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Consultant slams operators' service capabilities

19 июня 2009

Mobile operators are struggling with unsophisticated web front ends, and stovepipe legacy IT systems, that leave them unable to address the opportunities of the modern communications environment, according to Cognizant’s Head of Telco, Mike Scott.

Scott, whose company provides outsourced IT integration and consultancy services, said that the telco sector suffers with “unsophisticated” websites that cannot recognise and respond to key customer information, and make it difficult to buy new services.

“You can’t even buy a phone on T-Mobile’s website,” he said, “without phoning somebody up and talking to them in person.”

Although operators are looking for consistency across their fixed, mobile, pre-paid and contract environments, their systems are all built around their individual product areas, Scott said.

Major investments in “big” CRM and billing transformations have failed, Scott added, leading to a situation where operators are trying to address a new environment but without the big capital resources to do so.

Scott said that Cognizant’s role is to help operators extract the information they already have from their existing systems, and integrate that so that an operator can achieve a whole view of a customer. When it has this, it can then respond in a manner suitable to that customer, or use location or presence information to design and offer new services.

If they do not do this, then they face becoming mere bit pipes.

“Personally, I think they have a hell of a long way to go,” he said, “and some have further to go than others. O2 has perhaps been the best in the UK, but I would say that because I built their web platform previously. Vodafone has done not bad with Live! and TIM has done a decent job with Alice. But in general operators have a long way to go before they catch up with the Googles and Amazons and Yahoo!s of this world. But what are they going to do? Become a conduit to other website providers?

“There will be a bit of that anyway, but the operators are now beginning to wake up and smell the coffee. It will be 6-12 months before they really get to grips with the new business model, rather than selling phones and parcels of minutes,” Scott added. “They’re still not entirely agreed that they need to do something different to what they have been doing.”

One problem has been that until now, Scott said, the tail of the IT department has been wagging to dog of the business units themselves. IT has said what is capable, Scott says, instead of the business units deciding what sort of company they would like to be, and then using their IT resources to achieve it. IT departments can often be defensive and wary of outsourcers and integrators, Scott said, seeing them as a threat to their control, as well as to jobs.

But operators face losing out on content and data services unless they solve these issues, Scott warned.

“They do have some golden nuggets in there that the Googles and Amazons do not have,” he said, “Things such as location, presence, and the ability to offer direct back-up and restore services. This is because they have that direct connection to the device. But they have some catching up to do and need to act on them. Where we come in is in how they can get their systems to help them do that, using their business intelligence in real time.”

“What needs to be done is look at it in a business way and for the IT people to execute it. A billing system, fulfillment, CRM, are just that. There is no reason why the underlying IT collateral underpinning these services cannot be made re-usable, to create service catalogues and service bureau functions. This would make service rollout faster and cheaper, and make product time-to-market much shorter,” Scott said.

A further area that operators can improve is in customer experience testing, Scott said. “The hardest thing for most mobile companies is evaluating the customer experience, both from a call centre and a web browser point of view. At the moment things are pretty miserable.”

Umang Gupta, CEO of Keynote Systems, a company that tests the user experience on mobile networks and websites, said that the key to gaining an understanding of what the actual user experience issues are, is to carry out global testing across the entire range of handsets, OS and browsers available.

“There are so many different variables, it is only by testing all of them across the widest geography possible that you can pinpoint where issues are occurring,” he said.

“The challenge is that there are so many possible points of failure compared to the old days.”

But operators remain in the firing line when problems develop, even when it might be due to something not in their domain, such as a website that has not rendered content correctly for a sufficient device.
“I think consumers these days are sophisticated enough to know there is a combination of issues involved, but it is still likely to be the carrier that they point to for a solution,” he said.


Источник: Mobile Europe

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