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The New ‘Order’ in Telecom

August 19, 2015
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By Ravi Mhapankar, Practice Head, Telecom Fulfilment, Business Process Services, Wipro Limited

There is a great surge of new services, applications and devices that communication service providers (CSPs) and telecom equipment vendors have to deal with today. Voice, data, video, Internet, content, gaming, location based services, enterprise integration and commerce are being rapidly bundled with a baffling number of heterogeneous devices in association with a growing number of independent partners. On one hand, these are exciting developments as they serve customer needs and open fresh revenue streams. While on the other, they present a threat to customer satisfaction levels and customer retention. This is because a complex product portfolio impacts order management and fulfilment in ways that CSPs are still trying to understand and optimize.

Why the Order-to-Activate Process Looks Different Today

  • Product lifecycles are getting shorter - Product and service upgrades (and new products) need to be delivered to customers with a higher frequency, placing tremendous stress on operations. In addition, customers want everything instantly, in real time. 
  • Increasing competition - Competition from other CSPs and non-traditional players offering mobile services is growing. With the availability of more options, the customer is in greater control and has begun to demand a higher level of service. 
  • Error prone order management systems - Customers don’t have the patience to wait while an error in the front end (typically at customer touch points) or at the back end (with service provisioning and configuration) is being corrected. 
  • Growing inventory costs - In an effort to ensure timely provisioning, inventories are getting bloated, leading to excessive costs. These must be reduced and optimized to ensure insulation from inventory obsolescence and inventory carrying costs. 
  • Regulatory pressure - CSPs are becoming increasingly vulnerable to reputation loss, penalties and legal costs as a consequence of not meeting customer service level agreements (SLA). 

Several CSPs have attempted to address the challenges posed to their order-to-activate process. The outcomes have largely fallen short of expectation. This has made CXOs cautious as they want to do more with less and they want to do it faster. 

The three corner solution

For an order-to-activate strategy to be workable and acceptable it must first focus on three underlying areas - customer experience, cost optimisation and cash flow / revenue management. When these three are scrutinised and improved, the order-to-activate process stands a better chance of being aligned with current business needs.

  • Customer experience - There are two components to creating a great customer experience. The first is to offer a predictable and consistent service that meets customer expectations. The second is to reduce cycle time in provisioning. By implication, it is important to improve customer communications. Keeping an information-rich dialogue open with the customer reduces churn. Additionally it can help build powerful differentiation through service rather than through price. 
  • Cost optimisation- Cost reduction/ cost avoidance is fast becoming core to a successful order-to-activate story. First, the cost to serve itself must be optimized. This can be achieved by reducing labor inputs using automation and optimizing inventory. 
  • Cash flow/revenue management - Cash flow can be improved by reducing cycle time, reducing errors in order processing, reducing process steps and resources required to fulfill orders. Revenue management on the other hand can be better managed by reducing order fall outs and the costs associated with retrieving an order.

The benefits of ripping and restructuring the order-to-activate process are innumerable from a CSP perspective. With increasedrevenue through early billing there is an improvement of 15 per cent in order to bill cycle time. There is cost avoidance which involves 15-20 per cent reduction in engineering visits and 10 to 15 per cent improvement in inventory utilisation and a 15 to 20 per cent reduction in test. There is cost reduction as well with reduced customer churn through predictive analytics.

The crux of a CSP is that as technology and network proficiencies improve, so should processes that define customer satisfaction and revenue management. Digging into every aspect of the order-to-activate process, upgrading it and streamlining, is an immediate way to ensure that service management becomes a way of creating a differentiator as well as leading to revenue growth.

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