Why Indian Telcos must Place Customer Experience at the Core of their Business

Boudewijn Pesch, Group Vice President, Japan and Asia Pacific, Oracle CommunicationsThe Indian telecom industry is in a transformative phase as Communications Service Providers (CSPs) slowly shift their focus from reducing tariffs to enhancing the customer experience. In one of the world’s most competitive markets, where tariffs have already hit rock bottom, the only way for telcos to differentiate themselves is by offering best-in-class services that will help them to retain and attract new subscribers. Competition in India also continues to gather momentum, making service quality even more vital to differentiation and success. Added to this is the challenge of shifting customer demands. People increasingly use their mobile phone to make purchases, stream content, and interact with virtually every digital service available today. In response, service providers are doing more to monetize Over-The-Top (OTT) services, leading to yet another paradigm shift in customer experience and telco services. This a global issue as well. A recent Oracle survey reveals that improving the customer experience is the number one challenge faced by the CSPs around the world. This reality also rings true across all categories of service providers, from market leaders to smaller players.

Indian CSPs are acutely aware that they must invest in providing the best possible customer experience. For instance, Airtel recently launched its Project Next, aimed at transforming its customer experience across each of its offerings and touch points. Other prominent telcos, including Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, are investing in network expansion and upgrades to ensure they can provide excellent services and deliver on changing consumer habits. These are encouraging steps taken by some of India’s leading service providers, but it is only the beginning. Around the world, major players are innovating their approach and rebuilding their business around the customer experience, and the Indian market will see its own transformation gain momentum.

A customer experience built on data
Central to delivering better, more personalised customer experiences is the way telcos collect and use subscriber data, arguably their most crucial asset. Within this information are actionable insights that provide CSPs with a deeper understanding of each customer's needs and preferences so they can deliver more tailored services. One of the world’s largest CSPs, Telefonica, upgraded its infrastructure to analyze customer data from multiple sources and gain a holistic, 360-degree view of subscriber behaviour. The company can now use these insights to come up with relevant new offerings that have not only improved its sales, but also led to an overall improvement in its service quality and to greater operational efficiency, significantly bringing down time to market. Most importantly, Telefonica can now proactively address subscriber demand, which has resulted in greater engagement and customer satisfaction.

Competition in India also continues to gather momentum, making service quality even more vital to differentiation and success. Added to this is the challenge of shifting customer demands

Virtualization to the rescue
None of this would be possible without a more agile and flexible network. Legacy telecommunications networks were not designed to support the level of speed of innovation subscribers expect today. This is why CSPs are turning to Network Function Virtualization (NFV) and cloud-based systems, which are ideally suited to digital ways of working. Indeed, research from Oracle reveals that 70 percent of CSPs believe the cloud will enable them to simplify their operations and speed up the time to market for new services. The technology is particularly relevant for the Indian market, where service providers are under pressure to constantly deliver new services and where delays are viewed as a sign of stagnation. Virtualization also brings down the cost of network management, making the operation significantly less labour and time-sensitive. This is a win-win for Indian telcos, who must keep pace with competitors while also keeping costs in check. Looking ahead, the shift to virtualized networks will pave the way to full communications clouds, whereby all services and touch points are managed using a single cloud platform. This is simply the natural evolution of CSP service, and laying the foundations today will be crucial to building a strong network for the future.

Getting the fundamentals right
CSPs continue to adopt new technologies and strategies to modernize their approach, and rightly so.However,they must always keep in mind the basics of customer experience and ensure these underpin every decision they make. Even those subscribers who seek cutting edge services at any cost will demand reliability, dependability, and convenience. No amount of innovation can make up for shortcomings on these expectations. Even as new channels, formats and technologies transform the telecommunications industry, the fundamentals of an excellent customer experience remain the same. Where new technologies like the cloud and network virtualization add the most value is by empowering telcos to innovate without compromising on what matters - an excellent all-around experience that puts customers at the centre of their business.