In our previous entry, we reported that long-haul carriers have achieved five straight years of improvements in overall operations scores in ATLANTIC-ACM Carrier Report Cards – a significant achievement for the space. We also noted, however, that beneath the surface, scores vary by customer size.
We see a similar trend in this year’s network performance ratings in the 2013 edition of our U.S. Long Haul Wholesale Carrier Report Card. Scores are relatively flat from 2012 to 2013, but trending back a year, we see an overall improvement of 2.2 percent (2011 to 2013). This trend of nudging forward and maintaining these scores is a more important trend than it may appear on the surface, for two key reasons: First, network performance is already the highest-rated operation for long-haul carriers, signaling very strong satisfaction among their wholesale customers. Second, and more important, those same customers consistently rank network performance as either the first- or second-most important driver influencing their purchasing decisions. In other words, carriers are delivering where it really counts. As wholesale customers are increasingly supporting cloud services for their consumer and business end-users, network quality and reliability will remain paramount for wholesale buyers meeting the expectations of their end-user customers.
When looking at monthly spend, we find a clear dividing line at the $1 million monthly spend mark. Customers with spends south of this mark are more satisfied with network performance this year (compared to last), whereas customers spending more than $1 million are less satisfied. This is the same fault line (+/- $1M monthly spend) in satisfaction scores we logged in overall operations and detailed in last month’s column.
Hence, while overall satisfaction with network performance is improving or at least maintaining its ratings and relative position as the operation for which customers are most satisfied, long-haul carriers would be well advised to pay extra attention to their largest customers. Lower satisfaction levels among these customers signal significant poaching opportunities, and wins and losses of large wholesale customers can significantly impact revenues and underlying network economics.
Given this reality, the management of customer perception during outages is every bit as important as delivering an overall high-quality, high-uptime experience. No customer is happy with a network failure, but customers that believe their providers perform well under pressure and are committed to avoiding repeated or extended downtime will forgive the rare outage. Carriers should avoid attempts to redirect customer attention to overall uptime and other factors that seek to diminish an outage. Downtime is always a significant event for customers. Carriers that successfully manage customer satisfaction during outages deliver transparency throughout the process, including frequent updates, identifying the cause and communicating steps taken to avoid repeats in the future.
This analysis originally appeared in ATLANTIC-ACM’s blog at B/OSS Magazine.