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February 2017

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    To incessantly state that mobile money has caught (and held) the imagination of the global payments space is unnecessary. Let’s just jump right in-GSMA’s 2015 State of the Industry Report: Mobile Money revealed that 271 mobile money services were available in 93 countries, as of December 2015. For the same period, 411 million registered mobile money accounts existed globally. To drive home the point further, the report stated that mobile money has done more to extend the reach of financial services in the last decade than traditional “bricks and mortar” banking has in the last century. Duly noted.

    This phenomenal success wasn’t achieved overnight, obviously. Quite the contrary in fact-mobile money went through an interesting evolution before it even found a place under the payments sun, so to speak. Here’s how-in the early days, the biggest challenge before mobile money operators was getting their customers enthused about the product. Of course, getting them onboard was altogether a different ballgame. Since then, the ecosystem itself has undergone several permutations and combinations. Even now, the industry is going through a state of flux-what with the fast growing adoption of digital payments and the rising importance of “contextuality” and better user experience.

    Equally fluid, then, are the challenges facing mobile money operators. Today, every operator who wants to stay in the game is focusing on minimizing customer churn and ensuring frequent and optimal service usage. So, this, in a nutshell, is where customer experience management (CXM) comes to the rescue.

    Traditionally, ensuring consistency and ease of interaction are the first rules of any operator’s CXM handbook. It becomes trickier with services like mobile money-which have, hitherto, never been subject to the rules (or world) of CXM.

    Which brings me to the crux of this blog-a multi-pronged CXM strategy for mobile money would do wonders for customer retention and service uptake. Easier said than done, of course, especially since there are no forerunners (none that hit home, at least) in this space. The need of the hour, therefore, is a tool or solution that would help operators leverage their mobile money services to the fullest-not to mention, fill the existing white space!

    Permit me to add my two cents. In this case, a CXM tool or solution ought to be a one-stop shop for all things mobile money. It should ideally perform multiple functions that include (but obviously aren’t limited to) educating customers about the service, offering rewards “frills” to customers that stay put, enhancing engagement levels, growing the existing mobile money ecosystem, et all.

    It doesn’t end there, of course. Analytics ought to function at the heart of the solution, which, needless to say, would help mobile money operators move several steps closer to what their customers really want.

    In short, there is very little doubt that CXM (if leveraged properly) is poised to replicate its success in this space. But, what ought the first steps to achieving this be?

    Watch this space for more.

    February 23, 2017 0 comment
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    The telecom industry is growing fast and so is technology. According to a prediction by the Telecommunications Industry Association, the wireless telecommunications network will grow to $323 billion between 2014 to 2017, which is a 25% rise over the period of 2010 to 2013.

    A lot of this rise can be attributed to NFV when telecom operators across the world are adopting the technology to gain competitive advantage. For example, China Telecom Beijing Research Institute and Hewlett Packard Enterprise recently made announcements for creation of a joint NFV lab together. The intention is to migrate from old infrastructure system to upgraded sophisticated system.

    Global Uptake of NFV

    NFV came into being around 2007, however, only a few companies were investing in its research and development at that time. NFV became much more formalized between 2008 to 2014 and today’s global telecommunications industry is at the juncture of seeing a wide-scale deployment of NFV. In 2013, Linux Foundation launched a project for open source framework called Project Open Day Light which was intended to accelerate NFV adoption.

    The global NFV and SDN market was around $2 billion in 2015. It is predicted that by the year 2020, it will increase at a compounded annual growth rate of 86% and reach around $45 billion. Speaking about regions, North America is expected to lead the deployment in the coming years. The Asia Pacific region, including Japan, is currently the fastest growing economy but it is expected to be replaced by Europe soon. By the year 2020, the investments in orchestration platforms will reach over $1.6 billion and will account for about 10% of the total NFV spending.

    The high growth can be contributed to the increasing popularity of cloud services, difference in traffic patterns, growing complexity of networks, rising demand for mobility and server virtualization.

    Key Benefits-

    NFV is a boon to the network operators because of the benefits on the cost of purchasing and maintaining proprietary hardware. Yes, it is true that established network operators already have invested in proprietary hardware before, however, any new technology requires additional investment, which increased the CAPEX cost to a great extent. Moreover, in case of a network failure, recovery needs physical intervention which leads to extended downtime. This affects customer service and customer satisfaction.

    Therefore, NFV has been accepted wholeheartedly by network operators across the world. So, what are the benefits:

    Economical for customers: The reduction of cost achieved through implementation of NFV not only benefits the network operator, but also the customers. With the implementation of NFV, customers are charged only for the service provided i.e. time of use, bandwidth, number of users etc. They do not have to pay for the expenditure of the whole set up.

    Coherence in operation: Through implementation of NFV, the network monitors and repairs VNF instances directly in the software without any manual intervention. NFV will make remotely setting up a server on cloud much easier than it is today.

    Reduction of manual intervention: Any downtime or interruption at the customer location is repaired directly by NFV without any manual intervention. This has enabled network operators to maintain lesser workforce, thus, enabling them to save on manpower cost.

    Effective use of resources: NFV enables the network to use all kinds of unutilized resources. This is done remotely through software without any manual intervention.

    Reduction in operational costs: NFV entails a network operator to manage the network efficiently and this helps network operators to use the spare time in network maintenance, experimentation, modification of the network, etc. The final result is a massive reduction of operational cost.

    Flexible and agile: NFV enables network operators to be flexible and agile. With the saved cost and saved downtime, network operators can not only invest in new technology, they can also use the saved time in technological innovations.

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    Key Challenges-

    NFV however, is not free from challenges. While implementing NFV, network operators face a lot of challenges which include:

    Archaic Infrastructure: Most of the businesses, especially network operators has been using legacy infrastructure. Hence, NFV can only be deployed in new applications. NFV functions are therefore being deployed gradually and the returns on investments are being used to purchase modern infrastructure through which complex NFV projects can be purchased in the future.

    Managing Perceptions: When operators plan to implement NFV in their business, they think of software products that are similar to the ones they have. However, in most cases, enterprise solutions are unable to provide carrier grade reliability since they are not designed for the telecom environment. However, the good news is NFV does not necessarily require carrier grade reliability and hence have immense latent opportunities in them.

    Technological/operational: To implement NFV successfully, it is important that operators become extremely comfortable with NFV. Neither performance not reliability can be sacrificed while making this move to a virtualized architecture. Moreover, it is also important for operators to adopt to the changing technology of NFV. Hence, vendors and equipment providers have to adapt to this change as well. This will not happen very fast, hence a considerable amount of patience is required.

    Practical Applications of NFV-

    NFV has been successfully implemented across a variety of businesses. Here are a few examples which stand out:

    Microsoft Azure: Microsoft Azure is one of the best examples of successful implementation of NFV. The access to Microsoft Azure cloud services marketplace has been optimized through hybrid cloud so that secure and reliable cloud services can be provided to SMBs and enterprises. These services are optimized to ensure they can take the pressure of business applications and workloads.

    Juniper Networks: Juniper Networks has developed a number of well defined virtual enterprise solutions like network connectivity, VPN creation, firewall, etc. The entire thing is done through the implementation of NFV technology like Contrail Cloud Platform and Open Stack CMS. An entire service chain has been implemented which are in turn offered to enterprise customers.

    Metaswitch Networks: Metaswitch has a virtual IMS core network through which all kinds of IMS services can be provided in a matter of minutes. This has been done by implementing virtual cloud based structures which are scalable and self-operated. The service can not only calculate the size of a specific IMS core network automatically, it also has auto-healing properties which ensure the fastest recovery and seamless operation.

    NFV is definitely a technology to look out for in the coming days, especially in the telecommunications industry. The developments are expected to be rapid and the technology for the same will change fast. NFV will bring a sea change in how the industry works in the coming years along with fetching extra revenue.

    February 16, 2017 0 comment
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    The SMS Grey route is a term gaining popularity in the telecom world. But what is it? Well, the word grey is the key. Grey route SMS refers to an SMS between two parties or countries which is legal for one party at one end but is illegal for the other party at the other end. It is basically a way of sending SMS where two operators or entities do not have a commercial relationship or agreement. Well, they may lead to contravention of laws or terms and may lead to an offense case in some countries.

    A good example of a grey route SMS is the Application to Person (A2P) traffic where messages are generated automatically through a sim but are used for Person to Person (P2P) uses. The advantage of this is that a large amount of traffic can be generated at a relatively low cost and send to P2P users.

    On a more borderline case, the grey route might also refer to a few SS7 route SMSs. SS7 is usually used by operators to send each other P2P traffic through the international signaling network. However, when this network is used for exchanging A2P traffic without any commercial agreement, in some cases, the same can be considered as grey route as well.

    Emergence of SMS Grey Route

    When person to person SMS was introduced, somewhere around 1993, the global signaling system SS7 was introduced to enable person to person traffic. Slowly, there appeared a group of people, who called them network aggregators, who started exchanging messages between each other, across the globe. These were mostly P2P messages, however, there was a difference. Instead of using the P2P messaging system, they were using the A2P messaging system i.e. the messages were not sent from one person to another person, instead, they were sent from one computer to another. Although this looks like a clever idea, there was an issue with it. The cellular networks identified a large volume of traffic going to their individual subscribers, but hardly any traffic coming back. Moreover, there was a huge amount of bounces in these SMSs resulting in massive revenue loss. At that time, the amount of SPAM messaging was also extremely high. These SMSs thus started to be coined as grey route SMS.

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    The current situation of SMS Grey Route

    The first action against SMS grey route was taken in the year 2013 by Irish Network Operators. They started separating grey route SMS from legitimate ones and started shutting down grey route SMS. Other countries were soon to follow. The cleaning drive has resulted in the removal of SPAM messages and delivery of the right messages in the right inbox.

    Today, SMS grey routes contributed 65% of total A2P traffic in 2015 but that is expected to drop to 19% by 2020. It has also been estimated that the revenue loss for operators from grey route globally will amount to $62 billion in the next 6 years. Currently, MNOs are losing about $2 million per annum through SMS grey routes. If MNOs start charging even $0.06 per SMS, they can earn $17.3 million per annum.

    Stopping the Grey Route

    These are alarming figures and the operators are aware of that. A2P traffic is used by almost all kinds of industries today – financial services, media, ecommerce, lifestyle, etc. In most cases, the organizations are not aware that their SMSs are being sent through the grey route. Many of the organizations using grey route are reputed companies and if they come to know that their SMSs are being routed through the illegal route, they would refuse not want to be a part of it. This is where lies the biggest opportunities for telecom operators. If they can find the grey traffic through algorithms and inform the users about it, much of their problem will be solved. While cost is an important factor, brand value would rank higher. The users will definitely stop using the grey route for contacting customers.

    Today, several technologies are available to identify and eliminate grey routes. The latest technology detects grey route SMS through real time analysis of messages passing through the network. The technology not only detects spam, but also monitor messaging patterns, trends, etc. Eliminating SMS grey routes is an important aspect of operations of the service providers and significant priority is being given to stop revenue leakage through SMS grey routes.

    February 13, 2017 0 comment
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    The only thing in today’s digital environment which changes quicker than technology, are the consumer expectations.  Nowadays, the customer service industry is captured by two trending terms- “omnichannel customer service” and “multi-channel customer service”. These two terms occupy the heart of the customer service industry and are often used interchangeably. But, dwelling deep, you can find a pronounced difference between them.

    The ever-growing technological advancements and the growing attention to detail have resulted in an expansion in the customer service industry.  Thus, it becomes essential to understand the difference between omnichannel customer experience and multichannel customer experience.

    Multi-channel customer experience

    Multi-channel customer support refers to the availability of customer service across two or more channels like web, e-mail, social media, apps, calls etc. Hence, the option lies with the customers to choose how they want to interact with the company. However, in the case of multi-channel customer experience, it is not necessary that the customers get the same response across all channels. Therefore, it is highly possible that customers get different kinds of response by using different channels, although the overall messaging idea follows the corporate objective.

    Various brands across the world use multi-channel but the most famous among them are Apple, Burberry, and Uniqlo. Apple, the brand that sets the trend, provides a different experience to customers in each of its channels. If you visit a brick and mortar Apple store, you can see what you might feel while using an Apple rather than seeing what the product does, visit the Apple iStore and you will get an interactive experience, you can even book an appointment with a customer service executive. It is this uniqueness of experience every time that has made people opt for Apple even though similar products are available cheaper elsewhere. Burberry, the leading apparel brand is also one of the very few brands which provides customer service through a variety of channels including Snapchat and Periscope. Each of the channels that Burberry uses, gives a unique, distinctive customer experience.

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    Omni-channel customer experience

    The omnichannel customer service strategy refers to a customer engagement strategy which caters to the customers via all available channels of support. An omnichannel setup is undoubtedly more streamlined, more user-centric and more transparent. It makes it easier for the customers to raise and get their issues resolved. However, businesses have to make sure that the service standards remain the same across all channels so that customer do not have varied experiences in different channels. Customers have the freedom to use all evaluation channels and are free to switch between them without any loss of information or requirement of repetition/reiteration.

    All businesses use multiple channels to connect with customers, but for an Omni Channel experience to work seamlessly, all these channels have to work together so that customers get a similar experience everywhere. Omni-Channel is all about delivering an integrated experience.

    Customers are sensitive these days and information flow in real time. Hence, brands across the world make the best use of Omni-channel experience to ensure no misinformation is being communicated, all customer care personnel understand the business objective and speak the same language. The best example of a brand which has got the omnichannel components right is Disney. From the giant movies to small Disney goodies, everything speaks the same language, visually and delivers the same kind of experience.

    A good example of how a brand in India makes the best use of the Omni-channel concept is payPLUS, the mobile POS company. It doesn’t matter if a user is using payPLUS through mobile or tablet or the website, the user experience remains exactly the same. Mahindra Comviva, the leaders of delivering superior customer experience has worked closely with payPLUS to ensure they make the most of the omnichannel piece.

    Another excellent example of effective usage of omni-channel is Mahindra Comviva’s Mobilytix Suite which is set to bring a new era in customer value management. It is a big data driven mobile analytics solution which finds out hidden customer insights to drive revenue growth. The service is delivered through multiple channel, however, the customer experience remains uniform irrespective of the channel used.

    Omni-channel is the way forward. Researchers show that a well-defined omnichannel customer experience management setup achieves 91% higher growth for the organization’s customer retention rate as compared to the organizations with multi-channel programs. Increasing 3.4%t on an average in the customer lifetime value, the omnichannel customer experience management programs prove to be more profitable for the service providers, giving them a vantage point of view.

    As already mentioned, information flows on real time basis now. A small mistake can blow up and bring a brand down in seconds, thanks to social media. Brands need to speak the same lingo across all channels to ensure a uniform communication goes out to customers.

    February 10, 2017 0 comment
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    Loyalty Programmes, an effective marketing tool, is now being deployed widely in the mobile money industry as well. Mobile service providers across the world are coming up with innovative loyalty programmes not only to attract new customers but also to address the issue of customer attrition.

    What are loyalty programmes?

    We hear about loyalty programmes every now and then and are members of some of them ourselves. But, technically speaking, what are loyalty programmes? Loyalty programmes are an efficient marketing tactic where sellers encourage people to continue the relationship with them and get rewarded for their loyalty. They are offered in various forms – loyalty card, reward card, advantage card, etc.

    Loyalty programmes were the brainchild of credit card marketers and were traditionally offered through plastic and paper. However, as the world is moving into the digital space, loyalty programmes too are going into the virtual world. Now, loyalty programmes are offered mostly offered through online rewards where the points can be redeemed online conveniently.

    Loyalty Programmes in Mobile Money

    Mobile service companies are using mobile money to their best advantage. Loyalty programmes through mobile money are set to change the customer shopping experience completely. They have a huge potential and is now being exploited rightly by the mobile service providers.

    So how does a loyalty programme in mobile money work? Mobile service providers follow customer behaviour closely by studying the browsing history of phones, downloaded apps, etc. As mobile payment services gain popularity and the customer base grows, more and more information is available to mobile service providers. They, in turn, share this information with the mobile money providers. This information is used by advertisers to the best of their advantage by giving relevant discounts to customers for payment through mobile money.

    Loyalty programmes are about to change the way customers shop. In fact, it is a win-win for both customers and brands. While the customers get to enjoy exclusive discounts, the mobile money service provider gets repeat users, thus retaining valuable customers.

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    Nature of Loyalty Programmes

    The way of rewarding customers for their loyalty to the carrier varies. Cashbacks, discounts, reward points, coupons remain the main source of awarding customers for their loyalty. For example, Paytm offers instant cashback to customers for each usage, airtel money provides loyalty points to users which can be redeemed later for various services, etc. Each of the loyalty programmes has its own benefits and own appeal. Each of the service providers use all of these methods to lure customers and retain them from time to time.

    In the US, as of 2015, there were 3.3 million mobile money loyalty programmes which were a 26% increase over 2013. The number is expected to rise higher in 2016.

    Benefits of Mobile Money Loyalty Programmes

    A loyalty programme is a winner both for the merchants and the consumers. There are several reasons why is it so:

    Customer engagement and retention

    The main benefit of loyalty programmes is customer engagement and retention. When customers find that the service provider is rewarding them for usage, they stay along with the service provider. They not only stay loyal to the provider, they also recommend to friends and family. This is the best benefit that can be achieved through any marketing programme.

    A definite competitive edge

    Loyalty programmes are an effective marketing strategy and are difficult to surpass by using any other marketing tactic. Rewarding shoppers for their money and time is a winner, customers feel good being acknowledged. The fact that every tap of the mobile money will earn rewards and discounts encourage consumers to not only sign up for the programme but also to stay engaged with the programme.

    An effective way of enhancing customer engagement

    Loyalty programmes are an effective way of engaging with the customers. Loyalty programmes let the mobile money service provider conduct effective branding and marketing exercise. By including loyalty programmes, mobile money providers become a part of the customer’s day to day lives.

    Enhanced customer convenience

    It’s customer convenience, all the way. Through loyalty programmes, merchants are actually encouraging customers to shop more and thus use the e-wallet. No doubt, customers are hooked onto it and crave for more.

    Loyalty programmes in mobile money are the next in thing in the digital payment world. While more and more mobile money service provider continues to integrate loyalty programmes in their scheme of things, there are further opportunities that the service providers can explore. The market too will become more competitive in the coming days. This is a space worth watching out for to see how the merchants innovate to bring in unique features to their loyalty programmes.

    February 9, 2017 0 comment
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