Monday, May 7, 2012

[Guest post]: Engaging the Subscriber

By Chris Hoover*, VP Product Marketing & Product Management, Openet

The popularity of OTT services has grown along with smartphone penetration, with the result that operators are becoming less visible to the subscriber. Recognition, influence and loyalty are migrating to other parts of the value chain, particularly OTT service providers. Meanwhile, the cost to deliver mobile broadband connectivity is overtaking operator’s revenue.
To resolve this, operators must diversify their revenue streams by providing value to OTT providers. This value lies in an operator’s strongest asset: a direct, uninterrupted connection with untold millions of subscribers, each one a potential new customer for an OTT provider. 
Helping connect OTT providers with subscribers (through notifications, zero rate promotions, streamlined billing, and wholesale arrangements, to name a few) is a huge revenue opportunity for operators. This opportunity will grow as OTT competition introduces new media services, new social networks, new games and diversions. It’s a paradigm in which everybody wins: subscribers can explore services they may otherwise never try, OTT providers can grow their business more efficiently than is otherwise possible, and operators can enable new revenue streams. 
To take advantage of this opportunity, operators first need a meaningful presence at the subscriber’s fingertips – on their device. Operators must increase their ‘real estate’ on the device and use this channel to engage in an interactive and meaningful way with subscribers.
In a recent worldwide survey of mobile operators, Openet looked at how operators are currently engaging with their customers on the device, a key pre-requisite to evolving telecom business models beyond simple connectivity. The research demonstrates that operators have significant opportunity to better engage with customers via an on-device self-care portal. 
For example, 70% of operators offer mobile self-care portals, but a significant portion (30%) of these portals weren’t even designed specifically for mobile use. Almost 40% of the mobile operator managers surveyed said they don’t personally use their own company’s mobile self-care portals. 
Users access portals to check bills or credit (77%), but most rarely or never use the mobile portal for value added services. 
Operators express a desire to deliver more value direct to the handset via a mobile portal, but an overwhelming majority of survey respondents lament slow adoption of new functionality. Operators struggle to enable even modest services such as real-time high spend alerts direct to the device (79% desire this) or price plan recommendations based on customer usage (82% desire). 
The first step, then, is infrastructure that integrates with back end systems and harnesses the intelligence within to provide these real-time capabilities on the device. Openet’s Subscriber Engagement Engine does just this: it is subscriber- and service-aware, giving end users real-time visibility into usage as well as the means to directly manage and personalise their experience. 
If an operator is to offer new services, they first need a way to inform subscribers that the services exist. They need a way for subscribers to explore the services, to purchase the services, and to monitor usage of these purchases. Through advanced infrastructure such as Openet’s Subscriber Engagement Engine, operators set the stage for a stronger relationship with their subscribers as well as for true “two way” revenue models through partnership with OTT providers. 


*Chris Hoover, VP Product Marketing and Product Management at Openet, has more than a decade of experience in mobile and networking technologies.  As an executive at mobile internet pioneer Unwired Planet, (later known as Openwave) he authored one of the first comprehensive guides to application development for mobile devices, “Dynamic WAP Application Development,” which was a top-20 bestseller in its category for more than six months.  He was heavily involved with the Ericsson, Nokia, and AT&T coalition defining standards for the first IMS-based application initiative, “Push-to-Talk Over Cellular” (known as PoC), and managed the product team responsible for the first commercial PoC deployment in a GPRS network.  As manager of the Narus STA network surveillance products, which have been mentioned as part of the NSA wiretapping investigation at AT&T, he is perhaps the only Silicon Valley product manager whose product was the focus of a Frontline documentary.

Chris holds a master’s degree from the University of Maryland at College Park.

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