Written by Ofir Zemer Published in Europe II 2016
Survey results from Heavy Reading show that mobile operators believe that network service quality is a top driver of customer loyalty, taking a higher precedence to customer care or price. Because of the significance that network quality has on NPS (Net Promoter Score) scores (aka “network-driven NPS”), it’s recommended that mobile operators focus on customer-oriented network performance to boost NPS.
Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a powerful driver of business success. Research shows that if a company’s NPS, an index based on customers’ willingness to recommend a company to others, is higher than those of its competitors it will outperform the market.
Unfortunately, while popular online companies like Amazon are receiving scores of +60, mobile operators are falling behind with average scores of +5. A recent study found that the NPS sweet spot, the point at which customers are less likely to churn, is +26, giving mobile operators a strong incentive to increase NPS to ensure future growth.
One of the best ways to boost NPS is to improve the customer experience. However, with all of the different aspects of customer experience to consider, it can be difficult to know where to begin.
The importance of network quality
For mobile operators, network performance can be the most important factor that determines whether or not the subscriber had a positive customer experience. Survey results from Heavy Reading show that mobile operators believe that network service quality is a top driver of customer loyalty, taking a higher precedence to customer care or price. Because of the significance that network quality has on NPS scores (aka “network-driven NPS”), it’s recommended that mobile operators focus on customer-oriented network performance to boost NPS.
Although understanding network quality is important for improving the customer experience, it’s not easy to know which measurements to focus on improving. Each operator has its own topology, infrastructure and unique combination of technologies. In addition, mobile networks have become more complex. There are several different KPIs across the customer network journey including 4G, 3G, 2G and Wi-Fi technologies and there also the different infrastructure vendors to consider.
In addition, subscribers each have their own expectations for network performance based on how they use the network. There can be different performance requirements for attendees of major sporting events, enterprise users, viewers of streaming video applications, etc.
Finding the subscriber pain points
A single KPI often doesn’t include enough information to have a clear understanding of the customer experience. Without analyzing several related KPIs together, certain network performance problems can be overlooked.
For example, commuters are likely to experience more disconnected calls and interrupted network browsing sessions although the cell level KPIs may be at an acceptable level. Subscribers’ quality of experience can vary as they cross network technologies moving from 4G to 3G and back to 4G again. A degraded quality of experience can continue undetected if a single technology KPI is isolated and monitored independently.
Evaluating single KPIs can also mask the necessary trade-offs. For example, shrinking network coverage can improve the drop call rate KPI within a specific cell but it could also cause a portion of the subscribers to fall down to a legacy technology such as 2G, resulting in slow web browsing and downloads.
A more accurate way to evaluate a customer experience is to create a network performance index (CEI) which is a composite of several network related KPIs, providing a holistic picture showing overall network performance. Once there is a more complete and accurate description of a specific customer experience it’s possible to follow a clear methodology to continuously optimize the customer experience to improve subscriber loyalty.
Three step plan to increase NPS
Here is a three step process required to improve NPS by improving CEIs.
First, Understand the common factors that affect the customer experience including the subscriber group, the services used, the hang outs of the subscriber and each technology and infrastructure component that is part of the customer network journey. Use this information to create a CEI that combines all of the relevant related KPIs. Second, Determine the strategy to improve the customer experience and then optimize the customer network journey by applying network resources where they are needed most to improve the quality of experience. Third, Re-measure NPS for the target subscriber group where the network experience was improved.
Take into account that they made need sufficient time to feel the impact of network improvements and resist the impulse to survey them too frequently resulting in a possible negative response.
SON (self-organized network) platforms are a vital part of the solution. Integrated with big data solutions it enables mobile operators to self-adapt and prioritize their network resources in real time based on CEIs. A closed-loop system, it can feed quality measurements back to the analytics engine to continuously improve services, enabling operators to tweak network resources to heal network pain points to continuously improve the customer experience.
Below is an example of how tweaking network resources can result in improvements in the customer experience and thereby NPS.
A case study: Defining a target CEI for improved customer satisfaction
A Tier-1 operator in Western Europe was ranked third out of four operators based on customer satisfaction surveys. The results of this evaluation were released while the operator was in the middle of a very complex network modernization project that involved the RAN consolidation of two operator networks, one with over 80,000 cells and another with close to 30,000 cells.
The operator chose as its CEI Minutes-Per-Disconnection (MPD) for 2G, 3G and 4G technologies and selected 200 MPD as a benchmark for network performance improvements. Algorithms were created that performed dynamic traffic orchestration to maximize MPD regardless of the network technology-layer that was utilized by the subscriber. Network resources were continuously tweaked to resolve specific performance problems to positively influence the customer experience. The end result was a stable MPD of 550 which represented an improvement of over 150%.
Following this improvement in customer experience the operator committed to repeating this process to enhancing other key network performance indices.
Turning subscribers into promoters
Mobile subscribers are more likely to recommend their operator if they have a consistently high quality of experience. By creating a CEI that describes the customer experience throughout the entire network journey they can focus their optimization efforts on improving subscriber satisfaction. By using SON technology with closed loop feedback of network performance they can continuously improve network performance to boost subscriber loyalty and NPS. Once one customer experience indicator is improved the same process can be applied for other CEIs to increase overall subscriber satisfaction.
The end goal is to reduce subscriber churn, increase positive word-of-mouth, social media endorsements and enhance brand perception. Once network performance is fine-tuned so that subscribers can be ensured a quality user experience, they can become loyal, enthusiastic promoters of their mobile operator.