For telecom carriers, guaranteeing a good "customer experience" can be a vapid promise that is purposely hard to quantify. But Global Crossing has re-engineered its entire business around the concept over the past three years, and the facilities-based, tier two global telecom provider has hard metrics in place to measure its success.
Customer experience is the new battleground in the industry.
The quest for an improved customer experience also resulted in merging Global Crossing's chief technical officer (CTO) and chief information officer (CIO) positions into a combined CTIO post to make sure software and network technology were in sync. To drive the goal home, Global Crossing tied a portion of all employees' annual bonuses to customer experience metrics.
"Customer experience is the new battleground in the industry," said Global Crossing CTIO Anthony Christie. With up to 75% of Global Crossing's orders coming in from existing customers, the provider must pay close attention to how customers feel about service. The results? Global Crossing commissions third-party research and reports that more than 90% of its customers are satisfied and 75% are in the very satisfied range and say they will buy again.
Current Analysis Research Director Brian Washburn gives Global Crossing a positive rating because it remains focused on its goals of concentrating on growth services, keeping customer satisfaction high, lowering access costs and rolling out new services and enhancing existing ones.
Global Crossing competes in a tough market—providing global telecom services to a range of multinational enterprises and service providers. Its direct competitors include large players like Verizon Business, AT&T, BT Global Services and Orange Business Services. The company also sells telecom services and capacity to other telecom service providers.
Global Crossing's focus on customer experience has worked well since 1998 for PSAV Presentation Services, a multimedia event presentation company. The company has a pool of 3,000 technicians who provide audio visual services on-premises in hotels in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and other locations around the globe. New voice, data and video services need to be delivered every time PSAV goes into a new location.
"When we go into a new hotel, I may need a T1 installed quickly, or I may need to delay it all of a sudden," said Alex Randow, director of PSAV's IT Support Center. "We love Global Crossing's flexibility, because things change on a dime."
CTIO function manages customer experience from the network
Customer experience management has everything to do with the network and technology.
"We measure customer satisfaction, but we manage customer experience," Christie said. "My team doesn't own the functions where each of those seven touch points reside, but they're accountable for end-to-end processes between the functions as they relate to the intended customer experience," he continued.
Global Crossing has re-engineered and improved the following customer touch points and the processes and subprocesses behind them: 1) the quote; 2) the order; 3) installation and turn up, 4) billing and payment, 5) issue management, 6) inventory management, and 7) account servicing.
According to telecom consultant Tom Nolle, president of CIMI Corp., the largest benefit in combining CIO and CTO positions is reflecting the increased role of IT in service logic and the increased interdependence of service logic and OSS/BSS systems. The difficulty, he said, is finding a good candidate with broad IT and network skills to hold the position.
"If you aren't up on the software piece, it's hard to run the network," Christie said. "It didn't used to be that way, but now the software and the technology have to run together."
Customer experience hinges on analysis of upcoming network capabilities
Traditional CTO and CIO functions have been merged by some other providers, as well, in recognition of the increasing interdependence of network hardware and IT software in running the business. At Global Crossing, the CTIO manages IT to operate and develop new products and optimize existing systems. The technology function looks at the equipment and technologies that will impact customers three years out, Christie said, citing cloud services, unified communications, mobility and virtualization as examples.
"When we look at where the business has grown, we can do a better job looking out three years and looking at technologies that will generally be available," he said. "Then we create a development path to get there.".
If carriers look at IT and networking with new eyes, one big question is whether the vendor equipment procurement process will change. The short answer is yes, according to Christie. "Procurement will no doubt change because of the way Global Crossing is looking at IT and technology development, with the supply chain built around key external constituencies."
Coming soon: Technologies needed to offer products and services in two or three years, a discussion with Global Crossing's CTIO Anthony Christie.