How to cut customer churn

Telco customers are a fickle lot and service providers need to find long-term solutions to developing a quality of service that will keep them hooked.

The hyper-competitive world of telecommunications has seen fickle customers change allegiances at times when they perceive one Communications Service Provider (CSP) to be offering more value than another. To survive, CSPs need to adopt long-term solutions that help them offer the quality of service that their customers demand.

With CSPs, the end-user experience is the end-all and be-all. Fail there and your customer moves on to the next provider. There is always someone else just a little bit cheaper, speedier, and/or more flexible.

To ensure customer satisfaction, you need to ferret out the potential problems with end-user experience. The need for visibility into and across applications and supporting delivery infrastructure is critical. Service assurance, which focuses on monitoring and managing the availability and performance of both the delivery infrastructure (networks, data centre and hybrid-cloud assets) as well as content and a variety of different applications, provides an advanced approach to service delivery and experience management that will enable a CSP to become a truly agile, business-centric entity.

A model-based, transaction-centric, analytics-rich service assurance solution for next-generation operations support system (OSS) management will give CSPs the tools they need to support such a dynamic infrastructure, and more quickly adapt to changing technologies and increases in end-user demand for services.

Here are five simple steps to transition from frustrating, ad-hoc IT management approaches to more efficient operations, optimized application performance, and satisfied end users and customers:

Measure outcomes differently

If an operations or engineering team wants to move past just individual element and device management to a unified service assurance strategy, it will have to first alter the mind-set of the team and the company it serves. If you compare it to manufacturing which looks at the end product, operations teams need to look at the end-user experience with the network and with value-added services.

Outcomes previously measured by server response time or network uptime statistics, depending on the domain, must be measured by the end-user experience with the delivered IT service in today’s dynamic environment. This means the OSS needs to monitor the individual components comprising the overall service, but focus the attention on how those elements support the service and how that service fulfils the customer need.

Bring monitoring to the fore

The next step is integrating the service management lifecycle and the monitoring tools perspective. Best-practice CSPs look to application performance management and also business transaction management. Together, these tools can deliver immediate insights and context about the way applications operate and how data flows through an enterprise.

Existing solutions may not be able to make the transition, however. The industry term for managing IT services from the perspective of the business is business service management, which doesn’t exactly do justice to what network operations and engineering teams are going to want to accomplish with service assurance.

The difference is that operations and engineering teams today can’t keep up with the dynamic nature of all the business services they support. They need to evolve the entire management environment, and not just a few monitoring tools, to work in support of all product services.

This ensures that CSPs can move from simply managing and maintaining the delivery infrastructure to delivering business services that ensure speed, agility, innovation with cost/risk efficiencies.

Prioritise remediation

Once the CSP understands who is affected and how they are affected, it can begin to work on solutions. A customer may accept waiting slightly longer to change his contact information, whereas a painfully slow login process could prompt the same person to take his business elsewhere. The end goal is to connect the end-user transaction experience to business outcomes.

Optimising resources

With ARPU (average revenue per user) on a steady downward trend, an effective service assurance model helps the CSP to maximize profitability against a satisfactory user experience. The CSP can then assign the opti­mal combination of resources — hardware, bandwidth and network capacity — to applications rather than over- or under-provisioning resources.

Fine-tune, then fine-tune again

Adopting a service assurance approach to the delivery infrastructure won’t resemble a one-off management project. It will be an on-going process that delivers incremental returns along the way, and service operations managers must decide from where they want to begin. If the ultimate desired result is an improved end-user experience, product groups (lines of business) must work in conjunction with network operations and engineering to define what that means to their organization.

Once the transformation has occurred CSPs could start to consider metrics such as, ‘How much money is lost if we make this infrastructure change?’ or ‘How does this operations incident put my SLA compliance at risk?’ It is too easy for customers to switch to another service, with another service provider; IT needs to be able to identify the metrics that mean the most to their business and ensure they minimise operational as well as reputational risks.

Stephen Miles is vice president of the service assurance customer solutions unit for the Asia Pacific & Japan at CA Technologies.