Have you ever tried to phone Google, or Facebook? Ever had a quick chat with the guys at WhatsApp? Perhaps had a problem with your web site and simply picked up the phone and sorted it out?
All of the above, and many more, would tell you, if you could get hold of them to have that chat, that their customer service is all online. This is actually not a criticism and, of course, many of the start ups communications service providers base their business model on the fact that everything is online, everything is self service.
The thesis here is that our industry is better at a) customer service, b) customer self service and c) real time marketing opportunities than the OTT players that we are beginning to partner with. While we discuss the increasing number of benefits of collaborating with OTT players, we tend to think of ‘quality of service’ delivered through policy management systems that will, in turn, deliver ‘HD quality voice.’ We think about customer data and the insights we are beginning to extract and use to take to those OTT players. Add also the potential that real time responsiveness brings, and you have a powerful argument for a very effective partnership.
But we can also take customer service. And potentially great self service.
Self service right now is still about ‘data.’ The solutions out there address the data problem, and allow, for instance, Facebook access to be swapped for texts within a family group. It allows, essentially, balance management within a community.
We are seeing more and more operators launch zero rated apps. This means that customers know that they can update their Facebook page for free (probably for a specific period). Sponsored data will become more popular, once the ‘net neutrality’ arguments have become old and irrelevant. In the meantime our industry will get better and better at offering well targeted and relevant products and services to their customers.
The potential becomes that much greater when we get beyond data. In the recent TM Forum Live event, the highlight of the Revenue Management session was the discussion session. During this, an operator from Bangladesh reported that not only is Google working with them to get WiFi connectivity to rural areas, but also they have gone beyond selling ‘data.’ Instead they are selling Facebook sessions, or YouTube sessions. So, you can buy 100 Facebook and 10 YouTube sessions a month, for example. And data never comes into it.
That simplicity means that self service not only become less complex, but more compelling. Selling bundles of anything reduces churn but imagine a customer being able to manage his account via a self service interface where he does not have to manage data. Instead, he can find out how many Facebook sessions he has left, exchange some to watch a couple of extra YouTube videos that his friend has sent him links to, discover that one of them is free and watch his Facebook session ‘credit’ be topped up.
Not only is that simple, it is compelling and fun. And that sells.
Now that almost every operator is moving to real time charging this becomes possible and a great opportunity to take self service to the next level – and to the OTT players who have not got that level of sophistication.