Proactive Customer Care – Today’s slow-moving, impersonal and reactive modes of addressing subscriber needs must give way to processes that draw on subscriber-specific data from network, billing, usage history and other data sources to deliver a seamless, hassle-free user experience across all customer care channels. This means the system must be able to anticipate and resolve service problems before the calls come in, and, when that isn’t possible, provide CSRs and self-help engines information that will reduce session time to the greatest possible extent. The system must integrate call center operations to where customers aren’t shunted from one station to the next based on which type of service or problem has prompted the call.
The system must also be able to integrate the operations of self-help portals and call centers so that when self-help leads to direct interaction with a CSR the customer is not forced to repeat information already provided. And, using personalized data, the system must be able to facilitate upsell opportunities whenever the time is appropriate during interactions with customers, whether through self-help portals or during sessions with CSRs.
Proactive, personalized care is one of the great advantages operators can exercise against OTT competitors and slow-moving competitors, provided they have in place the data collection, analysis and distribution capabilities that can expedite responses to each user’s needs at any moment.
- Business Models and Settlement Processes with Outside Partners – The emergence of new service opportunities that require high levels of application-specific specialization in the residential and business sectors mandate that operators be able to easily set up and execute on collaborative business models specific to each situation. The same applies to new opportunities tied to affiliations with OTT content providers where the operator’s ability to aggregate customers, deliver navigational support, assure high-quality performance, drive new advertising opportunities and streamline sign-ups and billing offers significant value-adds that can turn potential competitors into revenue-generating allies. All of this requires that operators implement highly flexible, easy-to-configure processes that can measure application-specific usage, deliver back-up records on SLAs (service level agreements) and generate billing suited to each partnership arrangement.
- Ability to Exploit Big Data – The key to enabling all the capabilities listed here is a data gathering and processing infrastructure that fully exploits the rich trove of raw data operators routinely collect in day-to-day operations. Thanks to advances in computational efficiency, software architectures and cloud-based resource sharing it’s now possible to employ the sophisticated techniques of Big Data at scales suited to the needs and budgets of cable companies large and small. For operators the crucial criterion is that the data system solution they choose be precisely tuned to the full scope of personalized operations outlined above.
While many cable executives grasp the urgency of the situation, the question of how to accomplish what needs to be done at a moment when margins are tight and time for back-office overhaul is short has stymied action, prompting managers to continue looking for the types of workarounds they’ve frequently employed in the past to address their most immediate priorities. But, as many operators are discovering, this approach is no longer viable.
The pace of service expansion, the degree to which customer dissatisfaction has become a drag on the bottom line and the impediments to efficiency imposed by the overload of patches already in place have made the business-as-usual approach far too risky. Without a commitment to finding solutions that streamline operations and eliminate workarounds once and for all operators will be unable to keep up with back-office needs in today’s fast-paced electronic services market.
Fortunately, the way forward no longer entails having to choose between massive end-to-end overhauls and service-specific fixes. With release of its CES 9 platform Amdocs has created a full suite of integrated solutions that are optimized to address priorities now and into the future within broad categories of key functional areas without requiring that existing systems be ripped out and replaced.
Spanning BSS, OSS and network control domains, CES 9 delivers real-time integration from the device to the network. By breaking down the traditional barriers to service and system convergence CES 9 enables cable operators to rapidly launch and monetize innovative offers, personalize every interaction with real-time insight, proactively address customer needs and empower customers to take control of their experiences across any channel, network, service or device.
The CES 9 solution suite affords operators great flexibility in the migration from silo’d operations to a fully converged system. They can choose to incrementally replace antiquated systems, amortizing the costs over whatever timeframes fit their budgets and personnel workloads. Or they can take a cap-and-grow approach where old systems are left in place for however long old service templates are operative while a completely new end-to-end converged system is put in place to serve customers signing up for new types of service configurations. Either way, the end goal is the same, which is to create an entirely new approach to delivering a satisfying customer experience in the residential and commercial services markets.
In the discussion that follows we look at some of the consumer and business market trends that have made the IT-driven changes outlined above a mission-critical agenda for cable operators. We then explain the ways in which Amdocs’ CES 9 has made it possible for operators to execute these changes cost effectively with the assurance that the resulting transformation will position them for long-term success in four key areas: simplifying their customers’ experience; harnessing data; staying ahead of the competition by enabling innovation; and increasing operational efficiencies.
Challenges and Opportunities in Cable’s Growth Agenda
The State of Customer Care
Providing customers the services and applications they’re looking for is vital to achieving the levels of customer satisfaction essential to ensuring ongoing success in today’s residential and business services marketplace. But no amount of service innovation will drive the customer satisfaction operators are looking for without fundamental improvements in the management of customer care.
Indeed, judging by the latest results from research conducted by J.D. Power and Associates, the American Customer Satisfaction Index and the Temkin Group, the state of customer care in pay TV and Internet services can only be viewed as a major drag on industry efforts to generate growth (Figure 1). While each of these researchers uses different methodologies to arrive at their rankings, the results consistently underscore the need for major improvements.
The Temkin Group, for example, employs the Net Promoter Score (NPS) method of measuring customer satisfaction, which is a metric derived from a scale that categorizes respondents in terms of their willingness to recommend a provider of goods and services to other people. On a scale of 1-10, respondents registering 9 or 10 are considered “promoters,” while those at 1-6 are considered “detractors” and the 7-8 group is rated “passive.” The NPS score, which is expressed in a percentage, is calculated by subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters.
In the case of the pay TV industry the NPS was 19 with 42% of respondents in the promoter category and 23% in the detractor group. Other industry categories ranking only fractionally better were health care, credit card companies and Internet service providers, which had an NPS score of 20. These results square with those cited in Figure 1 from the American Customer Satisfaction Index where pay TV and ISP rankings were two of the three lowest among 43 industries.
Another customer satisfaction survey conducted by Amdocs with 4,000 smartphone owners –but the results of which are of interest to cable as well as as wireless service providers –
is especially revealing as to what cable operators can do to improve customer satisfaction. The research found that 84% of respondents were more likely to recommend their service if the provider was able to identify and proactively resolve customer care issues that impact them. 83% would be more likely to recommend if the provider would empower them with consistent, easy-to-use self service via their mobile devices.
The survey also found:
- Only 17% of consumers agree that they always get a consistent response across channels.
- 65% say they are always treated like anonymous customers.
- 49% don’t receive any proactive notifications about impending issues that may affect them.
- 73% of proactive notifications are not useful in resolving customer issues.
- 24% of proactive notifications result in a call to the contact center.
- 78% of the people that used mobile self-service apps found it hard to use and difficult to find what they need.
- 72% attempted to purchase a product/service online, but 51% of them abandoned the purchase as it was too complicated/confusing.
The New Service Requirements
When it comes to the role service options will play in driving customer satisfaction, there are two fundamental principles that will shape cable strategies in the consumer and business markets. One is that operators must be able to offer a wide range of services beyond the traditional portfolios in both domains in order to compensate for the toll competition from OTT and other providers is taking on cable’s bread-and-butter pay TV business. Secondly, while traditional pay TV may be losing its steam, there are plenty of opportunities to sustain that side of the business by tailoring services to more closely align with consumer demand.
The New Pay TV Paradigm
Research studies from a variety of sources point to the impact competition from OTT, telco and satellite providers is having on cable pay TV. For example, in its most recent report on subscription trends released in August 2013, Leichtman Research Group found that the 13 largest multi-channel video providers in the U.S., representing about 94% of the market, lost about 345,000 net additional video subscribers in the second quarter of 2013. This was more than the combined loss of 325,000 subscribers registered in the second quarters of 2011 and 2012.
According to LRG, the biggest Q2 2013 losses were reported by the top nine cable companies with a net drop of about 555,000 video subscribers, followed by satellite providers with a loss of 162,000. The two top telco providers added 373,000 subscribers in that period.
Telcos also gained against cable in traditional VOD and pay-per-view, according to research reported by NPD Group in March 2013. NPD found that cable’s share of the video rental market had dropped from 60% in 2011 to 56% in 2012 while the telco share had climbed four percentage points to 18%. Satellite operators accounted for 27% of the market. Telcos led in rental spending at $25.29 per subscriber compared to $13.83 per sub for MSOs and $10.33 per sub for the satellite providers.
Meanwhile, OTT viewing trends are surging. For example, in a report -released in August 2012, The Digital Entertainment Group said year-to-year growth in online subscription viewing of movies and TV programming, led by Netflix, rose 430 percent, reaching revenues of $1.1 billion. In April 2013 Convergence Consulting Group reported the combination of online movie and TV subscriptions accounted for a leading 28% of U.S. movie and TV rental revenues in 2012, followed by kiosk (21%), VOD (20%), mail (15%), store (13%), and online transactional (3%). Convergence predicted the online share would rise to 34% in 2013 with VOD falling to 19%.
One factor in the rising popularity of online video consumption is that for growing numbers of consumers it’s no longer a matter of choosing between watching traditional programming on TV sets and OTT on other types of devices. The smart TV and a growing pantheon of devices connecting TVs to the Internet represent a new force for disruption that pushes OTT video consumption into the pay TV stronghold (Figure 2).
All of this is taking place against a backdrop of rapidly changing OTT content strategies where not only aggregators like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon are targeting consumers directly but individual broadcast and cable TV networks are leveraging OTT to drive higher audiences as well. NBC Sports and CBS Sports are offering live broadcast events in multiscreen mode to users with or without pay TV subscriptions. Disney/ABC Television Group is rolling out multiscreen availability of all its affiliate stations’ broadcast programming with access limited to pay TV subscribers.
Disney, following a course set originally by HBO Go, is also among the cable network suppliers providing direct multiscreen access to authenticated pay TV subscribers through its WATCH Disney channels, Watch ESPN and ESPN3. Press reports make clear many other cable networks are following suit. These programmers are leveraging IP technology to deliver much more feature-rich experiences, such as multiple-screen viewing of sports, ancillary information about sports and acting stars, socialization apps specific to their programs and much else, creating pressure on cable operators to keep pace.
Original programming offered by pure-play OTT providers is another huge factor to be reckoned with as operators adjust strategies to meet changing market conditions. As has been widely publicized, Netflix, showing the way with its hit series “House of Cards,” Hulu, Amazon, Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo! and a host of other entities have committed to unprecedented volumes of ad-supported original programming. Less publicized but equally important when it comes to what attracts young viewers, a new generation of content originators, many making use of YouTube channels as well as branded portals, have built huge followings for quirky programs like Digital Alloy’s “SMOSH” and Maker Studios’ “Epic Rap Battles of History,” which are drawing tens of millions of viewers per episode.
The Rise of the Millennial Generation
Most telling of all as to the future course for operators on the pay TV side of their business are the trends associated with viewing behavior of young adults 18-34. While this so-called Millennial generation has been largely described as a “cord-never” age group, which is to say, people who are yet to be persuaded to subscribe to cable TV and therefore are not an immediate “cord-cutting” threat, the fact is about 17.9 million “cross-platformers” in this age group, which is to say, subscribers to pay TV and broadband service, are considering abandoning pay TV, according to a study released in June 2013 by Participant Media’s new cable network Pivot.
Moreover, according to the Pivot study, 14 million “Gen X” (35-49) cross-platformers are cord-cutting risks. In all, the survey found, 32 million subscribers, or 45 percent of cross-platformers aged 18-49, should be considered cord-cutting risks. Add to this group 8.6 million Millennial broadband-only subscribers, described as “broadbanders” in the study, and the significance of what this age group represents as a market segment that is crucial to cable providers is obvious.
But this dire picture is based on consumer reaction to pay TV service as it’s commonly configured today. When asked how they would respond to a service more tailored to their needs, here’s what the 2,500 respondents to the Pivot survey had to say:
- 87% of at-risk cross-platformers would consider keeping their pay TV subscriptions if offered programming streamed live and on demand anywhere/everywhere.
- 58% of broadbanders would consider subscribing to TV for a bundle of networks from their broadband provider, streamed live and on demand.
- 58% of broadbanders say they are likely to subscribe to a bundle of TV networks from their ISP if offered.
- 51% of broadbanders and 85% of potentially straying cross-platformers say they would consider paying as much as $20 per month for such a bundle.
These results point up the need to offer a comprehensive live and on-demand multiscreen service that replicates the full lineup of all pay TV packages inside and outside the home. Notably, consumers’ willingness to pay an additional fee for such a service offers encouragement that multiscreen isn’t just a zero sum game. Done right it could become a revenue driver that helps compensate for lost subscription revenues.
The Personalization Mandate
Given the diversity of devices and usage policies that attend the types of service variations that will be required to suit individual needs, there’s no way for operators to achieve these goals without BSS/OSS systems that recognize personal identities of all users in a subscribing household, which requires sophisticated policy-management capabilities. Knowing which user is accessing content from which device and what types of features and UI presentations are appropriate is fundamental not only to effective management of the service but also to opportunities to personalize features and advertising. Even if a service provider works around its BSS/OSS systems to enable content personalization through the video delivery systems, the operator will still not be able to apply individual charging, spending limits and other measures if this flexibility is not present within the core billing and rating engine.
As indicated in another survey, this one produced by the Heavy Reading research arm of online publisher Light Reading (Figure 3), the still largely unrealized goal of a ubiquitously available multiscreen service is just the starting point for operators who want to realize the full potential of a next-generation multi-screen service. Elevating pay TV to must-have status for today’s cord-never generation and an increasingly restless population of established subscribers will require development of a personalized, feature-rich experience that exploits the power of IP technologies to create a multiscreen service that is far superior to the legacy pay TV experience.
For example, when it comes to navigation, operators who can deliver a personalized, recommendation-driven experience encompassing pay TV and online options will have a great advantage over OTT players who are incapable of providing a universal navigation experience. With 72% of consumers very or somewhat interested in such capabilities, as shown in the Heavy Reading survey, this is an especially strong suit for cable operators.
At the same time, with nearly 67% showing interest in in-home device shifting, it’s clear that the seamlessness of experience across multiple devices needs to be another major component of the multiscreen service, extending outside the home as well, given the cable industry’s commitment to Wi-Fi as a mode of extending service to customers off premises, No matter how they’re accessing cable TV content, customers must be able to engage in continuous viewing from one device to the next, move content from live viewing to device-based storage for unconnected viewing while traveling, pause and rewind content and capture content for later playback in premises-based DVRs or cloud-based storage.
Personalization of navigation and other applications on connected devices can also be employed as a second-screen strategy by operators in ways that far outdistance the limited capabilities now available through OTT-based second-screen apps. Second-screen navigation for pay TV service is already available from many cable companies, but with appropriate enhancements to back-office and service management systems second-screen personalization can be extended to many other features as well, including accessing supplementary information and statistics about a currently viewed program, social networking tied to communicating about what’s being viewed among friends and interactive-response apps related to polling, e-commerce and advertising. And, of course, all these features can be applied when the personal device is being used as the first screen for viewing content.
Such capabilities require a level of device awareness in service management that is unprecedented and getting more challenging every years. The Android OS alone accounts for over 11,000 distinct devices running on the eight versions of Android that have emerged since Google launched the platform in 2009, according to a report released in spring 2013 by OpenSignal, a provider of cellular signal coverage maps. Just 38% of those devices are running Jelly Bean, the latest version of Android; 34% are still running a very different version released in 2010. And, of course, along with another new version of Android due out in 2014, there are smartphones, tablets, computers, smart TVs, game consoles and connected set-top boxes of every description running on Apple iOS, Microsoft Windows and other OS’s.
Monetizing Pay TV through Third-Party Affiliations
With personalization and the advanced functionalities of next-generation multiscreen services cable operators can also position themselves to exploit opportunities to provide network intelligence support to business models pursued by third-party providers. By implementing BSS/OSS support for partner management operators can generate new revenues from partners who tap their managed networks to maximize the quality, feature-rich capabilities and advanced advertising opportunities enabled by IP technology.
For example, cable operators’ ability to provide quality-of-service guarantees tied to persistent HD display on connected TVs could be invaluable to OTT players looking to gain advantage over their competitors. These suppliers would also be able to negotiate with operators for special treatment in the navigation process and brand promotions appearing on operator-controlled user interfaces. First-in-line priority for their titles in the discovery process would offer an important leg up in the intensifying competition for viewership.
In addition, by virtue of their relationships to subscribers and the usage data generated by set-tops and media gateways, operators are able to support synchronization of apps and advertising on second screens without requiring implementation of complex automatic content recognition (ACR) processes. They could extend these capabilities to OTT programming affiliates who want to offer a second-screen personalization experience but don’t want to invest in an ACR infrastructure.
Back-office support for deal-making with OTT providers as well as traditional TV networks that leverages cable operators’ advertising support capabilities represents another growth opportunity. The advertising industry is rapidly moving toward unified measurement and pricing models that make it easier to aggregate avails in video content offered through multiple device and delivery platforms, but fragmentation of the distribution outlets makes it hard for media buyers to execute multi-platform campaign strategies. Cable operators capable of providing the personalized ad placement, performance validation and settlements framework for unified advertising could become the clearing houses through which multi-platform buys could be coordinated, especially with regard to national buys on time-shifted content and local placements across all live and on-demand content.
There are many shoes still to drop in the OTT space with Microsoft now in the studio production business and Silicon Valley giants Google, Apple and Intel all reported to be preparing to stream multichannel pay TV services. It will be impossible for operators to adjust to meet these new challenges unless they begin immediately to equip their back offices to support next-generation pay TV service capabilities. When they do, they’ll be able to deliver a next-generation TV service unlike anything available from OTT competitors.
New Residential Service Opportunities
Challenges and opportunities emerging from the Internet abound in many other residential service categories as well. Here again the ability to rapidly launch, monetize and personalize services is critical to success. Moreover, the ability to support third-party partnerships is vital to many of these opportunities if operators want to be in a position to readily exploit the multitude of highly specialized service applications now entering the residential marketplace.
Of course, many of these service concepts have been around for years, but cable companies have been slow to adopt them because the business case is not obvious. Nonetheless, such services could gain significance as operators intensify their search for new sources of revenue by expanding their core business and competencies into new areas. While it’s not yet clear how the market will respond, it’s a safe bet these new services will keep coming, opening new opportunities for operators whose BSS and OSS systems have the flexibility to support them.
Web-Based Video Telecommunications
For example, representing a potentially disruptive response to the high demand for multi-device videoconferencing shown in Figure 3, a new standard known as WebRTC (Real-Time Communications) allows users with WebRTC-enabled browsers to access robust video and voice communications apps embedded in Web pages from any type of Internet-enabled device over any type of network without special plugins and installs. The technology, paralleling how HTML5 works for video apps, enables Web developers to easily create communications apps and embed them in existing Web pages, completely bypassing existing voice services infrastructures.
While at first blush the technology appears to pose a serious challenge to cable digital telecommunications services, it actually opens a way for cable operators to create an entirely new communications experience. That’s because the technology is designed to interface with VoIP infrastructures, creating an opportunity for operators to deliver a much more robust browser-based video communications experience in the Web domains of any entities that want to pay for such tie-ins.
Home Automation and the Internet of Things
When it comes to connected-life type services, home automation and security has become the most prominent focus of new service opportunities by cable operators, many of whom have launched tiered packages that offer additional options as well, such as energy management, remote control over locks and lighting and other features. Moving forward, the range of specialized applications, many falling into the machine-to-machine or, as it’s now commonly referred to, “Internet of things” (IoT) category, will require back-office mechanisms that allow operators to define, build, test and launch such services, often with third-party partners, much faster than has been the case with branded home security services, which have moved through these stages over timeframes extending to a year or more.
Having in place an operations support infrastructure supporting speed and flexibility in this domain is all the more essential in light of the degree to which OTT-delivered connected-home services are shaping up to be another challenge to cable operators. Network connectivity embedded in devices of every description, including home appliances, has spawned a new generation of OTT vendor solutions supporting remote management of settings and access to security and other information via mobile phones and laptops.
Such applications, operating independently of service providers, allow users to dictate what circumstances trigger lights to be turned on or off, how locks are coordinated to react with unlocking or locking the primary entrance, what actions determine a lowering of the thermostat and much else. With intelligent devices scattered throughout the home, some OTT providers even see an opportunity to tap and coordinate that intelligence to create virtual connected home gateways
The same principles apply to another emerging service opportunity for cable operators in the field of telemedicine, which is a growing source of revenues for operators’ commercial services operations and is now moving into the residential side with applications such as monitoring of long-term health care patients and virtual doctor visits utilizing videoconferencing and connected medical devices and gateways. Generally speaking, telemedicine refers to sending images to a specialist, live two-way video consultations between patient and provider, capturing and sending data from monitoring devices and incorporating data and images into EMRs (electronic medical records).
Globally, this is a $12-billion market, projected to grow to $27.3 billion in 2016, according to a 2012 BCC Research report, “Global markets for Telemedicine Technologies .” The tele-home segment, as distinct from tele-hospital/clinic, represents about $3.6 billion or 30 percent of the total telemedicine market and is projected to grow to 36 percent of the market by 2016.
In the U.S., according to The Wall Street Journal, medical research has found that annual savings from remote monitoring could amount to as much as $10.1 billion for people with congestive heart failure . Health care savings for diabetes patients were projected to be $6.1 billion.
Cable companies have experienced strong growth in the commercial services sector, driven by their ability to offer small businesses very high-speed broadband bundled with business-class voice services at costs well below those of incumbent telcos. Now, with implementation of fiber-based services, many cable companies are moving into the mid and higher tiers of the SMB market as well. They can do so with confidence in the long-term potential knowing the commercial sector is likely to be less impacted by the OTT “revolution” than has been the case in the residential market.
But, increasingly, the commercial services opportunity is tied to specialized requirements that add new complexities to service management and customer care. Notably, businesses of all sizes are increasing their reliance on high-speed networks to integrate dispersed operations, expand collaborative capabilities, leverage the benefits of “Big Data,” exploit the power of video in marketing and training, cut costs through reliance on cloud-based storage and computer processing and introduce new products and services that rely on network connectivity.
As a result, service delivery to commercial accounts is becoming even more challenging than consumer accounts with respect to setup, configuration, provisioning, CPE management, pricing, billing, performance assurance and customer service. The list of requirements for back-office systems in the commercial services space now includes:
- The flexibility to respond to specific service and application needs with new products and smart, easy-to-manage pricing plans;
- The ability to segment invoicing across multiple end-user locations and usage models;
- A comprehensive set of CSR and end-user self-care management functions that deliver all the information required to access and manage individual accounts across all services;
- Business intelligence capabilities essential to tracking billing and product performance;
- Support for business affiliations with third-party providers, including the flexibility to integrate workflows and to custom develop business-to-business, point-of-sale, financial reporting and other applications;
The Scope of Amdocs CES 9
Clearly, a savvy, cost-effective approach to leveraging state-of-the-art IT technology is the linchpin to transforming today’s threats and disruptions into major opportunities to grow the cable business. With Amdocs CES 9 (Figure 4), the company has provided cable operators an array of powerful advanced technologies founded on the principle that everything starts with the ability to identify and understand customers individually rather than by street address – indeed, one of Amdocs’ core principles has been its singular focus on the customer, rather than a phone number, IP address or street address
Figure 4: Amdocs CES 9 Architecture
By tapping into and augmenting processes across the operator’s BSS, OSS and network control domains CES 9 supports all the previously discussed personalized care and service requirements that are essential to delivering an unparalleled customer experience. This suite of solutions can best be described as a platform that achieves these ends by addressing four primary imperatives underlying today’s cable business:
- Staying ahead of competitors by being able to define and deliver any product to any customer on any device suited to that product category;
- Simplifying the customer experience through personalization and proactive care;
- Harnessing data to maximize the effectiveness of Big Data analytics across all segments of operations, from analyzing markets and developing services to tracking every aspect of network performance, customer usage and operations effectiveness;
- Maximizing operations efficiencies by eliminating duplicative processes and streamlining all aspects of service management, including the steps entailed in working with third parties to facilitate delivery of new services.
The two key customer care components of the CES 9 solution suite are Amdocs Proactive Care and Amdocs Multichannel Self Service. These work in sync to deliver agents and end users real-time notifications and recommendations related to service issue resolution, discounts, new features availability and billing notices.
Amdocs Proactive Care has demonstrated 95% accuracy in predicting the reasons for incoming calls by tabulating and analyzing data from customer behavior history, current usage patterns and network and device monitoring systems. These capabilities are made possible by the Big Data analytics processes embodied in Amdocs’ Contextual Intelligence engine, which allows CES 9 to tabulate and disseminate to all customer-facing channels every facet of each customer’s behavior and the events impacting their quality of experience and the service choices they make over the entire customer lifecycle. Amdocs Proactive Care has been shown to result in a 20% reduction in calls to contact centers, based on Amdocs customer benchmarks.
Along with delivering all the information about a given customer that’s required for any situation the CES 9 analytics engine accesses all relevant data from billing, network operations and other sources to determine the root cause behind each customer’s call or self-help query. Moreover, the system generates scripts for CSRs to use in responding to calls with all the relevant information displayed on the CSR’s desktop (Amdocs Smart Agent Desktop) Amdocs
Along with improving CSR efficiency the system also allows operators to implement measures that will reduce the number of calls. For example, operators can set rules for generating automated IVR or online self-care messages that address a given situation and, where appropriate, as in the discount expiration example, go an extra mile by making a pleasing offer, such as crediting the subscriber by extending the discount for the entire billing period in question.
The system can also be configured under highly nuanced policies to trigger proactive SMS messages, IVR calls or calls from CSRs before a customer even thinks about making a call. For example, the operator can set a rule that triggers a payment reminder in instances where a customer is consistently making late payments. The system will choose whichever communications mode fits the customer’s communications preferences.
Or perhaps the operator wants the system to track and respond to changes in customer behavior, as in the case of someone whose level of VOD usage has suddenly dropped off. In such an instance, a proactive interaction with the customer might uncover the fact that he or she has started using an OTT VOD provider, prompting a call or message aimed at getting the customer to reconsider.
Maybe the system correlates this reduction in VOD usage with complaints about the set-top DVR. In this case, the system can deliver a script to the CSR or through the self-help system describing the disadvantages of using OTT suppliers, such as the outmoded release windows of the content they offer, while offering a discount or free usage on VOD along with repair or replacement of the DVR as an inducement to win back the subscriber.
The multiplicity of new service developments discussed earlier underscore the need to extend the benefits of Amdocs Proactive Care to all self-care touch points. Indeed, given the high percentage of users who say they want to have an effective personalized self-care option with their subscription services, Amdocs Multichannel Self Service isn’t just a matter of improving efficiency. It’s also essential to improving customer satisfaction.
Consistency across All Devices
As revealed in the previously described Amdocs consumer survey, even when self-service is available, the experience is too often less than satisfactory, leading to decreasing usage of self-help and more calls to call centers. In contrast, Amdocs Multichannel Self Service delivers a consistent self-service solution across all devices and operating systems, allowing customers to complete 80% of common self-service transactions within three clicks, swipes or voice commands, depending on the mode of interaction intrinsic to any given device (Figure 5).
Amdocs Multichannel Self Service
As ever more customers rely on mobile devices to handle routine chores, it’s important to recognize that users will not have a satisfying experience navigating online portals from mobile devices unless they are using self-care apps conforming to native device requirements. Given the great variety of device formats that must be accommodated, this is a tall order.
Amdocs has addressed this issue by introducing an app development framework with Multichannel Self Service that allows operators to develop a mobile-optimized self-care app once with assurance it can be propagated across all the native device OS’s. By accelerating mobile app deployments in this fashion, Multichannel Self Care makes it easier to introduce enhancements to self-care and ensures that device proliferation won’t slow operators’ ability to accommodate all customers.
Another important contributor to customer satisfaction is the elimination of duplication in customer care engagements. Multichannel Self Service allows a customer to continue a session over time without having to re-input information. And through tight integration of self-care with call center operations, the platform allows a customer to move from an online self-care session to engagement with a CSR without having to repeat information already provided.
Amdocs Multichannel Self-Service also maximizes cross-sell and up-sell opportunities based on a specific customer’s profile and usage patterns (Figure 6). For example, the system, using information from the customer’s profile, will surmise that a customer with a certain service would benefit from an upgrade to a related service and make the recommendation in the self-service window.
Amdocs Multichannel Self Service maximizes sales opportunities by suggesting service upgrades appropriate to each subscriber.
Once operators have implemented a self-care system that delivers a satisfying experience they will want to promote customer awareness to the fullest extent possible. Self-care promotional messaging capabilities are another important component of the Multichannel Self Service product.
Streamlining Service Management
The Enterprise Product Catalog
Along with facilitating vast improvements in customer care, CES 9 contributes to customer satisfaction and revenue growth by streamlining all facets of service management, expanding payment options and facilitating business arrangements with third-party providers. With CES 9 the cumbersome, time-consuming processes entailed in creating and delivering a new product or promotion have been replaced by highly automated processes centered on the CES 9 Enterprise Product Catalog (EPC), which serves to consolidate all product and service data into a single source.
The EPC includes pre-packaged business processes to streamline the creation of simple and bundled products. In all cases, definitions encompass all product elements, including set-tops and other device types, installation fees, packages and pricing, eligibility rules, how products are presented in call centers and self-care portals, etc.
Personalized Billing Options
Amdocs Omni Convergent Charging is a primary feature of CES 9. It incorporates Amdocs’ real-time charging, policy control, enterprise product catalog and services platform to enable service providers to define, deliver and dynamically monetize any convergent service. In fact, a major benefit of CES 9 is the range of personalized billing and usage rating options that can be incorporated into the product definition process and executed through options presented to customers during the ordering process, whether through call centers or in self-care applications.
With Omni Convergent Charging enabled by CES 9, operators can charge anything they want in any unit of measure to any account or accounts assigned to each customer. Post-paid, pre-paid and real-time payment options can be assigned in accord with each user’s request.
Rating flexibility is essential to allowing operators freedom to set new usage charges and quota caps on an individual basis. For example, parents can set one level of data usage for themselves and different levels for their children. Operators can set pre-paid models based on usage, as in the case of Wi-Fi accounts.
Another essential component of CES 9 is the Advanced Partner Management solution, which is designed to enable all the previously discussed service and monetization opportunities tied to operator affiliations with OTT providers and other third parties. This solution rests on Amdocs’ long experience in telecommunications OSS where the ability to manage usage tracking, performance verification, billing and settlements across multiple parties in a single event is fundamental to operations.
The Advanced Partner Management platform allows cable operators to employ a wide variety of innovative, fully customizable partner management tools together with flexible co-promotion business methodologies across all service categories. Operators can quickly set up and effectively manage hundreds or even thousands of customized OTT partnerships each with its own service design, promotion, payment and settlement capabilities.
By shaping the CES 9 product suite around the needs of people rather than being driven solely by the capabilities of technology, Amdocs has ensured that cable operators will be able to quickly introduce the products and services residential and business customers want with the ease of use that’s vital to keeping subscribers engaged.
This is a solution suite that leverages Amdocs’ strong heritage not only in providing the most advanced BSS and OSS solutions to service providers worldwide, but to provide a full range of services to help operators with every aspect of managing and maintaining thse solutions. Every detail of every process has been honed to reflect the needs of cable operators as they go through a critical period of transformation where rapid responses to market conditions will be essential to long-term success.
In the final analysis the goal is to keep customers satisfied through every means possible. With its CES 9 platform setting new marks in customer care, performance and new service enablement, Amdocs has provided operators the tools they need to compete in the 21st century.