As regional mobile subscribers increasingly come to expect near real-time, personalised products, services and customer support, telecom operators will require a transformative digital business support system (BSS) that enables them to control the full breadth of their operations.
Using a ‘best of suite’ approach will allow them to quickly, successfully and cost-effectively meet these demands, says Maxim Nartov, customer solutions director at Nexign.
“Previously, BSS was perceived as just billing software, but today there is a demand from CSPs for us to provide an end-to-end system that allows them to realise the expected benefits from day one – faster time to market for new products and managing customer experience in a holistic manner.”
According to Nartov, there has been a steady shift in the industry around what a BSS is and should do. The trend was to have ‘best of breed’ solutions by using different vendors for different functions such as customer relationship management (CRM), product management, ordering, and maybe even multiple billing solutions for the different lines of business – corporate, mobile and fixed-line residential, for example.
“While these may give the company many capabilities, the complexities become apparent when it comes to convergence – if we try to sell a single package to someone who is a mobile and fixed line user, we need to ensure that the service is accurately provisioned, and that the customer gets a consolidated bill. This needs complex integration during the delivery project or afterwards, and affects the way in which you introduce new products, as you have to make changes to downstream systems,” explains Nartov.
By shifting from primarily legacy environments to a ‘best of suite’ approach with built-it convergence, all the components are provided pre-integrated from a single vendor, African telecom operators can reduce IT complexities and operating costs of their business systems. A digital BSS enables control of everything from billing to campaign management, CRM and analytical tools.
More than minutes and megabytes
“Historically, operators were just in the business of selling minutes and megabytes; what customers expect today is not only traditional services, but final experience, like video streaming, online gaming and entertainment, and access to a multitude of other services – all personalised to suit their requirements. To do this, operators need to transform into digital service providers, or your customer will get it somewhere else reducing their relationship with you,” says Nartov.
By absorbing previously standalone functions such as campaign management, experience management and market segmentation into the BSS, operators can now get a holistic view of the customer, and use big data and advanced analytics to get a better understanding of their behaviour and preferences.
In addition, these developments enable an operator to more actively use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to improve CRM by moving away from a traditional call centre and towards using an opti-channel approach.
“Customers are increasingly interacting with their service providers over digital channels, and intelligent chatbots can help analyse and respond to queries, and escalate the matter to a human consultant only where required,” says Nartov.
The partner ecosystem is vital
We have seen that operators can’t just sell connectivity anymore, and this is quite apparent in some parts of Africa, where access to education, banking and other financial services has been improved in conjunction with increased access to mobile services.
The launch of new mobile services like mobile money or mobile healthcare require in most cases an integration with external partners being part of the service offering (finance or healthcare institutions, libraries or education facilities).
A digital BSS with a robust partner relationship solution will give operators the ability to identify potential partners and their products, integrate these new offerings into their systems, package them together with the basic connectivity service that they sell, and share revenue with the partners.
Moving into the cloud
The other major shift for network operators is steadily moving their operations to the cloud, though this can become complex as the conversation moves beyond just being about technology, and into data and privacy regulation. This is especially the case for many African markets that lack the presence of cloud data centres.
Nartov adds that Nexign has been moving away from a more traditional stack toward being cloud-native, and is able to address issues around data sovereignty and residency by having products that can be deployed on-premise, in a private cloud, or in the public cloud.
“We have been able to offer an end-to-end products from day one, with the suite being fully built by the company. We are optimistic about the future and see a lot of opportunities. It is about opening up, getting more digital, and flexible, and this is where we are looking to help our customers in their transformation,” concludes Nartov.