A cable-broadband customer is almost to the halfway point of the latest sci-fi feature film when a message pops up on his tablet indicating he’s approaching the monthly data cap tied to his broadband subscription. The pop-up offers three solutions: Upgrade to a monthly unlimited plan on the spot for $29.99 per month; pay 4 cents per megabyte for the remainder of the current movie stream; or pay $3 for a one-time data package offering up to 500 megabytes – enough to finish the movie and then some.

The example is fiction, but the possibility is real. Inventive ways to custom-manage bandwidth caps, payment plans and fine-grained customer messaging are built into new software designed to bring telecommunications providers into a new realm of service provision that’s designed for personalization and backed by Big Data analytics.

That was a key message from a two-day customer conference presented last week by Amdocs, the large global software and services provider for the communications industry.

The latest release of Amdocs CES software suite, designed with broad input from leading cable, satellite and telephone company customers, offers a glimpse of an emerging world where improvements in basic customer service are twinned with generational advances in personalized media and communications services. Amdocs executives said this drive toward IT modernization has been in the works for a long time, but only now is beginning to yield concrete results as operators undertake the difficult work of replacing decades-old customer management and billing systems.

“All of us in this room have old, legacy technology that ties our hands,” said DirecTV SVP, IT Solutions Delivery Sven Gerjets.

The personalization theme is evident in new capabilities for associating individuals and their devices with networks and price plans that transcend the traditional model of delivering services to households, rather than people.

For instance, Amdocs VP, Portfolio Professional Services Yani Blanca presented a scenario in which the mom in a household (“Mary”) wants to add access to a cable TV channel that hasn’t previously been authorized. Her options might include:

  • Allowing everyone in the family to watch the channel on all registered devices for $14.99/month
  • Allowing everyone to watch on the main TV set only for $9.99/month
  • Allowing only Mary to watch on the main TV set for $6.99/month
  • Allowing another family member to watch only on his iPad for 99 cents/month

Blanca said the CES 9 software has been designed to accommodate an over-the-top environment in which a cable provider might have authorization to extend these rights even if the content doesn’t flow over the provider’s own network. “We will start seeing this association,” he said.

Another central aim is to improve fundamental customer experience while aiding operators in reducing fulfilment and service costs. Amdocs is attacking this dual objective in part by introducing a concept of “proactive care,” which mines data points to help operators recognize and address potential service issues before they worsen. An example is a family whose broadband consumption spikes dramatically around the same time that a pattern of regular on-demand movie orders diminishes, DVR usage subsides, and social media references are critical of a provider’s record. Amdocs customer business executive Jennifer Madeline said predictive analytics functionality built into CES might conclude the family has started using a new over-the-top video service and/or a DVR has malfunctioned. In either event, the system can trigger responses including sending the customer a helpful “how-to” tutorial for fixing the DVR, or it might push scripts to customer service reps that help them address a customer’s needs quickly in the event of a phone call to the service center.

A third pursuit is speed to market. Service providers who spoke at the conference acknowledged their legacy systems aren’t able to keep pace with a market where pricing and product adjustments must become more fluid. Videotron CIO Serge DeLisle recounted a recent instance where it would have taken six months to make IT systems adjustments in order to support a product with a total lifespan of about 12 months. “Even for changing a price, we’re talking about weeks and months,” he said.

For those reasons and others, service providers are now transitioning to new billing and customer care platforms. DirecTV, for instance, is working with Amdocs to implement a next-generation platform that consolidates billing, bill formatting, credits and commitments as it moves away from a legacy IT system first installed in 1994, said executive VP and CIO Mike Benson. The evolution isn’t easy or quick. Benson said DirecTV will transition its commercial customers to the new platform over the next two years before modernizing its residential IT infrastructure. “It will be the most challenging initiative for us,” Benson told the Amdocs forum. “This is a journey. And a hard journey.”