Greg Owens, Senior Director Customer Experience Marketing
Knowing what to do — and what can be done — with big data are important key to success. But these things are easier said than done. For its special report on big data, European Communications asked respondents to name the biggest barrier to operators seeking to execute a successful big data strategy. A lack of understanding of the potential that big data presents topped the list, getting the nod from 27% of respondents.
This response highlights the real challenge for service providers: finding ways to extract value and create tangible benefits from big data. Providers have vast amounts of information about customers, networks, services and operations. So how can they monetize it?
Most providers lack the expertise they need to extract value from data and apply it within their operational context. Successful monetization requires providers to rethink the way they operate their marketing engines and redefine the roles that business intelligence and analytics play throughout their organizations. Again, it’s easier said than done.
The European Communications study highlights a clear knowledge gap among service providers. A lack of effective analytics equipment and solutions was named the top barrier by 9% of respondents. A lack of qualified staff was identified by 3% of respondents. It’s not hard to see why service providers turn to third parties for help with analytics.
Turning challenge into opportunity
The vendor community has some work to do around big data analytics. The European Communications report indicates that service providers aren’t highly aware of, or satisfied with, current big data offerings. Vendors need to educate service providers about what they offer and improve the quality of their offerings.
A recent sponsored feature from European Communications pointed out that a service provider’s big data initiatives need to be linked to its overall strategy and deeply ingrained in day-to-day operational processes. Providers need to focus on the business questions that big data can answer — for example, how to improve first call resolution (FCR) to reduce costs and improve the customer experience — and the way these questions can inform future strategies. Success comes down to knowing what questions to ask and letting data fill in the answers.
Keys to success with big data
Remember real-time. Providers can’t just batch-process events after they occur. They need quick and easy access to real-time information so they can address problems and opportunities as they come up. By combining real-time insights and analytics with a best-practice approach to collecting, analyzing and distributing data, providers gain the means to use big data to understand and act on complex customer behavior.
Make data digestible. Data has to be presented in an intuitive and easy-to-understand format that suits the needs of each different end user. Marketing, customer care and network ops departments all need a different level or “language” of insight to make informed, timely and effective decisions. Providers need solutions that can tailor information for each audience.
Focus on customer lifetime value (CLV). Respondents to a recent TM Forum survey highlighted the challenge involved in determining and acting on CLV. Some providers felt that they could get a better sense of CLV by looking beyond customer transactions and considering a broader set of interactions, including social networking. Analytics can help providers identify and retain profitable customers. It can also help them understand what causes a lack of profitability of some customers, and how to increase CLV by developing new products, tweaking existing products or developing targeted marketing campaigns.
With big data, the barriers are significant, and cost is a huge consideration. But the return on investment will come from many sources, including an improved customer experience, greater efficiency in offer design, more accurate billing and an enhanced ability to exploit data for marketing campaigns.
- Big data: Big volume, big payback and big challenge, TM Forum Insights Research, September 2012
- Conquering big data challenges, How CSPs can use analytics to monetize their data, TM Forum Insights Research, September 2012
- Special Report: Big Data, European Communications, October 2012