Improving network success through customer-centric KPIs in developing markets

Recognising the need for customer-centric success measurements is crucial for the growth of mobile networks in developing markets, argues Arieso CTO, Dr. Michael Flanagan.

As mobile customer expectations change, network demand heightens and usage variations broaden, there has never been a more critical time to recognise the importance of customer satisfaction. This is an industry-wide argument that operators globally are striving to address. None more so than those providing mobile services in developing markets, where propensity to churn is rife and competition is heating up. Operators are now expected to offer an ever-evolving suite of tools and services but this capability to deliver a service is, alone, not enough for sustainable customer satisfaction and loyalty. An accurate understanding of the performance of the network in delivering these services is the basis for future success.

Beyond network performance: Measuring success through customer experience

Mobile network operators employ key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure operational effectiveness and ensure high levels of network performance. However, the ability to keep up with the competition in today’s rapidly evolving market now requires the operator to take a step back and look beyond network performance measurements, to the way in which they monitor their overall business performance which, ultimately, comes down to customer experience and satisfaction.

Current KPIs focus very specifically on supporting network metrics. Traditionally, this level of insight would have provided operators with enough of an indication as to their performance. However, the rate of change within mobile networks is now rapid, and key to maintaining accurate performance measures is the insight derived from a true understanding of customer experience.

The decision by Brazilian telecoms regulator Anatel to ban new subscription sales for several operators this summer demonstrates the importance that is being placed on customer satisfaction in developing markets. Press reports suggest the ban was in response to a "rising tide of customer complaints over poor service quality, including dropped calls." Interestingly, this justification makes no direct reference to network performance, there are no dropped call rate KPIs mentioned, and no competitive benchmarking drive test metrics provided. What matters to the regulator is that the customers were not impressed with the network, to the extent that they were driven to complain.

The ban was lifted by Anatel when the operators "provided it with satisfactory assurances that their investment plans will rectify the poor quality of service", clearly they plan to invest in expansion of the network. Customers don't really care about the average drop call rate for an entire cell area, they care about the specific drop call rate in the places that they want to make calls – and the dropped calls they personally experience. Even the smallest quality blackspot can cause massive dissatisfaction if it is in the exact location that people need to make that important call, download that train timetable, or send that critical email.

Current KPIs suffer from “dilution”; measurements are averaged over geographic areas and across an entire set of subscribers, meaning that it becomes almost impossible to derive an actionable resolution to KPIs that appear to fall short.  Measuring performance against these KPIs is now redundant. Traffic on each and every network is now very different from the traffic that would have travelled across it when these KPIs were first introduced. Now, different parts of the network will deal with different levels of pressure at different times, and these fluctuations can be attributed at as low as subscriber-centric level. Granular and detailed insight is now essential.

Maintaining control

The ability to fully understand the network puts the operator in a far better position to maintain control and a competitive advantage. As an increasing number of operators outsource their network management to Managed Service Providers (MSPs) this has never been more critical.

Outsourcing is an important strategy for operators in improving operational efficiency but the inherent division between the operator and the MSP in the agreement means that, even if the MSP is perfectly able to meet network performance KPIs (as, more often than not, it is), operators risk losing control over customer experience.

The KPIs used to measure outsourced networks are typically based on ‘own-network’ performance information that ensures technical and operational effectiveness within the network itself but lacks a focus on customer experience improvement efforts. Even where a subscriber view is taken with benchmarking through drive test or fixed end-to-end test devices, these are simply not statistically valid in terms of representing the end customer experience.

In order to guarantee a consistent and constant view of customer experience on outsourced networks, operators must introduce a new set of customer-centric KPIs.

Credible and customer-centric KPIs

In outsourcing their network, operators are essentially putting the experience of their customers’ in the MSPs hands. New performance measures should seek to ensure that the needs of specific customers on specific parts of the network are met, using geo-location information and an understanding of customer experience. Importantly, these measures should also distinguish between the experience of consumers on personal contracts and corporate customers - a high-value group that are becoming increasingly reliant on the provision of an optimal service via their mobile device which has, essentially, become an ‘office on the move’.  There are three new performance measures that operators should employ in order to measure network performance in this way:

  • Threshold numbers of 4G-capable customers served by 3G, and 3G customers served by 2G
  • High Value customers whose “personal retainability” or “corporate retainability” is below a certain threshold
  • High Value customers whose “personal data experience” or “corporate data experience” is below a certain threshold

While not entirely detached from traditional indicators, these KPIs bring a customer-centric focus to previously established concepts, such as accessibility – the rate at which a subscriber can successfully engage a network – and retainability – the rate at which a subscriber can successfully maintain a network connection.

Each of these new approaches to performance measurement holds the opportunity to be specified in terms of real geographic locations and represent true network usage.

The KPI vision

The ultimate goal for a mobile operator, as any other business, is to be financially successful. The path to success can come only via the maintenance of a sound and loyal customer base.

With customer experience at the heart of the mobile ecosystem, implementing this adapted focus is unquestionably a crucial next step for operators internationally. It will enable them to provide exceptional customer experience on both a personal and corporate level, reducing churn; improve network efficiencies, reducing OPEX; and enable operators to recognise and specify new service requirements based on the very specific needs of varying customer groups.

The question should not be whether to adjust the current, outdated KPIs but when to do so.

Sign-up to our weekly newsletter

Keep up-to-date with all the latest news, articles, event and product updates posted on Developing Telecoms.
Subscribe to our FREE weekly email newsletters for the latest telecom info in developing and emerging markets globally.
Sending occasional e-mail from 3rd parties about industry white papers, online and live events relevant to subscribers helps us fund this website and free weekly newsletter. We never sell your personal data. Click here to view our privacy policy.