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Verizon – it only works when it all works

“We are not being fast enough to capitalize on the digitization that we championed,” Shankar Arumugavelu, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Verizon, told delegates at TM Forum Live! in a keynote.

He gave this example; “Data is the new oil in the digital economy and it is immensely untapped valuable asset. As telcos we are the largest producers and consumers of big data. If data is the new oil, analytics is the new refinery to convert that data to actionable insights. I believe with a large customer base, ownership of infrastructure and strong technology capability in the area of data and analytics we have the right capability in this space.”

All about the business

“Digital transformation is not just about technology; it’s about business transformation,” Arumugavelu said, and it has to be led from the top. Here’s how Verizon is approaching it:

  • Simplify process and policies, digitize analog processes
  • Obsesses over the customer experience
  • Simplify and modernize IT architecture
  • Organization and processes geared to speed and agility rather than just optimizing for efficiency
  • Test and learn – don’t wait until it’s perfect
  • Attract, retain and protect talent.

“It only works when it all works” Arumugavelu said.

He also gave some examples of initiatives which show this working in practice at Verizon:

  • Reducing IT complexity: Over 64 percent of Verizon’s applications have been rationalized. It has halved the number of datacenters. The company is focused on modernizing the IT stack, getting to microservices and using APIs to integrate with partners, as well as turning to the cloud to accelerate the pace.
  • When Verizon is designing products and services, it embeds self-service capabilities in the product. The company launched a new price plan in July last year which users control via an app on their phones, which Arumugavelu described as “the remote control for your price plan”. Last year 55 percent of customers used the app to make changes to their tariff, which rose to more than 70 percent when a new plan was launched earlier in 2017.
  • Identifying customer engagement ‘moments of truth’ to earn the customer’s trust and confidence – for example, previously when U.S. customers made international calls without an international plan, they’d get a ‘bill shock’ at the end of the month. Now Verizon lets them know instantly what their package options are.
  • Empowering employees and providing the right tools so they can solve the problem the first time and remotely trouble-shoot problems. For example, agents are able to annotate customers’ screens so they can manage issues themselves.
  • Enabling agents to be customer advocates – “This is a big one,” Arumugavelu said. Take the example of a customer with a package with hundreds of TV channels, but they watch only a few. They also have excessive broadband demands – agents can use data to proactively offer a package that is better value for the customer.
  • Automating dispatch to make sure technicians are there on time and automation of the supply chain to offer services like in-store pick-up, click and collect, same-day delivery – “customers expect it”.
  • Digital ops as in enabling proactive management of network problems and online friction points.
  • Daily data analytics in real time because, “Data is more powerful in the presence of more data,” Arumugavelu said. Verizon takes in data from different sources (network, devices, TV, routers, cross-channel interaction etc.) to deliver personalized experiences.
  • Designing for mobile first – every time
  • Focusing on new user experiences – 20 percent of Google searches are via NLP (natural language processing) so Verizon is investing in chatbots and voice assistants
  • Moving from waterfall to cross-functional, agile teams and breaking down internal silos. Verizon designs the overall customer journey then ‘reinvents’ it in small sprints
  • New business models beyond connectivity, through the purchase of AOL and Yahoo!, Verizon is getting into the online advertising business and content creation. With the acquisition of Fleetmatics and Telogis it is moving into telematics. ThingSpace is Verizon’s IoT platform and is used by over 4,000 developers.

Watch Arumugavelu’s keynote:



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Prior to joining the Forum, she wrote for a range of technology clients. Sarah is most interested in the stories and people behind the technology.

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