Sunday, November 7, 2010

CRM & Telecom VAS

The primary and only service of mobile telephony service providers was Voice and Voice based services like Forwarding, Conferencing etc until recently. Due to a lack of product level differentiators, intense competition around voice and commoditization have led to reduction in tariffs of calls. While customers have been more than happy, mobile operators have bled. ROI timelines of new operators who were to launch or have launched services in the last two years have doubled if not tripled. Mobile operators have been desperately looking at alternative services to expand their portfolio and bring in a bouquet of services to differentiate themselves. Telecom Value Added Services, which include services like TV, Location Based Services, Payments, Games etc in addition to SMS and MMS on the mobile have been touted as the next big thing and is going mainstream in pockets; VAS is providing service providers with ways to differentiate through packaging of services and innovative pricing models.
From a CRM perspective, this has added complexity. A basic tenet of CRM which is to provide the Call Centers with 360 degree view of the Customer stands threatened. CRM Experts at Mobile Service providers are grappling with the following decisions: What level of detail should a service provider get into in terms of tracking customer’s VAS usage? VAS is normally not provided by the Service provider, but is provided through a wide range of partnerships with VAS vendors, who specialize in their respective domains. In a 2G environment, VAS providers are typically Voice or SMS based, in a 3G environment however, the channels and VAS providers increase exponentially. Without a single subscription & transaction management system, not only will be impossible for CRM to track the number of transactions, activations, deactivations etc, it will not be correct to burden CRM systems with such transactional information.
Two issues on top of this:  
  • VAS providers typically have their own Customer Care Website, which can be used by an Agent to provision services to Customers, re-push downloads, MMS etc without additional cost. However, VAS companies do not maintain their own Call Centers taking up Level 3 issues which are purely technical. Can CRM applications provide a front end to all the different VAS portals? What are the implications with respect to cost of training Agents on each of these portals? Will this be feasible when the number of VAS providers multiply as 3G gets going?
  • Some VAS providers do not have their own portals. In such cases, how will Agents know about Customer’s transaction and provisioning history?
One thing is for sure, if a Mobile Operator wants to differentiate itself by providing a wide bouquet of VAS services at different price points, he needs the capability at the Call Center to be able to answer queries of Customers pertaining to the VAS services, some of these questions would be along the following lines: 
  • Whether a customer has subscribed to a VAS service
  • Ability to provision/de-provision the Service
  • Start and End Dates between which the Subscription is/was Active
  • Ability to re-push a VAS service incase Customer has not received the download
  • Ability to handle disputes and give credits against a Customer disputing a VAS request
The question: how it is possible for CRM systems to bring such information in front of a Call Center Agent. Please take a look at a question on the same subject posted in LinkedIn. In a future post, I will detail some insights on the same topic, outlining a strategy on dealing with VAS vendors and their applications.

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