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Network Migrations and the Customer Experience – Ultimate Tightrope Events

Vertek Blog Series – “Lessons Learned: Effective Carrier Migrations,” Part 2

By Maureen McShane, Senior Director Business Consulting, Vertek Corporation

Vertek Corporation’s new blog series, “Lessons Learned: Effective Carrier Migrations,” will address several areas of managing migrations that we have worked in over the past 20 years. The four-part series will include building a sound business case, maintaining a positive customer experience, managing change and the pros and cons of outsourcing. Reoccurring issues woven throughout the series will address the importance of data integrity and how to maintain it, and how to remain adaptable and flexible during a migration.

In this blog, “Part 2,” Vertek discusses the critical importance of creating a network migration plan that takes into consideration the customer experience with multiple services, carefully analyzing provisioning, billing, receivables and customer support and determining what additional processes must be put in place to accommodate the new customers.

One of the most elusive, unpredictable but crucial areas that carriers need to address in executing a successful network migration is the customer experience. Typically migrations involve upgrading customers from an older technology to a new technology, and/or migrating an acquired carrier’s customers to the acquirers customer base. It takes careful planning, and can be quite a balancing act to meet the needs of a variety of interested parties while retaining the majority of customers, both legacy and acquired.

Compiled below are several elements you need to incorporate into your planning for a successful network migration:

Experience Mapping

An important first step in any migration is developing a solid customer experience map. Tailoring the experience map to the type(s) of migration undertaken helps define the customer journey that will result. Effective mapping will put the needs, goals and objectives of the customer into focus, and will help anticipate problems and pain points that could potentially arise during the migration. It can facilitate better rapport with your customers, providing them with a clear, concise explanation of the migration, what to expect during it and the benefits it will bring to them. Mapping will also identify the different groups within your organization that your customers will interact with, and enable you to prepare those groups to work effectively with the customers and help ensure that the migration will be viewed positively by them throughout the process.

Communication

Part of experience mapping should include communication predictable touch-points between your organization and your customer base. It is also equally important to identify when additional communication is needed. For example, if a customer’s bill net amount due is not changing, but the details of how discounting is handled varies from before, proactively communicating about the change to the customer will reduce post-migration support calls and ultimately eliminate increased costs down the road.

Order Migration

Order processing will have to be modified in all necessary back office systems to accommodate changes in product and service offerings. Careful analysis of provisioning, billing and receivables and customer support must be undertaken, and separate billing systems should be merged as soon as feasible into a centralized billing system. Remember, if all the planning has paid off, the migration was executed flawlessly, the customers never lost service and the new products or services are working as expected, it’s not time to relax. Inaccurate billing could sabotage the best of migrations. The moment a customer gets an invoice that is not correct, all that goodwill will vaporize.

Customer Inventory

Often the starting point for any migration is defining the customer inventory that needs to be migrated. Usually this analysis and inventory definition is done internally without the involvement of the customer. However, bringing the customers into the process upfront will reassure them that you are dedicated to getting the migration right the first time, and intent on minimizing any potential service disruption issues by clearly defining the inventory involved in the migration.

Customer-centric vs Product-centric

In some migrations there are multiple smaller migrations that need to occur, such as different products being retired or networks being consolidated. Often it’s only a couple customers who might require multiple migration efforts. In this case, a decision must be made – should the customers be touched once and migrate everything, or touched multiple times. While the answer will very much be your decision, the right level of pre-planning analysis of those customers that fall into this category should be defined and the appropriate plan put in place for them.

Customer Segmentation

One migration customer experience approach is typically not the best approach. One size doesn’t fit all. Tailoring the strategy to different customer segments will ensure that the right balance and focus is given to each group. Developing a high touch/low touch strategy by customer segment is important.

Communicating Less Obvious Customer Benefits

Often, migrations that must be completed have little or no obvious benefits to the end customers. They view the change as intrusive and of no value to them. In this case you need to change the conversation. Help the customer understand the behind-the-scene benefits that exist, such as better scalability, increased stability, better service level agreements (SLA’s) or enhanced metrics. Getting the customer to see those hidden benefits will go a long way toward their being willing to actively participate in the migration.

When To Let Customers Go

At times there will be a pool of customers that do not fit the migration mold, and that’s okay. It’s important to recognize those customers, and give them ample time to change services within or without your company. It’s just not worth the time, effort and cost to migrate every customer.

Post Migration Activities

A step that is often overlooked in a migration could yield one of the biggest benefits to the carrier – the right level of follow-up with your customer once the migration is complete. This touch-point might be a form letter, or a “first bill review” with the customer. The follow-up might vary based on customer type, revenue size or other factors. However it is done, the benefits and street credibility you will garner far exceed any additional cost it might take.

 

Customer experience in a migration is all about reducing churn. You want customers to feel included in the migration so that they continue to buy your products/services. Particularly if the product/service that is being migrated to yields lower revenue per unit, retaining as many customers as possible becomes even more important.

Often, as was discussed in our first network migration blog, 10 Considerations for a Rock-Solid Network Migration Business Case, determining and balancing the financial benefits of a migration vs. concerns about the impact of end customer disruption can raise real doubts about the value of moving forward. However, if the customer experience is always taken into account with every aspect of the migration (including pre- and post-) the customer will be supportive, and you will be able to execute on the migration successfully.

REMEMBER: the mantra for any migration as it applies to customer experience needs to be “Do No Harm.”

 

NOTE: As we continue our blog series on Effective Carrier Migrations, we will focus Blog Number Three on Change Management and critical elements necessary to understand prior to undertaking any migration project.