Who: MyRepublic, a Singapore-based fiber broadband service provider
What: Automated omnichannel order-to-cash processes to meet demand for its low-cost 1Gbps fiber broadband service
How: Used TM Forum’s Frameworx including ZOOM’s guiding principles to automate
Results: Transition to a zero-touch, omnichannel order-to-cash process within four months, with more than 60% of orders fulfilled without human intervention
MyRepublic is perhaps best known for shaking up the broadband market in Singapore with the announcement of a 1Gbps broadband fiber broadband plan priced under S$50 (US$36) a month in early 2014. The unprecedented speed and rock-bottom price generated a huge volume of public interest. Soon after, the Singaporean newspaper Today reported that MyRepublic’s customers were flooding forums such as Hardwarezone and the company’s Facebook page with complaints about installation delays and unresponsiveness to requests for service updates.
The launch of the product turned out to be much more difficult to manage than anticipated with the workforce that they had, forcing the company to find a way to automate its order-to-cash processes – fast.
“The market demand and uptake far surpassed our expectations,” says Eugene Yeo, Chief Information Officer, MyRepublic. “As such, there was a huge strain on the order-desk team to process the orders, and a huge spike in in-bound calls to the call center ensued. Addressing the issue by adding manpower was neither a long-term nor sustainable solution, since keeping costs low is key to ensuring product profitability at the given price range. We had to look to leverage on technology to handle the volume spikes through process automation.”
Breaking the bottlenecks
The immediate issue MyRepublic had to resolve was the two-month delay many customers were experiencing for installation of the 1Gbps service. Bottlenecks included:
- a tedious and lengthy process of converting order-form data from paper to electronic format and inaccuracies arising in the conversion;
- submission and management of work orders to the next-gen national broadband network (NBN) fiber infrastructure provider in Singapore;
- orchestration and provisioning of services ordered per customer (fiber broadband and fixed voice);
- managing and scheduling third-party installation teams to complete the process;
- difficulties in making appointments with the customer;
- redundant manual tasks like checking if the service is up before having to manually close the orders;
- service inventory issues from upstream providers which cause extensive delivery delays;
- a high number of in-bound calls to the call center regarding orders and delays; and
- managing delays in any of the above processes, as well as improving communication with customers and service delivery.
In short, the company needed to improve customer satisfaction and the efficiency of the order desk – without adding staff. It turned to TM Forum Frameworx and the Zero-touch Orchestration Operations and Management (ZOOM) guiding principles to innovate and bring about rapid change to the entire process.
“In order to achieve our objectives, we took a hard look at the order-to-cash spectrum and set in motion a project to overhaul and transform the process at its core, making the entire process zero-touch, or fully automated,” Yeo explains.
ZOOM foundational principles
Revolutionizing the order-to-cash process
The old order-to-cash process was channel-based, and the channels were not integrated. For example, orders placed online flowed directly into an ordering system, but retail and direct sales channels used paper-based methods which resulted in many processing and data-entry errors. In addition, orders had to be passed manually to upstream partners, such as NBN infrastructure providers and third-party installers. Products and services needed manual orchestration for the provisioning of fixed broadband and voice services.
The manual nature of the sales process gave rise to multiple points of potential miscommunication between MyRepublic’s sales representatives and customers. For example, the sales representative might have signed the customer up for a product that had already been retired.
Given the volume, individual orders were easily missed by the order processing team, which led to oversights. If issues cropped up during the processing phase, then manual closure of orders upon completion was required. This resulted in some orders not being closed properly, which, in turn, meant they weren’t billed correctly.
Having outlined these issues, MyRepublic then laid out a vision to have:
- a single omnichannel interface to manage orders regardless of the source,
- an automated order-to-cash processing flow from order submission through to provisioning, and
- an automated order closure upon detection of an active optical network terminal and fiber connection.
Taking it step by step
Using a four-step, customer-centric framework (see graphic below), MyRepublic overhauled its customer on-boarding processes to create an omnichannel customer experience.
The company applied the ZOOM principles and used Frameworx to automate each portion of service orchestration. This included working with upstream vendors to open application program interface (API) communication channels to automate the order fulfilment portion with them, Yeo explains.
Here’s how it works (see graphic below): Before order orchestration, manual orders are filtered out and handled by the order team. An example of a manual order is one that requires a customer service agent to call the customer to confirm a date. The automated orchestration process begins with the system decomposing an order into resources and services. The system first provisions any services to the upstream provider via MyRepublic’s API communication link. Once all services have been successfully installed, MyRepublic deploys the required resources and ensures that the service is successfully provisioned. Automated testing of the services on the company’s network server and the customer’s gateway is then conducted. If the testing is successful, the order is closed and the billing process is triggered.
MyRepublic used the Business Process Framework (eTOM) order-to-cash process to map out the initial process journey and then drilled down to how much automation could be applied to ensure minimal order-desk touchpoints, Yeo says.
“We used the Information Framework (SID) to assist us in modeling the required information objects, such as the catalog layer, to ensure we were able to capture all the necessary data points required in the process,” he adds.
Application Framework guidelines on the software components required to support operations were also used.
MyRepublic faced several challenges along the way including:
- fragmentation of existing business and operational support systems (BSS/OSS);
- company processes that had to be altered drastically and cater to all operational workflows; and
- a tight three-month time constraint to roll out the full implementation of the new order-to-cash process.
“In light of these challenges, we put together an in-house development team to deliver an intelligent BSS/OSS system that is tailored to the company’s workflows, while providing the flexibility in the core architecture to allow for further fine-tuning for in-market requirements in each of the markets that we implement the solution in,” Yeo says.
Measuring the results
The results of the transformation project were impressive:
- More than 60 percent of orders are now fulfilled automatically, without intervention from the order desk or engineering, regardless of sales channel;
- Customer satisfaction has improved by 94 percent
- The number of inbound calls relating to order fulfilment has dropped by 65 percent; and
- Order-desk efficiency has increased seven-fold.
“As we are a growing organization, we are constantly revolutionizing the way we engage with our customers,” Yeo says. “With the implementation of zero-touch, the operations team can devote more attention to performing more meaningful tasks at work, and thus reported higher job satisfaction. Customer satisfaction also has seen a tremendous lift, as customers are empowered to complete their order process independently and have their orders fulfilled quickly.”