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Alcatel-Lucent banks on customer service

Tue, 02/07/2012 - 1:22pm
Maisie Ramsay, Wireless Week

Alcatel-Lucent is throwing its weight behind software that allows wireless operators to get a better understanding of what their customers are actually experiencing when they access the network, technology known in industry circles as customer experience management.

The French company is using software acquired through its 2008 purchase of customer service specialist Motive to boost the capabilities of some of its existing products, Greg Owens, director of customer experience solutions marketing, said in an interview.

"We're looking at all the assets within the company and trying to figure out how we can repurpose those products so they can have double benefit for customers," Owens said.

The services will be included in a newly launched Motive-branded portfolio comprised of device management, analytics, optimization and consulting, which Alcatel-Lucent announced today.

The portfolio incorporates technology that allows operators to see things from the subscribers' perspective. Products integrating Motive's technology include Alcatel-Lucent's 9900 Wireless Network Guardian and the Genesys Voice Platform, which are both part of its Motive mobile broadband network support solution, and its new customer experience analytics technology.

Alcatel-Lucent is still working on some other final products and should have additional offerings on hand in the coming months, Owens said.

The move is part of what Owens described as a "renewed focus" on Alcatel-Lucent's customer service products.

The company is looking at ways to integrate its customer experience technology with existing products outside the Motive solutions. While there's no official word on what future solutions will find their way under the umbrella of Alcatel-Lucent's Motive Customer Experience Solutions portfolio, Owens said he has talked to divisions in charge of the company's Light Radio, payments and subscriber data management products.

Alcatel-Lucent is known best for its infrastructure equipment, and Owens admitted that it's in the company's best interest to get operators to buy hardware.

"We want to sell as much gear as we can, but that's not a pattern that's sustainable," Owens said.

Ongoing network upgrades and a glut of new smartphones has made it increasingly difficult for wireless operators to set themselves apart through superior performance or must-have devices, Owens said. At the same time, competing on price is a sure-fire way to erode profit margins.

The trend has prompted some to look at ways of guaranteeing that customers' experience meets expectations – no small task, given the sheer quantity of data generated by millions of subscribers with millions of devices.

"Our customers are really focusing on customer experience as traditional differentiators are becoming less compelling," Owens said.

Alcatel-Lucent isn't the first infrastructure vendor to notice the movement toward more advanced customer service strategies.

Rivals Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Networks already offer products to gauge and manage the end user experience. But Owens said that Alcatel-Lucent is taking a somewhat different approach to the issue, focusing more on what subscribers actually experience instead of just analyzing their interaction with the network.

Helping operators ensure that customers are getting the quality of service they're paying for could be a lucrative business for Alcatel-Lucent. As the company prepares to release its fourth-quarter results on Friday, Owens says its customer service products are going strong, even as other areas are seeing "flat" growth.

"It's not in the magnitude of doubling, but it's in the double-digit growth area," Owens said. "We think it's a big opportunity."

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