Customers, CMOs and CTOs – and The Pursuit of Real Happiness

At the end of last year a couple of surveys were produced showing how the technical and the business sides of mobile operators are now talking the same(ish) language and going after the same goals. Infonetics published results of a survey of CTOs in November asking about priorities for network investments. The top two drivers for network investments were “delivering new service bundles” and “increase ARPU”. When IBM ran a survey of operator CMOs, the main objective was to “enhance customer loyalty / advocacy”. So, top priorities for CTOs and CMOs involve keeping customers happy, getting them to spend more money and delivering new bundles.

In order to help the CTO and CMOs achieve their goals involves moving to delivering value based offers and not letting data become a commodity. But…………..

Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now

There are many, many articles about value based pricing, and how this will allow the mobile operators to avoid the doom and gloom of data commodization. By the way, there’s nothing wrong with being a provider of a commodity – as long as that is what you intended in the first place. However a quick glance at the annual report of some of the largest operators and you’ll see phrases like “developing new products and services in order to win market share,  boosting customer loyalty, increasing revenue, enhancing innovation, creating value, increasing infrastructure quality to improve customer experience” and so on. This would tend to suggest that operators don’t want data to become a commodity.

I’ve yet to see a published corporate goal of cutting prices and reducing revenues and profits. Instead price reductions are often the fault of someone else – “competitive pressures, market advances, regulatory forces” and the tried and tested “customer demands”. So if data becomes commoditized then it will be someone else’s fault.

There is a Light

That said, one option to avoid data becoming a commodity is to provide value based offers. Central to delivering this is having the ability to operate in real-time. Not just real-time charging, but intelligence with context sensitive triggered offers and communications to the subscriber, and activation and delivery of new services. People use the internet in real-time, they interact in real-time, they buy things in real-time and want to use them right now. Digital is real-time and in order for operators to deliver value then a fundamental building block is having real-time systems and processes in place.

Some operators are realizing that real-time charging and billing are fundamental to providing value based pricing and offers and are doing something about it. Unfortunately – some aren’t. Last year I worked on a research survey of over 200 operators – over 90% said that real-time billing is needed for data services – but only 20% had any real-time capabilities in their billing systems. That’s a bit of a gap. With LTE providing the best opportunity yet for operators to develop value based offers that are enabled by data  then the time for operators to start moving to a data centric real-time data collection, rating, charging and billing platform is now. To some, it may a significant advance to moving data based transactions from circuit switched voice centric IN platforms and batch based billing systems to a centralised real-time charging system, but many operators are already on this path. They know that if operators want to keep their customers (and by default CTOs and CMOs) happy and not slide into the bargain bucket land of commoditized services, then real-time is not just a nice to have – it’s pretty much a fundamental.

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About Martin Morgan 13 Articles
With 25 years’ experience in mobile communications software, Martin has worked in mobile billing software since the early days of the industry. As such he’s been around long enough to have had numerous articles published. He has spoken at many conferences. He’s served on the boards of software companies and trade associations. At Openet Martin is responsible for marketing thought leadership and demand creation.

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