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Customer Experience Management: the onward evolution of policy

Policy management as a functionality of the network needs to offer something tangible to users - not just in terms of how network operators manage and enforce their billing and price plans, but also in terms of real value to customers. For that to happen, we also need to consider how data on subscriber behaviour can be accessed and used to support new policy-driven initiatives and realise the kinds of individual service plans and packages which are currently envisaged.

We've enjoyed briefings with two companies active in this emerging space, CEM4Mobile and Aito, both from Finland and both promoting "customer experience management" as both a product and a goal. In simple terms, what you do, how and where you do it matters. Data on user activity at this level of granularity can help network operators and service providers optimise services, yield valuable data to their partners and lead to the creation of services that are optimised for particular users.

While it has been known for some time that service provider data centres contain rich and valuable information regarding user activity and behaviour, the problem has been extracting this, interpreting it and then deciding what to do with it. Typically, data is stored in multiple silos, which makes extracting and unifying relevant data complex and costly. In their different ways, both companies help to address this issue. Aito by combining signalling data with customer data from CRMs via simple mediation and adaptation layers; CEM4Mobile by looking into the user browser experience directly and providing rich data on how users with different devices and browsers interact with the mobile internet.

The value of such approaches is that service providers can use this data constructively - both to rectify poor user experience, poor service behaviour and the like, and also to proactively target users on selective business criteria to enhance the customer experience and, hopefully, create more value for all stakeholders.

We shall return to this theme repeatedly in the coming months, as it's an area that still needs much thought and will likely evolve, but we will leave you with one final thought. A couple of years ago, the notion of the "long tail" captured considerable attention and, inevitably, a good degree of criticism from some quarters. The idea was that there will be many thousands of different services that may have low user bases but which in the aggregate will yield considerable value to service providers. That may or may not prove to be the case - and, given the app store model, it seems likely that much of this additional value will accrue not to traditional service providers, but to the application developers mediated by the application store provider. But, another way of thinking about this emerges when we consider the notions of data analytics, customer experience management and a comprehensive policy framework.

Policy, in our opinion, is not a product or a service on its own; rather it is a new, enhanced network capability. Similarly, the ability to capture, interpret and analyse user experience and behaviour data is not a service per se, but an additional and complementary network capability. However, these capabilities when combined enable operators to differentiate and target experiences on a micro level.

In other words, the long tail is not necessarily going to come from thousands of micro applications delivered by the operator, but rather from myriad different experiences enabled by the combination of policy, data analytics and behavioural information. The long-tail may not be tangible services as some suggested, but rather abstract delivery of capabilities that allow users to enjoy these services. My experience may be different from yours or yours. The question is, will service providers manage to create value by rolling out these capabilities and focus efforts in the right areas to build this infrastructure and, can third parties benefit from the unique data that service providers can capture?