Customer experience is no longer the ultimate measure for a mobile service provider keen to ensure loyalty and improve revenues. What matters now is user satisfaction â€“ or at least that is the view of Ericsson, which will be using Mobile World Congress next month to launch a new version of its analytics solution that uses an algorithm to correlate service issues to customer experience but then also cross reference that to how variations in customer experience impact satisfaction.
The Ericsson Expert Analytics 15.0 software suite is designed for the mobile market and can be applied to mobile video services but these are principles that could later be applied to fixed network operators and also Pay TV. Ericsson believes the creation of a customer satisfaction index that allows operators to predict how happy consumers are with a service, and then act upon the insights to improve business outcomes, is a first of its kind. There is a patent pending on this so-called service level index (SLI).
Ericsson has drawn heavily on its network R&D, customer project and managed services know-how, plus its consumer research heritage to create the SLI behind Expert Analytics 15.0. Ericsson ConsumerLab provides an almost unprecedented scale of global insights into what makes consumers tick, including what services and features matter most to them. The company has identified the satisfaction drivers for different kinds of customers, like business users or students (and the principle can even be applied to non-human end users in machine-to-machine applications).
At the same time, the network and technology R&D gurus have long been predicting how network events impact customer experience and, working backwards, the likely causes of a bad user experience. Thus if a video takes several seconds to start playing, the cause can be identified as being the Internet server or problems on the radio transmission network.
These separate inputs have now been fused so that you can map a network event to customer experience and then to the likely reaction of a customer to that experience, and therefore predict their satisfaction levels. The algorithm is weighted so that events that happened recently and recurring events are given greater significance. Thus red flags start flying if a leisure user is experiencing video buffering but has also had a similar problem twice this week.
The third part of the process is testing the general algorithm in the market and fine-tuning it with each mobile operator.
The purpose of this enhanced approach to data analytics is to prompt actions, including automatic responses, that improve business outcomes. This could mean guaranteeing more bandwidth to one high-value customer within a mobile cell who is suffering due to network congestion, or offering a handset upgrade sooner than would otherwise have been the case to someone who has good cause (based on the data analytics and SLI predictions) to be dissatisfied.
Graham Cobb, Director, OSS/BSS Marketing, Business Unit Support Solutions at Ericsson, says: â€œYou need to do a lot of work on the data to understand what a network problem means for someone and how it impacts on your net promoter score [the measure of how many customers are advocates of your company and service, and how many can be considered detractors, based on whether they would recommend you to friends] and how you use that information to make business decisions. The index is a combination of the [quality of the] experience and how important that experience is to someone, leading to the customer satisfaction with the experience.â€
Ericsson Expert Analytics is pre-integrated into the broad OSS/BSS product portfolio the company offers, sitting on top of this platform as an application. It is one of two current examples of how Ericsson is helping operators to look beyond traditional performance metrics. The other, also being launched globally at Mobile World Congress, is the App Experience Optimisation solution. The company claims this will change the way end users experience apps around the world.
â€œThis is a new service that transforms how operators optimise their networks to meet the new demands created by a fast evolving app ecosystem,â€ Ericsson says. â€œIt provides a true picture of the local app experience and correlates this with network related KPIs (key performance indicators) which can then be acted upon.â€
The more important metric is now service key performance indicators (S-KPI). â€œThere is a dilemma for operators,â€ according to Staffan Pehrson, VP of Network Rollout, Support & Optimisation at Ericsson. â€œThe resource KPIs they have been utilising is not the same as the end experience for the app. Focusing on R-KPIs does not necessarily give you a good apps experience on smartphones and other handheld devices.â€
As an example of how apps experiences can be improved in practice, Ericsson worked with the Indonesian service provider XL Axiata to improve performance of the Facebook app on its network, identifying a need for some radio network optimisations, DNS server capacity issues and a CDN that was sending requests too far away. App coverage improved noticeably and â€˜time to contentâ€™ improved by up to 70%, while upload time improved by 50%.
â€œThe results showed that it is possible to optimise app experience using existing network resources,â€ Ericsson noted.
Meanwhile, Ericsson has been testing Ericsson Expert Analytics 15.0 and the new customer satisfaction â€˜service level indexâ€™ in customer pilots and reports great results. â€œSLI is valuable as an indicator of loyalty, as a measure of willingness to spend and as a predictor of net promoter score,â€ the company says.