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Big Data in Telecom: The Need for Analytics

No one wants to hire a team of database analysts and wait three days for an answer

Networks have become a strategic asset, the life blood of organizations. Once considered a "techy thing," networks are now mission-critical for every member of the organization - from the IT manager to the marketing VP to the CEO. An increasing number of companies now recognize the impact network quality has on the customer experience and, in turn, on the bottom line.

Providing a great customer experience, every time, is vital for limiting churn and building loyalty. This has led many organizations to adopt a strong quality assurance program to test and monitor all contact center services. This is particularly important in environments that must support multi-channel and multi-service applications. The complex configurations needed to enable voice, video and data to share network resources puts a tremendous strain on bandwidth and creates problems that can be very difficult to isolate. And the proliferation of mobile devices has added an entirely new set of issues and customer behaviors.

Network testing and quality assurance monitoring is important for creating and maintaining a great customer experience. However, these solutions capture a tremendous amount of information on customers, networks and operations. Managers constantly create reports with a slew of KPIs, including average hold time, peak chat volumes, queue lengths and IVR satisfaction rates, to try to make sense of all the data. While this provides a certain amount of understanding of daily operations, companies can do better. Advanced network analytics that correlate and trend multiple data points and KPIs over multiple dimensions offer real insight that companies can use to gain greater control over expenses, resolve issues more quickly and plan more effectively.

Using Analytics to Troubleshoot
Troubleshooting issues in multi-service networks can be extremely difficult. Typically, technicians will check the health of individual network elements or review a standard set of KPIs when they learn of a problem, but it's rare that an issue stems from a single system and most issues tend to be intermittent. Because issues are hard to isolate, they can even lead to nasty disputes between co-workers. An analytics engine with advanced slicing and dicing capabilities will reveal hidden problems. For example, sporadic voice quality issues could be examined from a variety of angles to determine the root cause. If they are coming from callers in specific area codes, it could indicate a problem with a specific carrier. If they occur after being transferred from a specific voice portal, it could indicate an incorrect setting on a specific server.

Proactively performing this type of network analysis enables companies to predict problems and correct them before they affect customers. When actual failures do occur, multi-dimensional network analytics, coupled with the ability to drill into micro events, significantly reduces time to repair. This can also reduce churn and support costs. To sum it up, the ROI for this type of solution is easily calculated and quickly realized.

Controlling Costs
Expense control is on everyone's agenda these days and understanding end-to-end network traffic patterns can help. For example, when companies originally transitioned to IP communications, they realized a significant reduction in their phone bills. However, as solutions evolve - due to enhancement, acquisition, global expansion or the incorporation of virtual agents - those routing schemes have become more complex. Many times during this process calls are directed off the network and back again. Standard monitoring solutions will show each of these calls as "complete," giving no indication that a problem occurred or that unnecessary toll charges were incurred. Only a complex analysis of traffic patterns will reveal opportunities to easily cut costs.

Going beyond standard contact center metrics provides greater visibility into individual business unit performance. Rather than reading a report that outlines average call stats, it's far more interesting to understand how long a VIP customer spends talking to a dedicated agent or how often people are requesting certain types of information, such as mortgage rates. Some questions the contact center can gain insight to through analytics include:

  • Are these individual groups fully satisfied with self-service options?
  • How are different customer segments interacting with the company?
  • Do VIPs prefer to make calls where potential customers prefer online chat?
  • Are these preferences changing over time?
  • How are social media and mobile phones impacting customer behaviors?

When this type of intelligence is correlated, it paints a detailed analysis of network performance, enabling managers to pinpoint infrastructure investments to strategically enhance those experiences.

It also helps marketing and sales departments refine their strategies or develop new business models to capitalize on evolving customer needs.

An Effective Commitment
A strong commitment to quality assurance is the only way to ensure a great customer experience and effectively manage technology in today's evolving, multi-service environments. Getting it right with pre-deployment testing ensures that solutions will work as designed when released to customers. Keeping them right with ongoing monitoring ensures quality and availability. Now network analytics provides an opportunity to do what's right with actionable information for smarter decision making throughout the company.

To be effective, companies need a solution designed to handle "big data." No one wants to hire a team of database analysts and wait three days for an answer. Companies need a network analytics solution that quickly manipulates information and presents it in a meaningful way for specific job functions. Being able to see trends and drill into micro events give troubleshooting technicians an edge. Holistic, end-to-end insight into network performance enables more effective planning, optimization of technology investments and greater control over costs. Executive dashboards and trend reports provide management teams with the intelligence they require to exploit customer needs and find new profit opportunities. With analytics, doing what's right - from the control room to the board room - will give companies a long term advantage in any market.

More Stories By Bob Hockman

Bob Hockman is vice president of product management at Empirix, a provider of service quality assurance solutions for end-to-end comprehensive customer experience management of mobile broadband and IP-based communications systems.

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