A recent survey on social network finds that over eighty percent of survey respondents reported using social technologies in one or more areas of business, including marketing, employee collaboration, customer service and support and sales.
Communications Service Providers (CSP) don’t have the same problems that the Facebooks and Twitters of the world have in their need to deal with web click stream ‘Big’ data for social network and other analyses. In fact, for the CSPs, the source of ‘Big’ data some 30 years+ has been Call Detail Records, which is generically represented as xDR that holistically capture all types of detailed usage and transactions, including mobile commerce transactions of the customer that went into their billing statement. What is interesting is that every voice and short message usage record usually contains the calling and called phone numbers. These phone numbers from several xDRs when analysed and sequenced as a chain of events start to reveal interesting social network patterns of how customers interact and connect with each other including that of friends and families in the competitors’ network. Using such analyses, some CSPs are able to identify customers whose loyalty is threatened by churn around them; and identify customers who, should they churn, would take a few friends with them. Interestingly Social Network Analysis (SNA) also helps to identify how a customer with negative margin can have very significant network value and still be very valuable to keep!
What is more appealing is that if your data warehouse is missing some customer profile information and if it is proving to be difficult to collect such information, such as with pre-paid accounts, SNA can come to your rescue by uncovering this from the call usage records and location data. For example, if a customer frequently calls the phone number of a taxi company from the airport, and another location you can determine with reasonable level of accuracy that the customer is an executive and travels to airport often on business. The next time you get a discount coupon by MMS (Multi-media Message Service) from your CSP encouraging you to visit the nearby Pizza Hut, it is ‘no-brainer’ to guess how it all happened! It is also possible to determine the age group of a customer as teenager based on frequency and length of calls during certain time of the day and location that coincides with proximity to school zones and sporting venues.
While social network analyses using call detail records has served a very useful purpose in customer retention and up-sell opportunities, the practice of customer management in telecom is still a corporate-centric ‘single view’ of customer according to the CIO of a major service provider in Hong Kong. The CIO says this needs to change to ‘social network view’ of the customer. The corporate-centric view is a hierarchical view that is unsuitable for customer management with a social network focus. The difference is that in single view, it is about what the company thinks is important about the customer – such as job, annual income and basic demographic for customer segmentation and targeting. In social network view, he points out that, it is all about how a customer leverages his/her connections and networks to access different products and services based on whom he/she knows and how she/he uses the service. It is about creating socially-oriented products and services instead of the traditional one-to-one services that is presently the norm. This requires a paradigm shift in how the products and services are created and offered to customers and will require SNA as the centre-piece of analytics. For instance, in the wake of multi-screen (i.e. smartphone, tablets, laptop) growth, where customers own multiple devices and SIM cards (Subscriber Identity Module) in the household, a single price plan with volume pooled between users / devices makes perfect sense, similar to the family plans for voice services of the last decade. It is encouraging to note that SNA is now forming part of the DNA of the CSP’s next generation Customer and Product Management initiatives!