Old-School Solutions for One of Telecom’s Dirty Little Secrets

Apr 1, 2014

Millions of dollars are lost every year due to delays in turning up telecom services. In addition to lost revenue, delays in service delivery result in unhappy customers at what is often a pivotal point in a new customer relationship. These delays frequently are the result of very simple, and very avoidable, failures in customer management.

Our consultancy is best known for its carrier report card studies, which evaluate telecom carrier services – including provisioning – based on customer ratings. However, the vast majority of our work is custom research and consulting, where we deliver deep dives into key purchasing drivers, product positioning and opportunity sizing, and service provider performance in key customer contact points. Some of this work involves looking at actual service delivery practices – and the resulting delivery timelines – of leading U.S. carriers. As a result, we’re in on one of the telecom industry’s dirty little secrets – that when it comes to provisioning Ethernet services, the industry has a long way to go, with some providers having on-time install rates as low as 50 percent.

To be fair, turning up Ethernet services can be a complex installation — especially in multi-location settings. While delivering services on-net makes an enormous difference (regularly shaving 20 percent from install times and sometimes as much as 50 percent), it’s always challenging, and even more so when the circuit must be delivered over another carrier’s network.

One of the biggest time losses, which most carriers are fully aware of, is “briefcase” time. Opportunities exist to attack the contract-to-start time, which often adds 30 days to an install that already operates on a 60-90 day window. One of these opportunities is to better handle local contact validation. On-site contacts are key to successful service delivery since they can answer vital site information in advance and manage the tech during installations. Too often, carriers fail to collect accurate local contact information, or it becomes lost or overlooked during contract handoff. Organizationally, service providers tend to greatly underestimate the impact this list can have on install times and the importance of validating customer-provided contacts as early as possible.

On-site wiring presents another addressable weak spot, where provisioning delays also result from process management errors — usually stemming from failures in establishing clear expectations and responsibilities. Wiring policies vary significantly from one service provider to the next, and, in many cases, customers simply do not understand the responsibilities on their side of the service divide. These knowledge gaps can be avoided with simple company collateral that includes the respective to-do lists for carriers and customers alike. Customer-not-ready delays are extremely risky and can cost service providers significant customer satisfaction points, not to mention lost revenue.

In all of these cases, managing customer services in a partnership-styled model based on transparency can significantly reduce install delays and also reduce the impact of delays that do occur. This is where some old-fashioned handholding can make an enormous difference — not only in provisioning, but in setting a positive tone for the ongoing business relationship. Many carriers have had great success with simply assigning a designated party to work closely with a contact on the customer’s side to walk through checklists and ensure that prep work is completed so services can be turned up on time. Telecom may be a rapidly evolving, high-tech industry, but sometimes it’s old-fashioned customer service that makes all the difference.

This analysis originally appeared in ATLANTIC-ACM’s blog at B/OSS Magazine.

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