How a Service Provider’s power rests on a single pane of glass.
When I first became a true consumer of services, the world was a different place. The model was simple. The Service Provider provided one service, the consumer consumed it, and the Service Provider charged you money for it. If I needed a mobile device, I went to a GSM provider; for internet, to an ISP; and so forth and such. At the end of the month (or through the month), I would get as many invoices as I had services. If I had an issue, I would need to figure out which Service Provider to call.
When I first started my career, I was based at a GSM MVNO to replace their existing postpaid billing system and I really got to understand the pain points of this model from the business side. In a saturated market what is the Service Provider’s competitive edge? How does a Service Provider increase the customer base while still maximising the bottom line? While increasing, how does a Service Provider lower the churn rate? All the while still getting day-to-day operations to run efficiently.
This MVNO took the market, not by increasing services offered, but by adding value-adds to customers in the form of free goodies. Take a mobile contract and get a TV. Renew and get a scooter. A norm today but it was aggressive in the South African market at the time. It resulted in the Service Provider growing from a subscriber base of 30,000 to over 100,000 in the space of 2 years.
As a side note, it was our Globill product which enabled this, firstly by providing accurate billing and reducing the billing process from hours to minutes. A major pain was also dissolved by single-click provisioning from Globill, and here we start our journey into a single-pane of glass. When I started at the MVNO, and this may sound familiar today, when customers requested new services they were often met with a statement that the service would be activated in a few days. This is because of what’s needed to activate the line.
Allow me to indulge in a quick summary of what could happen:
- Customer signs up at a dealer, excited at the idea of receiving a great new deal.
- The Dealer, eyes lit up with ideas of additional commission, takes the hand-written form, scans and faxes it to the Service Provider.
- The Service Provider Sales department stumbles past the fax machine, does a quick shuffle and picks up the form and captures the customer information into a CRM.
- The form is made into a paper plane and floated to the Finance Department to be captured into the ERP.
- Lather, rinse, repeat into the billing system.
- If the team remembers to email the Activations team, they log onto yet another portal to activate the line on the network.
By this time, the season has changed, and the customer has called in to find out that the whole process fell apart because the information wasn’t captured correctly somewhere in the crazy email/fax/hopes-and-prayers thread.
I admit to a bit of poetic exaggeration, but I suspect the theme may still hit a few nerves.
But somehow it worked, or should I say sometimes? At the end of the day customers still needed services and went through the pains of calling customer service, that then needed to log into one of the systems to handle the query… which they then had to log on to a ticketing system.
Nursing the pain points
We, as Astel, responded to this through integration. By capturing customer information in Globill Converged, the information was saved in Globill and the ERP – automatically! No need for paper planes, multiple capture; no risk of human error or delays. Through validation at the onset, Globill could verify that all the information was correct: not just for Globill but for the ERP as well, before it was processed by any other system.
The same with the network: subscribers captured on Globill were provisioned to the network. While the status of the transaction was also viewed from Globill. All users with the appropriate rights and roles were immediately enabled. Operations Managers knew the status of pending and error transactions. Customer care agents could tell exactly what was going on when a customer called in. Viewing of payment transactions in the ERP was also now visible in Globill.
The customer lifecycle managed from one portal. The customer care channel enabled by the same portal.
Multiple systems – all updated, consistent, correct – with relevant information accessed through one portal.
I remember the first time I was at a different Service Provider and they were testing our system with SIM activations, and in my youthful naivety, I was amazed when they captured a subscriber through our portal and seconds later made a call from the newly activated SIM. Whereas I was impressed by the speed of the provisioning, they were impressed by the fact that it worked. While I was still trying to catch my breath, they deactivated the SIM through the Globill portal and it deactivated… almost instantly. That was a test. But I could see the value of that type of real world provisioning while the customer is standing in front of a salesperson. Immeasurable.
In very simplified terms, that is the power of a single pane of glass…
…But that’s only half the story.
What happened next? Convergence!
As my career grew, I was lucky enough to spend time at several Service Providers, who offered services across a wide range of technologies. Technology was growing at the speed of light. Voice over IP, LTE, Cloud and many other services were coming to market. It made no sense for Service Providers to only offer one of these as time progressed: they had the infrastructure, the means and most importantly a preexisting customer base to sell new services to. They just needed to be first, or early enough to market, so as not to miss the boat.
Of course, this comes with overhead. As a Service Provider, my systems only support one type of service. To enable and monetise new services, patches, upgrades and [in severe cases] new systems were required, which meant new provisioning portals, new ERP requirements and entirely new billing engines. Why? Well my current billing solution only can bill mobile!
So while the Service Provider was selling new services to the customer, as a consumer I was receiving multiple bills, in different formats; calling a call centre to be redirected to a different call centre in the same Service Provider because the first call center only dealt with Internet queries. Even though I was now getting multiple services from one place, it still felt like dealing with different Service Providers.
Globill Converged is built on an engine that supports the ability to bill, provision, rate and manage a range of services. It allows agnostic communication to any third party that supports integration. From a single platform. From one portal.
Globill has come a long way over the years I have worked on it. I have dealt with Service Providers who actively use our system to manage customers servicing GSM, VOIP, Fibre, ADSL, Microwave, LTE, Cloud, Fax, and a host of other services, integrating to a number of providers including Microsoft, Cisco, Free Radius, Genband, Huawei… the list is endless. And providing a range of features that doesn’t just enable a single-pane of glass but enables a single Service Provider experience for the customer.
But wait – there’s more!
It didn’t end there for us. Remember the story of dealers needing to fax? Well, no more: via our dealer portal, the dealers access an online system where they on-board directly to the Service Provider. With business rules, approval queues and controls, we have completely nullified the need for a communication trail comparable to a fragile rope bridge. With automated audit logging across all systems, there is no gap when something does happen to go awry because a user clicked the wrong button.
And with a Self Service portal for end customers to interact directly…
The Journey Continues
When I started my career, I was a consumer. The world is bigger now. But at the same time, getting ridiculously small. The organisations that are winning the race are the innovators, the forward thinkers, the people who get to market first. And I am proud to have been a part of several success stories in enabling these dreamers of the world.
Long story short: what this simply means is that Globill comes out of the box as a ‘single-pane-of-glass’ – ready.