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Data as a Competitive Advantage

Wed, 06/30/2010 - 8:40pm
Christopher Cherry, Director of Communications Vertical Strategy at Pitney Bowes Business Insight

Leveraging customer and network data brings business benefits

Wireless and cable providers battle customers' short attention spans in a competitive industry and are constantly looking to new coverage and services to increase revenue.

By Christopher CherryIn a climate of uncertainty, one of the most important assets companies have at their disposal is customer and network data. Providers are increasingly leveraging new tools to better manage and share this data enterprise-wide for more strategic decision-making.

Rogers Cable Communications is a well-established company trying to stay ahead in a highly competitive and highly saturated market. With 2.3 million television customers and 1.6 million Internet subscribers, it is Canada’s largest cable television service provider.

In the mid-1960s, Rogers became one of Canada’s first cable system operators when it secured licenses covering much of the Toronto area. Currently, the company serves customers in southern Ontario, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador and has owned cable systems in the United States.

Despite its long history of success, Rogers Cable Communications needed new strategies that would help it thrive in one of the most volatile sectors in communications today and help it continue to grow its business.

Like many providers, Rogers had vast amounts of data on its network and customer base but lacked the ability to easily manage, share and visualize this crucial asset for maximum business benefit. If Rogers was to maintain a competitive edge in a fast-changing marketplace, the company knew its employees would need a tool that could combine and leverage customer, network and third-party data within a single environment.

Figure 1 Geocoding Customer Accounts (Click to Enlarge)

SEEING YOUR NETWORK
Integrating customer data with geospatial information/location intelligence gives service providers a significant competitive edge.

Being able to visualize the network allows employees to, for example, improve outage management with the ability to spot and address problems and deploy resources quickly, not only increasing operational efficiency and saving cost, but also improving customer service.

Sales staff can also be armed with this critical data for better business practices. For example, before walking into a meeting, a Rogers employee can easily access information on whether the customer they will be meeting with has had any recent problems with service or other issues, allowing for an informed, proactive and more-likely successful interaction.

Figure 2 Sample Map

Mapping the network can also pay dividends in improving marketing operations. With the ability to visualize where specific services are available, along with a comparison of the saturation of those markets and an analysis of competitive threats, business opportunities can be easily identified. This allows for optimized rollout and marketing strategies that can streamline operations and improve sales.

Additionally, providers can utilize demographic data on their customers to not only know which customers do not yet have a particular service, but also to know whether the customer is likely to be interested in the given service based on factors such as age, socioeconomic status, number of members in their household, etc.

According to Charlotte Durand, senior director of market planning and development at Rogers, "Being able to access this valuable network and customer data has enabled us to be very strategic about who and where to target, which gives a competitive advantage in a highly saturated market." Having this information also arms executives with an easy-to-view snapshot of market opportunities and competitive threats, as well as a view of their business in real time. Operations and campaigns can be monitored in real time to address issues, shift resources and change plans accordingly.

Figure 3 Unifying & Integrating

MAKING THE MOST OF THE DATA
Concepts such as data completeness, conformity, consistency and accuracy are critical items when looking to get the most out of data analysis.

One of the primary differentiators for provider success in best leveraging data is the ability to easily share data enterprise-wide and across categories. If network and customer data does not accurately align with location data, such as the street network, as well as align with each other, then the value of the analysis is significantly diminished.

Rogers, for example, has been able to leverage its data for bottom-line impact because one of the company’s key goals has been to use location and data intelligence solutions to get this critical information out of silos and into the hands of employees across different departments, from engineering to marketing.

BETTER CUSTOMER SERVICE, BETTER BUSINESS
Finally, maintaining and leveraging customer and network data can improve customer service and relationships. By mapping its network, Rogers Cable Communications has been able to respond more proactively to outages and service customers more quickly, while also identifying opportunities and strategies for sales and marketing based on location and customer data.

Today, it is harder than ever to retain customers, attract new ones and stay ahead in the crowded, competitive communications industry. When assessing business strategy and ways to improve, one of the first and most critical areas providers should look to is their customer and network data.

As the example of Rogers Cable Communications' practices has shown, leveraging this data can have business benefits such as improved outage management, more strategic marketing and improved customer service. Getting the most out of critical customer and network data can be achieved through the maintenance of data quality and the ability to share these valuable assets enterprise-wide, providing returns on cost savings, growth opportunities and streamlined business operations.

E-mail: chris.cherry@pb.com

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