• Topics
  • Research & Analysis
  • Features & Opinion
  • Webinars & Podcasts
  • Videos
  • Dtw

ServiceNow, CSPs discuss transforming B2B customer experience

Globe Telecom, Hutchison 3 Indonesia, Ooredoo, Smart Axiata and Telstra shared insights into the transformation of their enterprise businesses during a discussion with Salesforce about AT&T's and Deutsche Telekom's recent programs to improve enterprise customer experience.

John C. TannerJohn C. Tanner
20 Dec 2021
ServiceNow, CSPs discuss transforming B2B customer experience

ServiceNow, CSPs discuss transforming B2B customer experience

Communication service providers (CSPs) are keen to crack the B2B market beyond selling connectivity. The challenge lies in transforming the business to deliver the right customer experience. In this roundtable discussion, ServiceNow’s Chris Bauschka, VP and General Manager of Technology, Media & Telecommunications, and Aps Chikhalikar, Head of Telco Asia-Pacific, explain how Deutsche Telekom and AT&T are transforming their enterprise businesses and discuss transformation challenges with a group of CSPs operating in Asia-Pacific. The best way to understand how CSPs are transforming their B2B customer experience is to look at what’s motivating them to transform in the first place. A key driver is the need to deploy new services quickly to create new revenue streams, and a related driver is achieving operational efficiency which includes staying ahead of (or at least keeping up with) the competition. Bauschka highlights four key use cases for transformation that operators are adopting to better compete in the market: Network evolution – operators are already evolving their networks, which is a transformation in itself not only in terms of advanced technologies, but also management of new networks and services, which also impacts customer experience. Streamlined order management – from service delivery times to the front-office staff, the overarching objective is to make it easier to launch and deliver services faster and thus drive a better experience for customers. Proactive customer care – increasingly, operators are looking for ways to move away from the traditional reactive approach to customer care to being more proactive in sharing data assets, insights, troubles and other elements that enterprise CIOs want at their fingertips without having calling up and ask for it. Automated service assurance – many assurance transformations focus on enabling common processes at scale, such as bringing networks and services together in a common view to better understand who is affected by a service disruption, and proactively drive faster resolution.

Deutsche Telekom merges companies

When Deutsche Telekom combined T-Systems International and T-Deutschland into one B2B powerhouse, the key challenge was masking the complexity of duplicate silos and systems for each product (voice, mobile, BNG and IT) in their respective operational and business support systems (OSS/BSS) so that from the customer point of view they were dealing with just one company offering one set of products and services. The solution was to create a convergent overlay for the BSS to unify everything from the customer’s perspective and then over time tear down and consolidate those silos into a single, modular convergent BSS stack. Moreover, the same approach enables Deutsche Telekom to create and launch convergent products quickly and easily in terms of experience, customer care and assurance. Once the transformation project was implemented, the company was able to launch its first new product under this new convergence strategy in just 11 weeks.

AT&T Business pools processes

AT&T Business’ transformation project started several years ago when AT&T’s managed service provider (MSP) division realized it couldn’t keep up with hyperscalers because its service processes were siloed and tailored to specific large enterprise customers. This customization resulted in a fragmented operations and service organization. The solution was realizing that 70% or 80% of the processes in each product silo were the same. AT&T moved to a pooled organizational model, in which they designed common processes and built a common pool for work teams rather than dedicating people to specific enterprise customers. Change management was essential to this – executives went out of their way to walk employees through the changes and make sure everyone in service and operations understood why they were doing this and the benefits therein. This model was first implemented in the MSP business but has since been expanded across AT&T Business.

One product at a time

Anila Fredericks, Head of Customer Service Operations at Telstra, describes a similar challenge her company has faced with its SD-WAN offering. “SD-WAN is bits and pieces – different vendors, customers managing it, us managing it. And from an assurance perspective, we have no visibility at times,” she says. When it comes to unwinding the complexity, it’s advisable to pick a simple starting point and go one step at a time. “Don't try to do it all at once,” Bauschka says. “If you can start simply, and you have a very clear business case and ROI around that change, it drives momentum. If you solve the easy simple product first, and show the value and the ROI, people get excited and then they think, well what if we did this for SD-WAN?” Chikhalikar cautions that when transforming one product at a time, CSPs should make sure that the customer experience remains consistent across each product. “It’s important to make sure that you are building one experience for the customer so that they don't have multiple experiences, depending on the products, because you want to provide consistency,” he says.

Keeping up with market changes

This point also highlights the fact that transforming customer experience or anything else is a journey, and often not a short one. The DT and AT&T Business case studies are multi-year projects – in AT&T’s case, the transformation initiative has been ongoing for several years already. Troy Manning, Head of North Asia at Telstra, wonders how both CSPs managed to plot out those plans over years and still anticipate whatever unexpected market changes come along, or new technology that will improve customer experience. Taking it one product at a time allows CSPs to adjust to market realities as time goes on, and also to ensure that as the customer experience evolves, the product lines that have already been transformed can be easily upgraded to the same level as the newly transformed ones, says Bauschka. Chikhalikar adds: “There’s two tranches – one is to do Agile development on the front-end experience layer in iterative three-month drops, and then the other tranche would be launching new products in that experience layer…so you can transform each product line but keep evolving the overall front-end experience at the same time.”

Justifying the ROI to the managers

Lisbon Simangunsong, Head of 3Business-Corporate at Hutchison 3 Indonesia, asks about the ROI risks of transformation, whether service disruptions during the transformation process or simply justifying the expense of the transformation project. “Senior management are always looking for the numbers,” he comments. “We have been chased for the KPIs by corporate sales, saying you have to have these numbers.” Bauschka responds that there is more than one way to calculate ROI in a transformation scenario – for example, the cost savings associated with moving IT to the cloud, or the cost savings and higher customer satisfaction from having a more optimized organizational structure that can respond to customers’ questions more quickly. He adds that one motivation for AT&T Business’ transformation project was the business they were losing because of poor customer experience. “As you go through the changes and move to that new business model, you instantly get some of those savings in terms of the organizational changes, and then that allows you to be more price competitive in future RFPs.”

Avoiding disruptions in service delivery

Yudhi Azfandiari, Head of Product & Marketing, 3Business at Hutchison 3 Indonesia, comments that for his company, “the bottom line is how we manage the disruption of the service during the transformation so that it can be justified by the senior management.” Bauschka points out that there’s always a way to introduce change in a way that is the least disruptive to the business. “You can start with 10 people – you prove it with 10 people,” he explains. “Then you go to 100, then you go to 500, and then you roll it out. The pace of rollout gets faster in the later phases.”

Transformation progress

Around half of roundtable participants are halfway through their CX transformation projects, with a few saying they are a bit further along. Some participants offer insights into their own journeys and what they are trying to achieve. For example, Subhash Vidyarthi, Regional Business Head at Ooredoo Myanmar, notes that the current challenge is related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Since it began customers have been demanding that more services be made available remotely on a digital platform. “The customers are asking about omnichannel – how do we get all the real-time information? How do you empower us?” he says. Sim Sisavuthary, Head of DevOps at Smart Axiata, is seeing similar demands from her customers. “We developed a customer care app, which is easier to use [than USSD], and also makes services more accessible. For example, during the pandemic lockdown, users can’t leave home to top up their cards or buy a new one, so they can use the app and pay by Alipay or other method.” Fredericks notes that Telstra is also looking to boost the customer experience by making sure the front end has the data and actionable insights at their fingertips to deliver maximum value to customers. That also means making sure that the front-line people are embedded into that journey, she adds. Otherwise they’re likely to forsake the fancy new service dashboards in favor of what they know – even if that’s Excel. “If you don't embed and get people on the journey, it's as good as being in the dark ages,” she says.

AI is critical to CX transformation

Meanwhile, roundtable participants unanimously agree that automation and AI are critical supporting pillars of your customer service transformation. Naturally, different CSPs are putting automation and AI to use in different ways as part of their transformation process. For example, Dindo Fernando, Head of Portfolio and Governance at Globe Telecom, explains that Globe is undergoing a massive resegmentation of its market, which requires sorting through a ton of data. Consequently, the company is using data and automation as a basis for resegmentation and prioritizing which segments of the market to look at first. Telstra’s Manning says that automation and AI can help Telstra Connect give his top-end customers “white-glove” service with greater visibility into their service reports and status updates, as well as a fast response when problems arise. But the ability to deliver that relies on superb data governance, he adds. “The data has to be clean, and that is one of the hardest parts of transformation,” he explains, adding that this is an aspect of automation and AI that everyone in the organization needs to embrace. “If we all across the company take little segments to clean up every now and then, it makes a big issue quite a bit smaller.”