Case study: RCOM — Identifying service violations greatly improves customer service

Reliance Communications (known as RCOM) describes itself as India’s foremost integrated telecommunications service provider with a customer base of more than 134 million, including over 2.5 million individual overseas retail customers. One use of TM Forum assets is a project to improve quality of service for RCOM subscribers to help the company differentiate itself in the market. In particular, it wanted to attract and retain customers, especially in view of number portability and 3G competition. The operator began a project in 2012 to use Frameworx to help design architectural changes to allow it to transform customer experience, particularly through much better use of service level agreements (SLAs). The company gained better control of payments, leading to faster barring and unbarring of services; can update post-paid customer agreement forms much faster with 99.99 percent dealt with inside two hours; and the SLA governing the mean average convergence and divergence for service closure was improved to handle 95 percent of instances in 30 minutes.

Reliance Communications (RCOM) ranks among the top six telecom companies in the world by number of customers in a single country. Its corporate clientele includes over 39,000 Indian and multinational corporations including small and medium enterprises and more than 830 global, regional and domestic carriers.

Being an integrated communications service provider, it has established a next-generation, integrated (wireless and wireline), convergent (voice, data and video) digital network capable of supporting best-in-class services spanning the entire communications value chain, covering over 24,000 towns and 600,000 villages across India. RCOM has the distinction of owning and operating world’s largest next generation IP-enabled connectivity infrastructure, comprising over 277,000 kilometers of fiber-optic cable systems in India, the U.S., Europe, the Middle East and the Asia Pacific region. RCOM was founded by the late Shri Dhirubhai H Ambani (1932-2002) and is the flagship company of the Reliance Group.

Guaranteeing quality of service

Since its founding, RCOM has used TM Forum’s Frameworx suite of standards-based tools and best practices to achieve better service and cost assurance. It has taken part in Catalyst projects, trained its engineers through Forum programs, and says it has benefited from the Forum’s extensive documentation library.

One use of TM Forum assets is a project to improve quality of service for its subscribers to help it differentiate itself in the market. The company’s goals were:

  • to improve service level agreements (SLAs) as per business expectations;
  • to provide differentiated experience to its customers;
  • to measure, monitor and manage SLAs proactively;
  • to ensure the consistency of SLAs.

The original architectural design of RCOM IT systems used projections of daily volume to ensure that processes would complete within a reasonable time. This architecture did not include different SLAs for different processes. All transactions were handled on a ‘first in, first out’ basis. In addition, the design primarily used what the company calls ’sync’ mode, whereby an upstream system always waits for a response from the downstream system to consider a request as closed. The result was a slower than ideal response time to customers.

With the growth of RCOM resulting in increasing transaction volume, the company’s business team developed a number of process-specific SLAs. Examples of goals achieved with this new program are:

  • Better control of payments, leading to faster barring and unbarring of services. Previously 95 percent of cases were handled within five minutes. Now 95 percent are handled within two minutes.
  • The systems responsible for updating post-paid customer agreement forms are now much faster, and 99.99 percent are dealt with inside two hours. Previously 95 percent were dealt with inside three hours.
  • The SLA governing the mean average convergence/divergence for service closure was improved to handle 95 percent of instances in 30 minutes, up from 89 percent in 30 minutes.
Analysis to improve process

RCOM’s SLA rework project impacted all of the company’s lines of business. To support these improvements to SLAs, the company needed to make architectural changes to several processes. One important principle was to reuse existing processes, interfaces and systems as much as possible. It also needed to enable processes to work in either sync or non-sync mode.

To guide this redesign project, RCOM started by studying key performance indicators (KPIs) provided by the Forum’s Business Metrics to understand the relationship between KPIs and operational efficiency and customer experience. It examined metrics like mean length of time to go from order to activation, percentage of orders requiring rework and percentage of service activation failures.

The project followed these steps:

  • It collected customer experience indicators from the back office and call center for service fulfillment and restoration after a bill payment.
  • It analyzed operational efficiency, based on the amount of process rework and operational resources required.
  • It analyzed several critical processes, covering the time taken from when a request is received by a system, to the completion of the time period controlled by the SLA.

Through comparison to KPI benchmarks, RCOM discovered SLA violations due to capacity limitations during peak hours at certain elements of the process chain. RCOM’s analysis indicated that these were leading to timeouts and re-pushing of transactions, and so were the underlying cause of the quality of service issues.

The company repaired the SLA violations by substituting processes that did not require sync responses. This meant that re-pushing, which was driving approximately 30 percent of the processing load, was eliminated.

Tying it all together

RCOM used The Information Framework (SID) as a reference model for implementing Business Process  Framework (eTOM) processes. It helped reduce complexity in service and system integration, development and design by providing an off-the-shelf information model that was quickly adopted. The following changes were accomplished, as suggested by the Information Framework:

  • It modified many systems to include message queue-based asynchronous integration. This improved peak capacity performance, eliminating the need for retries by design. Only exceptional scenarios, for instance, message queue crashes, now may require retries.
  • Its design included loose coupling between the systems using message queues to introduce resilience and maximize end-to-end throughput.
  • It implemented throttling of bulk processes during peak hours by analyzing KPIs to detect contention.
  • It analyzed and removed process bottlenecks were detected and relieved through a resource allocation system made possible by monitoring inter-system SLAs, queue lengths and CPU utilization.
  • It speeded implementation by introducing the prioritization as per service requested, and using the customer categorization as a factor, selective processes were executed much faster.

RCOM also used the Business Process Framework to redesign service configuration and activations, create service-related reports and to monitor service quality in the IT BSS and OSS components.

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    About The Author

    Snr Director, Research & Media

    Annie Turner has been researching and writing about the communications industry since the 1980s, editing magazines dedicated to the subject including titles published by Thomson International and The Economist Group. She has contributed articles to many publications, including national and international newspapers such as the Financial Times and International Herald Tribune, and a multitude of business-to-business titles. She joined the TM Forum in 2010 and is responsible for overseeing the content of the Research and Publications portfolio.

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