- Who? Reliance Communications, an integrated telecommunications service provider based in India
- What? Greater agility and new, interactive voice response to improve customer service
- How? Reliance leveraged TM Forum’s Frameworx suite of standards-based tools and best practices to reduce time to market and cut integration costs
- Results? Improved self-service has increased customer service capacity by 20 to 25 percent and saved capital expenditure while reducing annual IT operating costs
Reliance Communications, which has a customer base of around 126 million, including 2.5 million overseas retail customers, was facing challenging economic conditions, including growing competition and, above all, customers’ rising service expectations. The company identified enhanced interactive voice response (IVR) as a way to offer much better service to its mobile customers.
“We understand that if we really want to ‘own’ a customer we have to go beyond satisfied customers and create what we call ‘raving fans,’ says Alpna Doshi, Chief Information Officer, Reliance Group. “The basic question has changed from: ‘How can we afford to do this for our customers?’ to ‘How can we afford not to?’”
In some respects the project was also set up as an exercise to prove – and improve – the company’s agility. The system was developed in-house, and to avoid the challenges of application-by-application transformation, Reliance leveraged TM Forum’s Frameworx suite of standards-based tools and best practices. Specifically, the company used the Business Process Framework (eTOM) model to plan, design and deploy a completely new technical and operational enhancement platform.
The company conducted the implementation in phases, focusing on change management to minimize disruption and keep customer satisfaction high. It started by categorizing the project into seven stages: process modeling; defining business requirements; designing the solution; development; testing; training; and deployment.
Frameworx for process modeling
In the first stage, the project team spent some months modeling and verifying about 600 business processes using the Business Process Framework’s guidelines. These included processes such as service design, service strategy, service transition, service operations and continual service improvements.
In the second stage, it used the framework to differentiate between wish-list requirements and true business requirements. Among the must-haves, Reliance decided to automatically replicate the IVR’s call flow to every customer contact location. Further, the IVR ports were to be segregated into trunks for different groups; test ports would be available for IVR testing when the IVR was in production; and there would be tools for monitoring calls on each IVR port.
The information-driven decisions taken in phase two were leveraged in stages three and four – the design and development phases – to decide which functions to include and what integrations to carry out. This elimination process resulted in lower costs and a shorter time to market for new products, which also provided competitive advantage.
Reliance used the standards-based information models from TM Forum’s Information Framework (SID) to help it plan and develop the applications and interfaces. This saved 20 to 25 percent on development time – equivalent to 200 to 225 design hours – and speeded up the project’s completion by three to four months. Integration costs, particularly around the interoperability of enterprise applications, were reduced by about 28 percent.
“By using well-understood integration interfaces based on the Information Framework, we saved time on team discussions, solution acceptance and compliance to industry benchmarks, as well as eliminating the need for data translation between systems, making delivery execution faster and thereby achieving a real ‘wow effect’,” Doshi explains.
More functionality, faster results By adapting modules from TM Forum’s Application Framework (TAM), especially those addressing the business interface and critical paths, the project team was able to add about 10 percent extra functionality. For example, Web Services-based information was easy to integrate and can be extended into other contact centers’ IVR systems in the future. Also, Reliance addressed the issue of data redundancy – the IVR application is not dependent on the database directly, but connects via a routing server application, reducing the number of database hits per application. This improves customers’ experiences when they contact the call centers as the application network is free of congestion.
Other attributes have been built in, too, such as being able to offer real-time business offers (value-added services, promotions and ‘hotflash’ announcements, for example) and differentiating service delivery to high-value customers. Intelligent reporting enables the monitoring of performance and utilization parameters, which enables data analysis and facilitates proactive decision-making based on customers’ behavior and interactions. The analysis can be used to improve campaigns, pricing and stock levels. The time needed to calculate the monthly report has fallen from two days to 20 minutes.
The implementation is hardware-independent and the solution can be deployed with minimal, standardized specifications, depending on traffic and volume. Business continuity is integral too, so a single point of failure will not bring down the whole system. If one or more of the application servers fails, due to hardware or application breakdown, another application server in the dynamic, virtual pool environment takes its place.
Results and next steps
Overall, the project increased Reliance’s capacity to service customers by an additional 20 to 25 percent with a parallel increase in customer satisfaction, plus annual CapEx savings.
“By successfully providing self-service through IVR, we have reduced the number of calls to call centers and improved our efficiency in terms of resolving issues for our customers,” Doshi says.
Comments on the system’s functionality and requested enhancements are gathered via a feedback mechanism, and version 2.0 has already been released. Where practical, the requests will be incorporated into future releases of the system.
Annual IT operating costs have also been reduced significantly and the company’s ability to grow future revenue has improved.
“Because more customers are serviced via the IVR, front office customer service representatives are able to concentrate on servicing platinum and gold customers, who generate higher average return per user,” Doshi says.