Communications service providers (CSPs) are facing an ever-changing landscape in terms of competitors, products, and services. Cincinnati-based relationship management provider Convergys hopes to help companies wade through the complexity, improve customer satisfaction, and drive additional revenue opportunities with Customer Service Manager (CSM) 5.0, an addition to its business and operational support systems (BSS/OSS) portfolio.
The release is explicitly targeted for CSPs, according to Convergys Director of Product Marketing Mary Ann Tillman. “We are still specific to telecommunications with this release,” she explains. “In fact, we think that [exclusivity] is a key differentiator of the product.”
Tillman notes the growing complexity of the industry as the main reason why CSM 5.0 is only for CSPs. She explains many companies are offering bundling packages -- offers for "triple plays" and even "quadruple plays" -- to drive customer retention and satisfaction. These packages can include voice, video, data, and content services. For example, Optimum Cable’s Triple Play includes a landline, cable television, and high-speed Internet. “We think that the complexities that come with those triple- and quad[ruple]-play orders...require a great deal of attention and forethought,” she says.
Dan Baker, research director of Dittberner Associates’ OSS/BSS KnowledgeBase, a Bethesda, Md.–based telecom industry research firm, also believes that bundling is the key to success for today’s CSPs. “So much emphasis is put on the fancy services you’re supposed to have,” he explains. “However, the real value comes in mixing current services you already have with either lifestyle or corporate [packages]. It’s the bundling that matters.”
To help service providers develop and deploy these services quickly and with an eye toward cost-effectiveness, CSM 5.0 provides more than 50 prebuilt service types for various services including broadband, cable, satellite, Voice over Internet Protocol, and video on demand, according to Tillman. “The idea is that our customers do not have to pull the product, configure, and customize it.... A lot of these are now available [as] out-of-the-box [solutions],” she adds. “This is a very big differentiator in our minds, especially for [CSPs] that do not have a basis to start from.”
Additional new features of the CSM 5.0 include:
- a graphical user-interface workflow tool that guides an order from entry to fulfillment, activation, and care; and
- integration capabilities to the back office, including multiple third-party rating and billing systems in addition to prebuilt integration with Infinys Rating and Billing Manager.
The new release, Tillman says, proves that Convergys is looking at a new paradigm for orders -- from concept to cash. “For some clients we spoke with, agents must go through 80 to 100 steps to book [triple-play bundling offers],” she says. “It’s a very lengthy, complex process...and [it's] something we think needs to be addressed on the front end -- not just starting with order management, but with the shopping process when a customer is considering products they may want.”
Dittberner’s Baker believes that combining front- and back-office operations, as Convergys has done, is indicative of a current trend in the telecommunications space. “Billing and CRM are really coming together in the industry,” he says. “The customer experience is becoming very critical.... You’re not going to sell a big billing system on its accounting capabilities alone because you need to look at marketing aspects as well. In that sense, it really dovetails with CRM very strongly.”
While Convergys executives made it clear that CSM 5.0 is only for CSPs, Tillman says there are plans to build other industry-specific solutions. “It’s definitely something we’re considering, but right now the focus on our specific roadmap is designed around the communications vertical,” she says. “Over time, we are looking at other verticals like the financial services sector, but we don’t have any specific plans at this point.”
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