In the last part of the series, we looked at the crucial aspects of accurate billing and transparent payment processes and the potential that both of these factors have on subscriber retention rates. But before services are even deployed and a billing cycle can begin, it’s equally important to ensure that the purchasing process is a simple and frictionless endeavour for the customer.
Paving the Way for Seamless Purchasing Processes
There are a number of ways that operators are redefining the traditional services catalog as well as the method in which customers can subscribe for service packages. What used to be a list of tiered options between bandwidth speeds and data caps is transitioning into flexible and personalized service options that can be chosen as separate items at any time that suits the subscriber. Some have chosen to call this “à la carte” services. In addition, a phone call to a customer service agent — typically including a period of waiting on hold while listening to elevator music — is being replaced with an intuitive self-service portal where subscribers can select which services they require, and have the technician arrive to their door with the proper device in hand.
So how do we take this a step further?
Expediting the service purchasing and activation process requires operators to support true zero-touch provisioning for their customers, harnessing solutions that can quickly and accurately provision devices with the services a subscriber wants without any need for manual touches from a technician or call center agent. Ideally, a subscriber should be able to purchase a random gateway device from whatever third party distributor they choose, be it eBay, Amazon, etc., and have the ability to plug in the device, enter a captive portal, subscribe to a services package of their choosing, and then have the services initiated with haste. On paper, this seems like a simple process, but in reality there are a number of technical challenges operators must consider before they can bring this scenario to an eager market.
Not all gateway devices are created equally and today this has direct impact on the services that a subscriber will be able to receive. With the dawn of a new network landscape utilizing network function virtualization (NFV), operators can reduce the restrictions put on subscriber services by hosting device configurations in the virtual plane rather than within the actual (often limited) device. This concept offers a way for operators to enable new services without having to ensure that the subscriber is on the latest piece of gateway hardware.
Ensuring device firmware version compatibility, or service capabilities, is a considerable problem for operators who want to give their subscribers more choice over what gateway they purchase and what services they select. If a gateway comes from a third-party distributor, there is absolutely no way for an operator to predict what version of firmware the device will have installed when it’s connected to the network. This challenge can be tackled with a proactive device firmware solution enabling the operator to roll out new services. Operators can preload their provisioning solutions with out-of-the-box device information including multiple firmware upgrade paths. This means that as soon as a gateway connects to an operator’s network, the provisioning solution communicates with the device to establish which firmware version is currently installed and then automatically updates and reboots the device ensuring compatibility.
Realizing true zero-touch provisioning will require operators to create intuitive captive portals for new users entering their network. These portals should include a way for users to create an account, select flexible services from an à la carte services catalog, and then enter billing details including a term of service. Once the payment has been authorized, the operator’s provisioning solution does the remainder of the work, dynamically updating configuration files and activating services. As these pieces work together, customers receive the frictionless service activation they desire. For operators who have deployed such solutions, customer feedback is very high. Additionally, operational expenses on the service provider’s side are significantly reduced by eliminating the need for any administrative interaction.
Service Assurance: A Solution for Frictionless Order Management and Activation
As is the case for any successful business, making a good first impression on your customers is vital. That’s why routine service assurance and rapid error handling during the order management process is essential to the success of a zero-touch provisioning solution.
Seamless order management and activation requires a number of important validations:
- Feasibility validation – Feasibility validation ensures that services are available in the region that the subscriber is attempting to access your network from. The feasibility check should take place right away so that subscribers are not disappointed by a failed services promise.
- Order validation – Upon capturing a new subscriber’s order, an integrated resource facing service (RFS) validation system should provide the information that a service activation platform needs in order to understand how to provision the customer’s device with the proper parameters and services.
- Activation validation – Once services are provisioned, it’s crucial to ensure that they are working as expected. For data services, this means that a solution should check to see if the Internet connection is available and then verify assurance parameters including signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), power levels, and WiFi radios.
These automated validation steps will ensure that services are activated properly and working as intended. But what if something goes wrong? There are numerous points along the service fulfillment process where errors can occur and responding to them as quickly as possible will help avoid a negative experience for the user.
One essential consideration, especially for large Tier 1 operators, is centralizing service activation audit logs so that any errors along the activation and fulfillment process can be resolved at rapid speed. If administrators and call center agents are forced to look through multiple systems and siloed information for a resolution, the customer — who already expected frictionless service purchasing and activation — is likely to move on to a new provider, resulting in lost opportunity.
For a complete breakdown of end-to-end service order management processes including how automation plays a role, you can download our complimentary white paper: Order Management: Understanding the Elements of End-to-End Service Fulfillment.
Creating New Monetization Opportunities
After enabling frictionless purchasing with zero-touch provisioning, operators put themselves in a strong market position. Customer can now onboard themselves onto the network, tailor their service offerings, and increase the operator’s bottom line without raising OPEX in the process. In addition to these fundamental monetary benefits, captive portals can be utilized as a means to target existing subscribers with new service options such as speed-boosts, prepaid services, or even temporary packages for one-time users; all beneficial to optimize the customer experience. Purchase, the second stage in the customer lifecycle, is as important to an operator’s bottom line and the customer experience as any of the other stages covered in this series.
In the final part of the series on enhancing customer care, we’re going to look at the Discover stage of the customer experience lifecycle, wrapping up the previous entries to show how reputation influences a subscriber’s decision on which service provider is the right fit, how a subscriber can discover and select an operator with confidence in the quality of services, and how targeted promotions can help operators further monetize their existing base.