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Issue of November 2005 
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Telecom

A little innovation goes a long way

Telecom giant Bharti Cellular had to contend with churn in the pre-paid customer segment. The company developed a unique customer care solution that helped it retain customers and improve profitability. by Kusum Makhija

Amrita Gangotra
CIO
Bharti Cellular

Bharti Cellular, a leading telecom service provider, was facing a lot of customer churn. The company had a large prepaid cellular subscriber base under its umbrella brand Airtel. Even the slightest slackness in customer services could result in a high degree of customer churn. If it took a long time to handle customer complaints and calls, it would create a lot of dissatisfaction among users.

In order to avoid this, the company implemented Adagium PACS (Personal Access Communication System), a software application-based customer care solution which has helped the company improve its customer care services.

The streamlined workflow processes and reduced costs have helped the company retain more customers—and won it the Intelligent Enterprise Award in the Telecom Category.

Treating Pre-paid Customers Right

Bharti implemented Adagium, a pre-paid provisioning, management and customer care solution to enable end-to-end management for customer accounts in the pre-paid segment. It has offered a bundle of value-added services which can be implemented in conjunction with an IVRS to provide information, and to accept response and feedback with downstream processing for achieving business objectives.

Bharti used the PACS technology in its Adagium software. PACS is a digital cordless technology initially developed by Bell Labs in the US and was intended to compete with DECT.

“Adagium PACS is being constantly enhanced, and is integrated with SMS/USSD-based applications providing CUG, F&F, roaming rental, and differential SMS charging,” says Amrita Gangotra, CIO of Bharti Cellular

Adagium PACS manages the complete prepaid business support functions, and has the capability to handle one lakh to one crore subscribers. “It is being constantly enhanced, and is integrated with SMS/USSD-based applications providing CUG, F&F, roaming rental, and differential SMS charging,” says Amrita Gangotra, CIO of Bharti Cellular.

Adagium supports customer-care processes of QRC lodging, configurable provisioning rights, tracking resolutions, personalised in-box and information about repeat cases. The system uses enhanced CDM tools such as call centre and agent productivity tools with reminders, alerts, FAQs, scripts, templates, checklists, SMS and e-mail interfaces, Info Xchanger, broadcast messages and ticker tapes. It has an independent system to monitor an entire bank of servers and databases for server availability, database uptime, and disk space availability. The system supports MSISDN/SIM pairing, bulk/single upload to HLR/AUC/IN, recycling, dealer allocation and pre-paid/post-paid conversion.

Challenges

The company was facing problems in bringing down the handling time of a pre-paid call. It also had to ensure the provisioning of the pre-paid cards in the desired HLR profiles and IN-Service class. In a nutshell, the company’s Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) had to be high.

ARPU measures the average monthly revenue generated for each customer.

Other Nominee In The Telecom Category
  • Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited's SMS-based Linesman Alert Handling System (LAHS) to address customer complaints for a faulty telephone system.

It is an indicator of a wireless business’ operating performance. Severely declining ARPU is typically a negative sign that may indicate a carrier is adding too many low-revenue generating customers to its rolls.

Airtel has a lot of Value Added Services (VAS) such as Masala, Airtel Live and Edge for its pre-paid customers. “It was crucial for the company to ensure real-time provisioning of VAS, and Adagium helped us achieve that to a great extent,” says Gangotra.

Another major challenge that the company faced was to facilitate quicker and more focussed resolution of complaints and requests through escalations and workflows. The company was looking to empower the front-end lobby with the essential provisioning tools to address urgent requirements like SIM-change, and conversions from post- to pre-paid so that they could control the customer churn.

Optimising Customer Retention

A major thrust area for Bharti was to increase productivity levels in the organisation by streamlining processes. The single view of IN pre-paid operations has streamlined workflow processes. “It lends visibility to critical business processes like provisioning, billing and performance management, and helps us meet cost-performance metrics,” states Gangotra.

However, the biggest benefit which Bharti has gained is that the solution has helped optimise customer retention. Powerful subscriber modelling techniques have helped the company achieve service segmentation. Coupled with Adagium’s convergent customer care that present unified and seamless customer-focussed processes, the solution optimises retention.

Return On Investment

Victory Talk

Amrita Gangotra, CIO, Bharti Cellular, says, "The award highlights the importance of innovation, especially in the telecom scenario wherein ARPU issues persist. We are very glad to be recognised and appreciated for our efforts.

“We spent a total of Rs 82 crore for pre-paid call centre handling, and have estimated savings of 15 percent on this figure, which comes to Rs 12.3 crore on pre-paid call handling at call centres,” reveals Gangotra. The company is now earning additional revenue from higher acquisitions due to customer satisfaction and references. Money is also flowing in in the form of additional revenue from up-selling to existing customers and due to reduced churn.

There are several intangible benefits that the company is experiencing alongside. For instance, the average call handling time has reduced, and so has the service request processing time. “We have managed to increase backend resolution and productivity with faster service request processing, resulting in additional revenues,” notes Gangotra.

Technology Application

“We have migrated from Sun to IBM AIX as the hardware platform, and are moving from Oracle to DB2.
The next logical step was to build new network interfaces and implement thin clients"

Bharti has used distributed architecture with horizontal and vertical scalability. In order to achieve higher scalability, it used specialist nodes so as to ensure robust workflow, and an escalation engine with configurable workflow. On the application front, the system uses Oracle, C++, VB, ASP and Crystal Reports. “We have migrated from Sun to IBM AIX as the hardware platform, and are moving from Oracle to DB2. The next logical step was to build new network interfaces and implement thin clients,” says Gangotra.

The Roadmap

Bharti is looking at providing USSD/SMS-based services such as validity extension and choosing number by oneself, alongside applications to manage the deduction of daily/weekly/monthly rentals for various services. It will be providing Web-enabled self-care for pre-paid subscribers and implement thin clients for PACS agents. The company is also looking at releasing the API’s for provisioning activities, porting PACS to the AIX platform, and integrating PACS with CTI.

The Intelligent Edge

Project: The key strategic objective behind implementing Adagium PACS was to provide an integrated support system for the high growth but low ARPU pre-paid subscriber segment, and to lower cost of ownership for pre-paid customers' vis-à-vis agent-based costs for CRM/customer care systems

Date started: June 2002

Date completed: July 2005

Project cost: Rs 2.5 crore

Project objective: To implement Adagium PACS in the high growth/low ARPU pre-paid subscriber segment in order to lower the cost of ownership for pre-paid customer care and provide in-house support for the application

Project Innovation: Adagium PACS is the only system managing the complete pre-paid business support functions, and has the capability to handle one lakh to one crore subscribers. It is the only product which is integrated with SMS/USSD-based applications providing CUG, F&F, roaming rental, and differential SMS charging

 
     
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