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Building Subscriber-Centric Experiences


By: David Sliter, Communications Solutions Business, Hewlett Packard Enterprise


 Subscriber-Centric_Experiences.jpgIn my last blog “Building the Subscriber-Centric Network”, I talked about how communications service providers (CSPs) are working to put customers front and center in a way they haven’t been able to before. They’re using new tools—big data analytics, granular subscriber data management, edge computing—to move away from traditional network-centric business models. Instead, they’re taking their cue from modern web companies. They’re prioritizing the customer experience above all else. And they’re examining each customer interaction to figure out how they can make subscriber’s lives easier and more convenient.

As Ken Marchant, our general manager for Actionable Customer Intelligence communications and media solutions said recently, “For 15 years, CTOs have asked me, ‘How do I use the network to gain a competitive advantage over over-the-top providers?’ The answer is, you can’t. The network is standard, and it needs to be. The competitive advantage, therefore, has to come from the relationship with the customer. Subscriber-centricity is key to the future of the business.”

Last time, I talked about some of the tools HPE is using to help our CSP customers make this transition. Now, let’s dig a little deeper into what subscriber-centricity can actually look like.


All My Stuff Acting as One

How many networked devices do you own? How many of them do you use to watch TV shows or sports events? And how many times did you have to enter a login and password to access your content?

Many CSPs these days are offering increasingly rich content to their subscribers, but due to the way their backend systems were grown, they are constrained in how they can grant access, monetize it, and recommend the next item.

In the subscriber-centric future that’s just over the horizon, CSPs will retain a “Digital Persona” to represent each subscriber. They’ll be able to bridge between your multiple identities, devices, and CSP data attributes (such as profile, location, and usage history), as well as third-party content ecosystems and even personal Artificial intelligence (AI) assistants like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa. Effectively, your devices will all function as a single, user-centric system. And those AI assistants will be able to use CSP information (where you are right now, which device you’re using) to become much smarter and more helpful.

Say you’re upstairs in your bedroom watching a show on your iPad, and you left your phone in the kitchen downstairs. Your boss calls. Siri recognizes that you’re using your iPad and that your phone’s someplace else. She can politely pop into your episode of House Hunters and say, “Hey, your boss is calling. Would you like to pick up the call here?”

Or say you’re in the middle of dinner when someone calls. Siri (or Google Assistant, or Alexa) can answer the phone and have an actual conversation with the caller: “Janice is having dinner right now. Can I take a message, or is this urgent enough to interrupt her?” These kinds of dialogues are within reach of AI capabilities right now. All we need is someone to bring all the pieces together. And CSPs—with their rich subscriber and location data that no one else has—are best positioned to do it.


Roam Away from Home

Here’s a simpler scenario—low-hanging fruit that CSPs can implement right now to make interactions with subscribers more relevant, useful, and profitable. To comply with regulatory requirements, CSPs generate an SMS to alert subscribers when they’ve left the network and are about to connect via international roaming. In most cases today, the SMSs are universally the same. With just a little bit of analytics, however, these messages (which CSPs are already required to send!) can become personalized subscriber experiences—and even revenue generators.

It’s all about knowing your subscriber, what they’ve done in the past, and how they’re likely to respond in the present. One subscriber may be a business user who travels internationally all the time. Her company’s covering the wireless bill and she’s not concerned about roaming charges, so the standard alert is probably fine. But another subscriber rarely travels outside the home network, is very budget conscious, and historically turns off cellular data immediately after receiving an “out-of-network” alert. For him, you can personalize the SMS: “Welcome to China! You are outside your network. Reply ‘Yes” to add unlimited international voice and data for the next seven days for $10.”

Now, the CSP is earning new incremental revenues from a customer who typically just pays his monthly bill. And the subscriber has a more positive and personalized experience with his carrier—receiving an offer that’s relevant to what he needs right at that moment, for a price he’s willing to pay.

You could apply the same model to subscribers nearing their monthly data limit: “You’ve used 90% of your data. Reply ‘Yes’ to extend unlimited data for the rest of the month for $7.” On the surface, you’re using this interaction to sell additional data. But to the subscriber, what you’re really selling is peace-of-mind insurance. Is it worth $7 to not worry about overages for the next few days? If CSPs use their data intelligently, they should already know which subscribers are likely to think so.


Content, Retention, and Upselling 

When all content can be accessed regardless of device or network, CSPs can predictively offer personalized content to retain their most valuable customers, upsell on the next tier, and even acquire new customers attracted by specific content. Content recommendations are made not only based on what you’ve watched in the past but also taking into account what the people with whom you most frequently interact recommend.

As an example, one of our customers acquired the broadcast rights to a nationwide sports league. Rather than simply creating a bundle price and proposing it to their customers through regular channels, this CSP adopted a mixed approach to monetization. For their quad-play customers, they offered access for free as a way to increase stickiness and reduce churn. For the non-quad play customers, they proposed the first match for free, while subsequent matches could either be taken as a separate offer or customers could upgrade to quad play and watch the matches for free! And finally, anyone not yet a customer could simply use their credit card to watch a match. And of course, that viewer could then be targeted for return business and other services.

The revenue impact from reduced churn, upsell, and new customer acquisition shows how customer insights, coupled with a good marketing strategy, can help CSPs grow and transform their business.


Personalizing Retail

Another, more physical, example of subscriber-centricity that we’re working on right now focuses on improving the in-store experience at a national wireless provider’s retail outlets. We’re using multi-access edge computing (MEC) and network functions virtualization (NFV) to ensure that everyone walking into the store has five bars of coverage. (Which is a big deal—in many wireless retail locations, modern building materials block cellular signals from penetrating walls. Not a great advertisement for switching to a new carrier!)

Even better, those MEC nodes can also provide a conduit to the vast amount of data that the CSP possesses about its subscribers. The moment a current subscriber walks through the door, salespeople can identify who they are, what they have, how they typically use their service, how the service has performed, whether they’ve been happy or not, and much more. Armed with that kind of deep insight, salespeople can provide much better service to those customers (and potentially, up-sell and cross-sell more successfully).


Focus on Your Customers

All of these subscriber-centric experiences, and many others, are made possible by the combination of new technology (analytics, entitlement gateways, next-generation subscriber management platforms) and the wealth of subscriber information that only CSPs possess. Together, they allow CSPs to create incredibly detailed profiles of their customers, identify what’s happening in the network, take action, and measure the results.

At the end of the day, however, subscriber-centricity isn’t really about technology. It’s about CSPs refocusing perspective on the services they’re providing: How does this service/application/interaction impact my customer’s life? How can I make their life better? By asking the right questions, you put the subscriber first. And the benefits—in both customer satisfaction and the CSP’s bottom line—flow from there.


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