It's 8 am and Lucy's mobile email has stopped working. She's nervous, out of time, and out of patience. Arriving at the office, she manages to reach a live person after what seemed like an eternity on hold, only to be then led through a confusing set of menus and email settings. A half-hour later, the problem is solved, but is she really happy? What was the impact on her loyalty, and the mobile operator's operational expenses? How could this have played out differently? David Ginsburg looks at one type of technology that provides the mobile operator-for the first time-with direct over-the-air access to the phone when the subscriber calls for help, thus avoiding the error-prone and inefficient interplay between the frustrated subscriber and the frontline CSR that has been the norm since the birth of the industry
Everyone agrees.... mobile network operators are facing challenges in delivering quality customer care, especially in light of the explosive growth of smartphones. Indeed, in the next few years, smartphones are expected to account for more than 75 per cent of new devices shipped. These phones, now entering the mass market, are often difficult or counterintuitive to use and expensive to support. And operators, in a rush to deliver the latest and greatest device in a brutal and unforgiving market, have less control over the stability of the software on these phones. They face a sea change from a simple world where the handset either worked or was physically broken, to a more sophisticated, more complex world where it is easy to misconfigure advanced services and settings. These factors all add up to additional support costs, service abandonment and subscriber churn. Operators have two options: either hire more frontline help, at considerable cost, or hold the line on expenses, and risk reducing customer satisfaction and loyalty. So how does MDM offer a way out? If we look at the factors contributing to the customer care dilemma, they fall into three areas - handset recalls, handset returns due to usability, and configuration calls. Mobile Device Management (MDM) can address all three areas.
Handset recalls occur when the operator, working with the handset vendor, realizes that the handset, due to a hardware or software bug, is broken in some significant way. Traditionally, the operator would issue a recall, forcing subscribers to bring their phones in to the store to be replaced or re-flashed. This results in high per-device costs and does nothing to engender subscriber satisfaction. Annual exposure amongst Tier-1 operators is upwards of $1.4 billion. With FOTA (firmware over the air), MDM can address more than $500 million of that $1.4 billion, with this figure growing over time based on increasing FOTA client penetration and MDM server rollouts. By 2013, MDM will be able to address a projected 75 per cent+ of expected handset recall exposure of $1.9 billion. These savings, along with the positive impact on the subscriber experience, are compelling arguments in favor of FOTA. Add to them time-to-market advantages that the ability to update devices after they have left the factory provide operators with, and the FOTA value proposition becomes fairly clear.
Handset returns occur when a subscriber just can't seem to properly configure the phone. In fact, one in seven phones in North America, for example, are returned for this very reason. And of these returned phones, there is usually no fault found. The global exposure for mobile operators from returns in 2009 will be $2.5 billion. MDM can initially address almost $400 million of this, growing to more than $1 billion in potential savings by 2013 through better control of configurations resulting in subscribers actually being able to use their phones and the shiny new billable features they have.
The biggest support challenge mobile network operators face is configuration, with more than 30 per cent of all calls being configuration related. Tier-1 operators field tens of millions of these calls every year. Typical reasons for calls include "My phone doesn't ring anymore," or "I cannot receive SMS messages." The subscriber may leap to the conclusion that the device is broken or the issue resides on the network but in most cases the phone not ringing any more is due to it being set to vibrate or not ring. Text messages not coming in or going out are often due to things like the SMS inbox being full.
In addition to problems like these, new device and service launches create their own problems. For example, navigation services result in an entirely new set of questions, including "Does it work with my phone?" or "I've loaded it, but it is not working." And of course, the care organization must be trained in addressing these complaints.
The ability to significantly reduce configuration call times is perhaps the greatest benefit MDM brings to the table. In fact, configuration issues alone present mobile operators with a staggering $21 billion bill each year, a figure forecast to grow rapidly with the adoption of the smartphone. But there is a light and the end of the tunnel. As mentioned earlier, device management opens a real-time channel to the device, allowing the CSR to see into the device and when needed reach out and fix the phone. Gone are the days of walking confused and frustrated subscribers through a twisty little maze of menu choices, all alike. Instead, that frustration and wasted time can be replaced with a "wow" experience where the subscriber is surprised and delighted by how quickly and how completely his or her problem has been addressed. The figure below illustrates just how dramatic an impact MDM can have on a typical call.
The bottom line
Ultimately, MDM may save operators globally a total of $3 billion in 2009 across the three areas described above - recalls, returns and configuration calls. This will grow to $23 billion in 2013 due to increasing OMA-DM device penetration and operator familiarity with the technology. Mapping this to the typical Tier-1, an operator with 50 million subscribers will enjoy $80 million in potential savings in 2009, providing more than enough validation for their MDM investment. These numbers have been recently validated by the analyst firm Stratecast, providing the first third-party analysis of the positive impact of MDM on frontline care and customer satisfaction.
The call revisited
It's 8 a.m. when Lucy's mobile email stopped working. She's nervous, out of time, and out of patience. Arriving at the office, she manages to reach a live person, and is greeted with a very different dialogue. While on-hold, the system had already polled the phone for its hardware and software status, and has determined if an update is recommended. The agent then asks if she'd like her email settings checked against the operator's reference settings. Of course, Lucy says yes. The settings are retrieved, compared, and corrected in a matter of minutes, and Lucy is on her way. Mobile Device Management, or MDM, is one technology that makes this all possible.
David Ginsburg is Vice President of Marketing and Product Management at InnoPath Software. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org