Ops face many challenges

Over the past five years, cable operators have steadily developed their commercial services business into a powerful growth engine. The lion’s share of that growth has come from the poorly served, low-hanging fruit of the small business sector.

David JacobsContinuing this momentum requires expanding the target market to include medium-size businesses – those with 25 to 250 employees. In this market, the fruit is not as ripe as it was for small businesses because of the attention it attracts from telcos, because services are already quite good, and due to migration challenges of switching primary phone and data services for companies with 100-plus employees.

Operators face many challenges as they move to address these new market needs; they’ll require a much broader (and more complex) set of offerings in both voice and data plans. These services will need to be constructed by marketing; digested and understood by sales; and executed by sales, operations engineering and customer care.

The operator’s BSS will need to handle multi-part orders, customer departmental hierarchies, multiple service addresses and departmental billing. The OSS will need to handle complex design and assign tasks, additional activation scenarios, device management and provisioning of IT services.

Just as the customer experience is the key differentiator in the residential sector, the same is true for grabbing market share from incumbent providers as SMBs move from disjointed voice and messaging services to IP-based unified communications and integrated IT capabilities. But to do so, cable operators will need a proven convergent billing solution and an integrated OSS in order to be truly competitive in what is looking to be a very attractive growth market.

Corporate customers need the capability to better manage expenses by drilling into details on communication usage by company, division, work groups and individuals, as well as charging classification (business vs. personal). These features represent one of the headwinds that cable may initially see in this marketplace, as telcos have understood billing and e-bill care at this level for some time. Cable can meet this challenge through the purposeful evolution of existing BSS and customer care systems with proven products and business processes. BSS vendor products require an architecture that understands corporate hierarchies in all of their forms and is capable of handling billing records from multiple systems, as well as making those bills presentable online – the way a 21st century company expects.

Accurate quote generation and order execution are critical for the successful delivery of B2B orders. Proper visibility into the systems necessary to assemble an accurate quote minimizes manual research delays by immediately providing salespeople with access to the information and metrics required to drive a comprehensive bid. BSS vendors need to provide an ordering engine that will produce a measurable and attractive ROI for the business and IT arms of the service provider through integration with inventory, planning and workforce management systems, as well as the product/offers catalog.

Though SLAs aren’t usually a primary requirement in the small business play, service guarantees provide operators with a real competitive advantage in the medium enterprise market, especially for larger deals that mandate them. SLAs today focus on strict windows for problem resolution requiring the problems identified for SLA accounts to be escalated and tracked against contractual service windows to resolution. Accordingly, service providers need well-defined and understood processes for problem resolution and a workforce that is 100 percent committed to meeting agreed SLAs.

Implementing proper customer care and service management tools will ensure workforce commitment by reducing the complexity of analyzing the 360-degree customer view. SLA managers that are well integrated into the customer care solution provide more efficient account management, client prioritization and real-time visibility into case log processing, helping agents ensure customer commitments are met and satisfaction remains high.

Cable operators have a very successful commercial services book at the small business level because of the compelling product, the excellent service and the local people they have delivering that service. Growing and maintaining market share among medium enterprise customers accentuates the importance of these attributes and requires operators to give their local people the right back office tools and OSSs to achieve appropriate levels of repeatability at scale.


Next month, Sunrise Telecom CEO Bahaa Moukadam will write Open Mic.