How to revolutionise telco Customer Satisfaction via an OSS-led Mindset Shift

Just a word of warning. This article is quite long. However, it contains a message that I feel really strongly about…. as you’ll see.

Change is a funny thing. Sometimes we love it. Sometimes we hate it. Sometimes we’re inspired by it. Sometimes we’re in fear of it. Sometimes we know we desperately need to change, but still can’t bring ourselves to do anything about it.

The telco industry feels like that at the moment. Many telcos around the world are in perilous decline, propped up mostly by balance sheet successes and assets of the past. To change this (diminishing) level of success requires us to change.

But change takes us out of our comfort zone. We need unnatural levels of courage to break out and up, into something different and new. Not just incrementally new, but fundamentally new.

Communications technologies have never been more essential, yet telco business models have never been less relevant.

The subconscious mind is geared to protect us and places us in a state of survival. A state of paralysing fear. When it comes to the complex worlds of telco and OSS, the pain of same is usually less than the pain of change.

But change we must. We’re clearly on a burning platform.

I keep seeing figures such as, “OSS BSS software Market Set for More Growth” that indicate significant CAGR (growth rate) for OSS and BSS products. This report predicts a “growth rate of 11.5% and may see market size of USD23.12 Billion by 2026.” I hope that’s true that the market continues to grow at this rapid pace, but for it to happen I feel that it’s almost entirely dependent on thriving, highly profitable telcos. OSS CAGR growth needs telco profit growth. We need to grow the pie for our most important customers.

To do so, a new model is required. New thinking is required. Outsized courage is required.

As the old adage goes, if we keep doing what we’ve always done, we’ll keep getting the results we’ve recently been getting.

But you may argue, and I’ve heard it during my many discussions with OSS / BSS vendors, that business is booming in recent times. They’re all busy and all winning exciting new projects. There’s certainly a spike in interest in OSS / BSS. I sense that we’re currently riding a perfect alignment of investment waves for the first time in years, waves that include 5G, cloudification, automation and others. But you have to wonder whether telcos have drawn so heavily on capital reserves to fund these projects that a lull awaits once these waves peak.

The incremental approaches of “more of the same, but more efficient or squeeze things harder,” simply can’t continue to be the solution.

Soooo….. What’s holding telcos back from embarking on drastic change?

Empire protection? Group think? Group fear?

We can see some evidence of this with the commonly cited concerns about a skills shortage in Western telcos or European Carriers banding together to ask big tech to pay a fair share of telco fees. There’s fear in the boardrooms. Rightly so.

Making drastic changes can put the roles of senior decision makers at significant risk. It’s far less risky to make incremental changes. It’s not as easy to have the finger of blame pointed at you if you make small adjustments instead of betting the farm on a big step into the unknown. I totally get it.

So the question that hangs palpably for me is…..

Despite these constraints, how can OSS/BSS lead the entire telco industry upwards?

How can we throw the industry on our shoulders and show it a new way? How can we create a bigger pie for the telco industry?

Simply submitting to the entrenched thinking that OSS/BSS is merely a cost centre is clearly not demonstrating an ability to create a bigger pie. We sell OSS/BSS on a cost-out mantra, of fear and scarcity and limitation – of automation. This is simply perpetuating that thinking.

We need to switch from cost-out to revenue-in and value add.

This isn’t achieved through incremental improvements or change. It requires much bigger-picture thinking. But that’s only the first step according to Michelle May.

Think bigger. Feel bigger. Act bigger and the results will be bigger…..

Hmmm….. So what does that mean for telco and all of us in OSS/BSS?

Do you feel like you’re on a burning platform currently? Are you thinking in terms of prosperity, abundance and success? If not, then we need to position our OSS/BSS solutions to start stimulating that thinking.

I believe there’s one incredibly fundamental shift that can trigger these changes.

We have to get out of our own worlds!! Reduce the inward thinking.

What does that even mean? Let me ask you some questions:

  • If you’re an OSS/BSS supplier, are you thinking about how you can create a better product, more features, better marketing, better sales, which all aim to pull more money from your customers (the telcos)? That’s inward thinking. Yes, there’s a peripheral view of the customer (the telcos), ensuring they have great tools and support, but the main line of thinking is about how you derive benefit
  • If you’re a telco and you’re buying / building an OSS/BSS, what data sources are you focused on? You’re collecting logs, events, alarms, CDRs, etc from your own network devices or EMS. You’re focusing inside the Customer Edge or Provider Edge (CE/PE) as per the red lines in diagram below. That’s inward thinking right there. Yes, there’s a peripheral view of the customer (telco subscribers / users) via tools such as CRMs, but they’re maintained to ensure you derive benefit through SLA-reduction, churn-reduction and customer satisfaction (ie retention) improvements
  • If you’re a telco and you’re selling your comms services without much thought for how or why your customers (telco subscribers) need them, then that’s also inward thinking


To have more, telcos have to be more. Our OSS/BSS can make them more. We can’t just bemoan the decline, but have to act and inspire the incline. A value-add mindset approaches those three dot-points above differently:

  • If you’re an OSS/BSS supplier, are you thinking about how you can make your customers (the telcos) more profitable, more differentiated, more valuable to their customers, more valued by their customers (the telco subscribers), more successful?
  • If you’re a telco and you’re buying / building an OSS/BSS, are you thinking about how your data could supplement and enrich your customers’s (telco subscribers) insights, operations, profitability, efficiency, etc. From such a large subscriber base, are you able to help your customers make connections they’re otherwise unable to make by themselves (the business equivalent of an online dating agency)? To help create connections of companies, people, technologies, ideas, supply-chains, lead-generation, etc.
    Of course the constraints of data privacy should apply across each of these lenses. Enterprise managed services are an example of customer value-added services where the business data (green in diagram below) is shared, not customer data (yellow). There are many third-party integrators and providers that thrive in this space, in the gaps that telcos have left behind for their customers (subscribers, enterprises, etc) to deal with
  • If you’re a telco, are you thinking about how you can help customers solve problems, which may or may not exclusively include your comms services? OSS and BSS are powerful business efficiency tools (they manage customers, process orders, issue bills, manage workforces, fix problems, etc). Could outwards-facing versions (BOS – Business Operations Systems in the diagram below) that sit astride the CE/PE boundary offer these same super-powers to customers, not just face inwards to manage the telco’s business? Could they also connect and bundle third-party partner services or customer services (the green circle at the right) to deliver great value to customers? Can they be the portal to manage private networks and carrier services from (eg bandwidth on demand)?

    Could carriers look outwards for partnership opportunities to deliver even more value to their large subscriber bases of customers (only to subscribers who opt-in to having a BOS of course, not by surreptitiously mining customer data)? Could they empower enhanced supply chains? Could they protect entire supply chains (as network security services are starting to do)?

Are you starting to see that by increasing the focus outwards, the pie is getting bigger? The value is getting bigger?

These examples are only the tip of the iceberg in how we can face outwards, help outwards, solve problems outwards, answer questions outwards, create connections for others. I’m sure you can envisage many more ideas. Leave us a comment below if you have other great outward-facing ideas.

Did you know that triple-play, then quad-play, then multi-play, then higher-play telco offerings are increasingly stickier? And why are they stickier? Because they’re adding more value to customers with each additional bundled service.

Instead, we currently look inwards. Even the KPIs we prioritise demonstrate an inwards focus. We utilise call volume reduction (CVR – ie push customers away from customer care agents towards cheaper digital technologies), chat-bots, IVRs and other customer avoidance techniques as a way to reduce costs even though we know many customers hate it. When we push customers away, we lose the ability to face outwards and learn how customers use comms, how they do e-business, what problems they face, how they understand and connect with their own customers, what apps / services they use, what makes their own businesses thrive, how they succeed. Into this empathy void, other providers happily step in and steer share of wallet potential away from the telcos.

Outward-facing telco business units, the ones that interact with customers like sales, contact centres, service desks, etc, have inward-facing KPIs. Even the fabled NPS (Net Promoter Score – which the telcos typically score really badly on) is an inward-facing metric. How likely are you to recommend ME, not how am I creating value for YOU.

How about instead to have outward-facing groups with outward-facing metrics? Helping your customers thrive – increasing their vital KPIs – is also likely to lead to improvement in the most important KPIs for the telco – churn reduction, NPS increase, revenue uplift, etc.

These outward-facing teams are what I refer to as Karma teams. Create value for others and value will assuredly return to you.

The burning platform we talked about earlier is a massive risk. Alternatively, adding more value to customers decreases that risk. Simply…by…looking…outwards.

If you’d like any assistance to plan a more outward-facing solution, please reach out via the contact form.

PS1. Are you wondering what led me to this inwards vs outwards conclusion? Over the years, I’ve worked with or alongside many startup carriers. There’s an excitement amongst the workforce as something new is built and customers are being serviced in new ways. The growth phase pervades the culture and team morale thrives. Yet I’ve seen it time and again that as soon as carriers move from build mode to run mode and the redundancies inevitably start, then employee attention moves from outward facing to inward facing (preservation mode). The mindset difference (and arguably the deterioration in corporate success) is starkly apparent. Then I realised that OSS are as guilty of facing inwards as any of these employers, as shown in the first diagram above.

PS2. The idea for the BOS shown in figures 2 and 3 above came to me when implementing a billion dollar managed service contract for a T1 telco. For these large deals, the carriers build comprehensive OSS/BSS/portal/service-desk stacks for the customers that integrate with the carrier’s own OSS/BSS. But the thing that amazed me was that an entirely bespoke BOS was built for each of these managed services customers. There was no repeatability. That might be fine for these massive corporate accounts, but it meant they couldn’t scale down the same concept to mid-market customers. And it’s these mid-market customers, which still have very large comms / IT / telco budgets, that tend to be under-serviced by big telcos, leaving a void for other service providers to penetrate. This seems like a massive pie-expansion opportunity to me – for carriers and OSS/BSS vendors alike. The BOS could be built from existing OSS/BSS tools, but it seems like it could be an entirely new, fit-for-purpose class of OSS/BSS solution.

PS3. The broader vision of all of this? For telcos to provide an entire end-to-end, E-Business Management stack for mid-market customers based on an easy-to-use, repeatable framework.

It allows a telco to offer OSS/BSS++ services across the CE/PE divide. It now allows customers to build overlay / programmable networks like SD-WAN (mustard-coloured cloud below). The E-Business network / VPN becomes a managed composite of private, data centre, cloud, Internet and carrier NaaS network components as well as incorporating private, MEC or cloud compute. It allows cloud services to be brought onto the corporate VPN (green “SVCS” circle). It even potentially incorporates an API gateway for managing and offering customised corporate APIs (mustard circle below) to service their customers (yellow circle).

Even better, it should have a marketplace capability that allows plug-ins and products to be easily bundled in to deliver customisation capabilities for carriers, their clients and the end-customers.


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