2.5 million customers, 10,000 miles, one delighted client

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How we revolutionised the customer management experience for leading Australian TV services provider Foxtel.

Foxtel is a leading subscription television service provider with a huge number of cable, satellite and broadband customers. In 2012 they acquired a large telecommunications provider in order to penetrate rural communities.

This instantly increased their subscriber base to over 2.5 million households. Shortly after that we partnered with Comverse (who owned the Kenan billing system and a web portal framework) in order to deliver a call centre portal with a compelling and easy to use user experience that would help ensure the acquisition did not lose customers or … staff.

And if that wasn’t already exciting enough, all of this happened on the other side of the planet.

Here’s how we took those 10,000 miles in our stride.

First, a bit of backstory

The migration of the new employees and customers to our client’s systems (along with their upcoming move into the triple play market) highlighted the need for a call centre portal that would not only help transform the business, but also install company loyalty in the brand.

Our client needed a brand-sensitive portal that was easy to use, helped the call-centre staff navigate the products and services they were selling, as well as providing meaningful information so that the new ‘migrated’ customers saw the benefits of the acquisition and would understand the cost-savings to their existing subscriptions.

It also needed to require little to no staff training to keep operational costs in check – absorbing a whole call-centre team but having to train them for 2 weeks is not cheap.

In many ways the approach was simple: a good staff experience, which would in turn lead to a good customer experience resulting in customers staying put and attracting new ones.

It was about the customer hearing the smile on the other end of the phone as they had their problems resolved quickly, informatively and efficiently.

We were in. It was time to jump on that plane.

Our approach

We all agreed that an agile approach with multiple phases was the only way to get the project going quickly and deliver value early on. Recognizing that the 12hr time zone difference between the UK and Australia was a big advantage if used correctly, we spent days travelling (and even longer on midnight conference calls) working closely with teams in Oz so we could achieve 24hr development cycles. Sprinkle this with our Separate Reality know-how and we had an extremely efficient and open development process that delivered outstanding results – as well as allowing us to work as one big team when stormy weather came along!

The project went from an idea to production in 8 months and return on investment was seen within 4 months.

Instant results, long term savings

With an overall focus on significantly – and instantly – reducing operational costs, the project delivered:

  • 35% cut in call handling times
  • Slashed training costs – the easy to use UI and guided processes revolutionised the training programme and staff were able to take live customer calls within 2 hours of self-training. It took 2 weeks before with an instructor!
  • Immediate ROI – the portal made such an instant impact that our client’s initial dollar return on investment was realised within the 1st quarter after Phase 1 went live. That’s a return on investment of three months!
  • Offline capabilities – our solution decoupled the customer management processes from the performance and reliability of the back-end. This in turn made sure that sales could still be taken through the system even when the back-end systems went off line. Staff no longer had to do “swivel chair” integration during maintenance periods.
That’s not all

One thing we’re especially proud of is that our client’s CIO also won a ‘CIO Of The Year’ industry award in Australia for the migration. The project was ambitious and there was some turbulence on the way (there always is) but with the right team (and attitude) it just shows what can be achieved.

Our journey to find the perfect balance for Mobistar

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How we found the perfect balance between business needs, user experience and cost-effectiveness to define a product-driven solution that offered a consistent, best-in-class customer experience for Mobistar – a Belgian telecoms provider with over 4 million customers.

Whenever a product vendor asks us to get involved in a transformation project to deliver a new customer experience that’s both in line with customer needs and the product itself, we know we have a long journey ahead of us.

And when we’re also asked to evolve that product to introduce a new person-centric model that bridges all business domains, we know it’s a journey we’ll love.

Where it all began

As part of a group business initiative with a focus on putting customers first, France Telecom & Mobistar had chosen Comverse to deliver a single solution for their pre-paid, post-paid, business, and wholesale business streams across the group.

But what were immediately apparent were the sizeable gaps between the product and the planned business transformation. They included exceptionally complex requirements that spanned all channels and segments, with the clear need for a person-centric model at its heart.

And that’s exactly where we came in.

Our role? Closing the gap between business needs and an out-of-the-box solution.

We were initially asked to deliver the core of Mobistar’s pre-paid solution, and from there we were invited to provide project expertise on their post-paid solution, covering the business, consumer and wholesale markets. That expertise also involved replacing the customer service, self-service, and dealer portals, along with introducing the full Comverse One Billing solution which meant it was a truly cross-business project.

The first step was for our telecoms industry experts to work alongside Mobistar’s business stakeholders and the team of Comverse Solution Architects, Product Managers, and Product Domain Specialists. The aim was to build an immersive understanding of the Mobistar environment, their current pain points, their drivers for a customer-centric solution, and the details of the business processes that would be affected by a new solution.Once we had the full picture of the requirements we worked with both Mobistar’s and Comverse’s Solution Architects to ensure the solution we defined met the client’s needs. This involved several iterations to refine the requirements until we were sure Mobistar could take advantage of the full power of the out-of-the-box solution.

We then ran a series of workshops across the Mobistar business and created a huge number of use cases that could be mapped to the Comverse One solution, while identifying others that required re-use or a redesign of the out-of-the box product – all supported with detailed wireframes and clear presentations that fully explained the solution.

Ultimately, it was our job to show how Mobistar’s business needs and the features of Comverse One could converge – closing the gap between their current offering and their future ‘real world’ requirements.

Results to be proud of

We delivered Mobistar’s key business requirements, which included: hierarchy management, fleet management, balance management, split billing, bulk ordering and bulk management. A central part of that involved moving away from a situation where the billing solution dictated the front-end user experience, to a system which leveraged the power of the out-of-the-box solution to vastly improve customer interaction.

We also defined a solution that took a new person-centric approach to Mobistar’s customers. Put simply: when a customer calls, they’re viewed as a ‘person’ rather than an ‘account’ – even if they use multiple services such as a home and business account, or a parent with multiple child accounts. What’s more, those same customers can also view the relationships between all of their accounts with an innovative and intuitive dashboard-driven view on all channels.

Our small team delivered huge results – and gave both Mobistar and Comverse a very clear picture of how they could adapt the out-of-the-box product to customer needs – and more importantly, what it would cost them.

But the biggest result for us was that some of the ideas and solutions we mapped out along the way made it to the out-of-the box solution and are now influencing the product direction going forward.

And that’s something to be really proud of.

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Big data, big bills, big customers, big client… big solutions.

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How we applied big thinking – and a big solution – to one of the USA’s biggest suppliers of internet services.

As the second largest US state, there’s nothing small about Texas. And with a network reaching over 17 million homes and a $97.4 billion revenue (2008), there’s nothing small about Verizon, either.

There was no way we could pass up the chance to mosey on down to Fort Worth and team up with Comverse – who had just acquired the Netonomy solution stack – to help Verizon Business develop an even better customer experience.

The questions that needed answering

The supplier’s supplier of internet services is located in a small (ahem) 2 acre sized warehouse on the outskirts of Dallas, Texas and supplies the major ISPs in the USA like America On Line (AOL) as well as smaller providers like The Indiana Data Centre or Wisconsin Communications Inc, and also supplies other subsidiaries like Verizon Online.

Customer demands and a need to streamline internal operations resulted in some big questions. Like why couldn’t customers receive an electronic bill, that allowed them to drill into it interactively so they could understand it properly? Was there a way of disputing bills online rather than phoning up the call centre? Could customers not pay for the bill online as well?

It was up to us to provide a solution that could answer those questions  – and we also discovered a few things ourselves in the process. For example, we now know it’s possible to pay multi-million dollar bills with just a credit card. And we also learned that huge bills like these can often incur disputes over just a few cents!

It was time for some big thinking and some elegant solutions.

We explored, we developed, we repeated…

The first month of the project was tough, and the numbers turned out to be huge. During the day we explored the problem space and exchanged ideas with the folks from Verizon Business. At night, we ran tests, re-configured the application, wrote use cases and prototyped the solution, readying for the next day.

Once we were confident that we fully understood the problem and the requirements, we flew home and began to write everything up. A few weeks later, armed with 100 Detailed Use Cases, a High Level Design, an interface catalogue and a working Target Operating Model we were ready to head back to Texas with all guns blazing and demonstrate to Verizon that we had the skills and expertise to deliver. We would start with a proof-of-concept to give the project sponsor the extra ammo he needed to get it through the organization.

However, three weeks after starting the proof-of-concept something remarkable happened. Verizon cancelled it and moved the project into a full delivery. Until then, that kind of thing was unheard of.

The solution we delivered was so accurate that it identified previously unknown faults in Verizon’s reconciliation solution, which drastically reduced the number of disputes raised by customers.

We also trained a brand new team during the project, which meant Verizon Business could continue to own and maintain our solution in the future, and take advantage of low ownership costs.

It was unexpected bonuses like these that really helped us wow our client.

So, were the results just as big?

You bet. While it was a fairly straightforward solution despite the huge numbers, it delivered enormous benefits to Verizon Business, and ensured that their billing system was much more accessible to its customers.

The new desktop portal now allows ISP customers to view current and previous bills online, drill down into specific bills so that line items can be explored down to the cent level, make payments, and view all past, present and future payments. What’s more, customers can also dispute line items, track the status of current disputes, print off invoices and download data for import into in-house systems.

Internally, the call centre desktop portal now means that Verizon staff can view, manage and resolve disputes, automatically approve certain disputes, analyse and report on dispute data, and send essential notifications and alerts to customers about upcoming bills, late payments, credits and more.

Customers feel looked after and staff have the tools to look after them.

Put in plain Texas speak: y’all did a good job.

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