5G is here. How can you know the customer experience?

Service providers are often criticized for their reputation when it comes to customer experience. With 5G and AI, new preemptive and predictive forms of customer experience management may be about to change that. Is this the beginning of the end for bad customer experience?

Crowd of people

Not too long ago, in fact at the beginning of present decade, Communication Service Providers (CSPs) were still talking about setting up new Network Operation Centers (NOCs) to monitor customer experience! In the subsequent years, the network centric approach turned into service centric approach and NOCs were replaced by Service Operation Centers (SOC). These centers provide insights into services used by the customer, for example video quality, web access etc.

Aided by big data processing, these terabytes of network data proved to be a goldmine for CSPs. Over recent years, they have provided great analytics insights into customer behavior and their experience in real time. Today, as 5G deployments  gain traction and customers’ appetite for ever increasing speeds grow, it has become both a challenge and opportunity for CSPs to measure and continuously improve the customer experience.

The future of customer experience management

For any business to be successful, good customer experience management (CEM) is paramount. In this fast-changing digital landscape where other internet giants have evolved rapidly in the way they interact with customers and gauge their experience, CSPs have remained laggards in providing great customer experience.

In fact, CSPs have consistently ranked at the bottom end of customer satisfaction in Temkin Experience rating in the US in the last few years. Ericsson consumer lab’s  report on the telecom customer experience highlights that customers want a future zero touch experience whereby CSPs just don’t react when customers approach them, but rather anticipate customer’s pain points and suggest solutions before any degradation in services occurs.

Interview with Grant Castle

T-Mobile US drives customer experience to a new level

Partners with Ericsson to improve quality for VoLTE, mobile broadband and other advanced services.

Should we overhaul CEM strategy in the 5G era?

Moving forward, customer experience management will extend to a whole bunch of interactions a customer does with the CSPs. The focus should not be on one department trying to improve the customer experience, but rather multiple facets of the CSP organization, for example technical, network optimization, marketing, social media teams, tier 1 customer support, and more. Each should work on a unified customer-centric approach to give the customers a more personalized experience.

Today, telecom’s customer experience can be separated into two broad categories:

  1. CSP’s network performance as perceived by the subscriber.
    1. Overall experience of Service Level Index for each service offered by CSP e.g. Voice, Video, VoLTE etc
    2. CSP’s adoption of new technologies e.g. Artificial Intelligence in solving customer issues and predicting the faults before they happen
    3. Subscribers love to hear from CSPs in advance about a possible degradation in service, plans/subscriptions they may need before they even realize based on their location, usage behavior, billing plans etc. In short, subscribers like CSPs to be proactive, preemptive and predictive
  2. All other touch points with CSP, network/non-network related
    1. Going into CSP’s store to get a new connection or interacting with a chat bot to learn about new plans
    2. Calling customer care to lodge a network coverage related issue or emailing them. Almost always, when subscribers call customer care, they are unhappy with some service and expect a faster response. However long waiting times and lengthy identity verification processes normally frustrate the subscriber further
    3. The CSP’s app experience, time taken to load the app and its compatibility with different handsets/OS
    4. Tailormade billing plans and ease of choosing or switching between different plans and bill payment options

With 5G bringing faster data rates, in addition to early use cases like eMBB (Enhanced Mobile Broadband) and FWA (Fixed Wireless Access) and others, it becomes even more important for CSPs to overcome customer pain points to give them a seamless customer experience.

Working in NOC

AI and network analytics come to the rescue

For years, we’ve been hearing that data is the new gold. With 5G, CSP’s will have tens of terabytes of data to process. More data essentially means more room for noise. With advance machine learning techniques like anomaly detection, clustering and component analysis and more, data is made ready for analysis and processing.

According to our AI in networks report, around 68% of CSPs believe that improving customer experience is a business goal while more than half of them already believe that AI will have a big role to play in improving the customer experience. Both artificial intelligence and analytics will help to anticipate customer problems before customers even react to them and reach CSPs.

CSPs should be able to predict the network performance and its impact on the customer experience. Prioritizing and resolving the network performance related issues will improve the customer experience score for CSPs. Based on data available for each customer and their usage behavior, CSPs should make user-specific plans and provide each user the desired customer experience as per their usage behaviors.

An example of this is the Ericsson Expert Analytics (EEA). Through a Service Level Index (SLI), it measures customer’s satisfaction based on the end-to-end (E2E) customer experience and then predicts the Net Promotor Score (NPS) for each subscriber. EEA automatically finds customer experience degradation symptoms, undertakes root cause analysis on top of that and takes next best actions, resulting in reduced handling time, fewer escalations, thereby reducing the churn rate.

AI, data insights and automation is increasingly helping today’s CSPs to design, plan, optimize and operate the networks and IT infrastructure to improve customer experience. This can support and improve network operations, dynamic deployments, and wider technology transformation. The Ericsson Operations Engine supports CSPs in being more proactive to an event or alarm and thereby improve the customer experience.

Through AI and automation, we’re enabling today’s CSPs to perform the following tasks, among other capabilities:

  1. Detect unseen anomalies and provide recommendation automatically
  2. Accurately predict degradation in throughput and automated resolution
  3. Predict cells which are going to sleep in a day or two and automatically recommend appropriate action

As for the benefits of using AI? We found that, for a tier1 operator in North America using Ericsson’s AI based algorithmic framework, the mean time to repair (MTTR) was reduced by as much as 37 percent.

The future

5G network deployments continue to increase in coming years delivering very high throughput and ultra-low latency. Customer experience management will become more complex as 5G evolves, massive MTC and industrial IoT becomes more prevalent. AI enabled offerings for proactive and predictive CEM models for business to business (B2B) and business to customer (B2C) will evolve.

This will require new set of network analytics tools, real time service assurance techniques along with ultra-fast big data processing. Ericsson’s product and service capabilities will continue to help CSP’s as they move towards 5G with the most advanced network assurance technologies.

Learn more

In our recent webinar, we explore how today’s service providers can overcome the barriers of modern analytics to ensure a high-quality customer experience.

Watch the webinar
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