Editor's Corner—A better customer experience, not automation, is king

With dwindling subscribers, increased competition and, maybe, shorter attention spans, operators' top concern is providing a better customer experience.

A report by IHS Markit found that 75% of the service provider respondents said that enhancing customer experience was their top digital transformation project, followed by automation (44%) and cloudification (38%).

To paraphrase the great Jan Brady, for the past year or so it has been nothing but "Automation, automation, automation!" at industry shows and conferences. But as IHS Markit's Stéphane Téral, executive director for mobile infrastructure and carrier economics research, points out, service provider subscriber growth has virtually flat-lined. 

Without customers, service providers have no business to speak of.

Whether its over-the-top video, cord cutters, cord shavers, and cord nevers (we have device cord stealers, cord breakers and cord losers here at home but that's a parenting story) or new, nimbler products and apps from web-scale providers, subscribers don't have many reasons to be loyal these days.

Creating a better customer experience makes it harder for existing subscribers to churn away to new, shiny services, Téral writes. But service providers need automation and cloudification in to order to improve customer satisfaction.

A better customer experience leads to bigger investments in network operation digital transformation with operations support systems (OSS), business support systems (BSS) and network management systems (NMS) accounting for 60%, of those investments, according to the report.

Big data analytics, cloud, software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) are also driving digital transformations, and services, across networks, the report said.

When service providers' digital transformation plans reach fruition, they'll be able to offer new digital services such as IoT as well as video and enterprise IP virtual private networks, according to the report. Which, in turn, will lead to better customer experiences for subscribers.

It's a circle of life thing. (Sorry Disney.)  Mike

Editor's Corners are opinion columns written by a member of the Fierce editorial team. They are edited for balance and accuracy.