My friend Mark Lowenstein, a longtime wireless industry analyst for Yankee Group and now for his own firm Mobile Ecosystem, wrote a great piece in his recent newsletter on how wireless is changing self-service. He has graciously allowed me to repost it here.
The Evolution of Device-Based Self-Service
With a challenging economy and continued high cost of handset subsidies, advertising, and network capex, wireless operators are continuing to search for ways to save on operational expenditures. Over the past few months, I have had the opportunity to do some research in the area of customer service, and particularly the implementation of device-based solutions, as one of the ways in which operators are saving cost without compromising the customer experience. This column presents a summary of the key findings of this research. If you would like a complimentary copy of the full White Paper, please email me and we will send it to you.
Self-service – defined as the ability of the customer to activate, manage, and troubleshoot their service without human intervention, is now being used across three broad categories of functions:
- Service enrollment and activation
- Account management and maintenance
- Customer care
More recently, the mobile device – with its ubiquity, improved functionality, and usability – has emerged as an important, and complementary tool in the self-service arsenal.
In addition to successful implementations of Web-based self-service solutions, operators are deploying device-based service solutions as well. Properly implemented, these solutions reduce the number of calls or length of call to customer care, while also reducing fulfillment costs, and optimizing service/feature plan selection. Business cases presented in the report demonstrate cost savings of 40-70% for device-based activation and service enrollment functions, with more than 90% of activations/programming now automated in some implementations. For self-care functions, cost savings of 20-50% have been realized, and we are seeing 50% reduction in calls to care centers.
Positive customer experience and demonstrated ROI with initial self-service implementations, combined with improvements in device interface, memory, and speed are leading to an aggressive roadmap for implementation of new capabilities in the account management area, such as viewing data usage consumption, changing price plans, and replenishing minutes for pre-paid accounts. We also see some potential revenue-enhancing opportunities, such as promotion/up selling of services and the creation of loyalty programs and greater tie-ins to advertising. Device-based self-service will also play a critical role in helping operators work with the growing number of third-party retailers selling wireless devices and services.
We also spend some time in the report discussing a successful go-to-market approach. A good user experience, which includes ease of navigation, simple presentation of information, and completion/confirmation of transactions, is one important element. I have also found that many go-to-market solutions fall apart without proper training in the channel, including retail sales and customer support representatives. We have also found cross-promotion with Web-based account management solutions to be effective.
Over the years, I have written about how wireless is unique in providing free customer care across a breadth of issues, many of which have little to do with the core service operators are providing. As devices and services become more complex, I believe one of the more effective ways to “resource” for high-touch interactions on complex issues is to implement a flexible, and user-friendly suite of self-service solutions for the more commonplace elements of activation, account management, and entry-level care, across the Web and device channels.