The inevitable road to Customer-centric

In the times of 2G, CSPs took care of their networks as if they were big machines. Networks were divided in subsystems around which the “Network Operations” organisation was structured: radio, transmission, core, VAS… Networks were relatively simple and provided very few services, i.e. voice, then messaging, then VAS… (Do you remember wap?). SMS was the killer application.

Back then they were still called “Network Operators” because their work was actually to operate a network. This didn’t mean they never looked at the network from the customer perspective (“hey, we did drive tests. Loads of them!”), but their toolset was very limited.

When 3G arrived, the network operators incorporated the new technology without much changing their mode of operations. It hadn’t been clear what the new killer app would be: MMS, video calls? You could feel the scepticism with a particularly timid 3G penetration of 20% in Europe and less than 10% in the US by 2006!

But then in 2007, we got the iPhonemania.

“The introduction of iPhone in Q2 marked a new era of UX-driven devices and applications.” – Chetan Sharma

"UX-driven device and applications". The killer app was …. the apps, which took full advantage of mobile internet and the inherent ubiquity of the smartphones to make our connectivity habits fully mobile. The variety of services exploded well beyond the forecasts: Instagram, twitter, facebook, news, readers, geolocation, e-shopping, … Data usage sky-rocketed. The smartphones had come to save the industry.

But with the variety of services came the complexity of managing the customer expectations. A certain network performance could be very adequate for reading news, but terrible for uploading a photo to Instagram or watching a video in YouTube. To make things worse, these services were invisible to the former Network Operators (now Communication Services Providers), who began to receive more customer complaints while the network KPIs remained in theoretically acceptable levels.

Enter CEM

The transition to CEM

The transition to CEM

The Service Layer had become a lot more complicated and all the different services and uses reflected on the Customer Layer, from which new segments sprouted. The Network Layer was not better because the customer could camp on 2G, 3G, wifi.

Now CSPs found themselves servicing customers that could be using any technology and demanding a satisfactory performance for very different services. CSPs ended up wondering: Which types of customers do I have? What are they doing? Is the network performing to their satisfaction? When is good performance good enough?

As the focus shifted from the network to the customer, organisations began to think in customer-centric terms and Customer Experience Management was born as the solution that would unify all the existing tools to provide unique insights on the customer experience.

QoE is not QoS. The key is on the devices

Customer-centric implies managing customers instead of networks. If a customer is roaming or out of coverage, you make it your own problem. The same applies if a voice call is completed without dropping, but the speech quality is poor. 

These examples of bad experience are difficult to detect on a network management system. However, by the own definition of bad experience they are obvious to the user. Quality of Experience is not Quality of Service.

The key to detecting these issues is on the devices. Not only they keep track of location, throughputs, drops, handovers, rx levels, BERs, network parameters, speed, etc... but they can also be used to obtain the customer's subjective opinion on QoE, which is not trivial: that is the only opinion that customers will consider if they consider to change providers.

If you are interested in reading how we do this at Ciqual, read our brief white papers.