Advanced Analytics, Customer Churn and the Appliance of Science

Advanced Analytics, Customer Churn and the Appliance of Science

In 2010 Eric Schmidt (former CEO of Google) said “Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003." That’s something like five exabytes of data. According to IBM, the build out of the “internet of things” will lead to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours. Let that sink in for a moment.

We take the digital era for granted these days, we’ve normalised its existence but when you step back and think about its impact, it’s as remarkable as it is overwhelming.

With the collective knowledge of the entire history of civilisation available for dissection, human behaviour has been documented in its entirely.

We’ll leave the philosophical ramifications of all of this to others - this is a B2B article on advanced analytics after all, but it’s worth taking in the bigger picture of just how much data is out there.

If we leave aside the focus on big data and the internet of things and apply advanced analytics on just a tiny speck of this information - your customer database - the insights gleaned from their behaviour will be decisive in the future success or failure of your company.

Customer Intimacy

To start with, let’s get the most obvious learning out of the way - retained customers are way more valuable than new ones, due to the costs of acquiring new customers. Adobe once found that it takes seven new shoppers to equal the revenue of a single repeat customer.

So if your focus is on retention campaigns, then your focus needs to be on your existing customer base. The development of programs to improve customer experience has been a direct result of this understanding. By delivering an exceptional experience, customers will not defect – or so the theory goes. But despite throwing millions of euros at “experiences”, customers continue to defect. If anything, they leave even more quickly and easily than ever before.

So what has gone wrong?

Net Promoter Score

Customer experience is a nebulous concept, but there has to be a way to assess its success. And so the famous “net promoter score” (NPS) was born. For a while marketers felt they had a good way of understanding satisfaction levels by simply asking customers what they thought.

Surveys were sacrosanct.

But there is a problem with surveys and the NPS regarding churn prediction – what customers say and do are two different things. According to a report published in Bloomberg Businessweek 60% of defecting customers describe themselves as 'very satisfied' just before they leave.

To make matters worse, the evidence of their impending defection has always been available – if you know where to look.

The Appliance of Science - Applied Analytics

Your existing customer database is a veritable goldmine of data for analysing customer behaviours. Every interaction between brand and consumer creates a digital footprint, an indication of intent – if you know how to read them.

Applied analytics provide a way to spot trends and patterns based on past behaviours. By classifying and categorising customers based on commonalities, you can drill down into those behaviours and better understand customers as individuals.

By following the behavioural trail you can identify indicators of intent. A customer may not say they are leaving, but their behaviour provides clues about what they are thinking. Has there been an increase in calls to customer support? A use of increasingly negative language in their emails? A reduction in their use of your service? All the behavioural indicators are there in plain sight - but only if you know what to look for and how to analyse it.

Taking these indicators and comparing them to the behaviours of other customers, you can predict their next move.

And here is the thing - you can identify, understand, and predict behaviour right down to the individual.

You can uncover how any one customer feels about your service and your offering and confidently predict how likely they are to leave, when are they likely to leave, why are they likely to leave, and what offer will make them happy to stay.

Act Early, Reduce Costs

With refinement your analytics will begin to identify these behaviours much more quickly, allowing you to act earlier. The sooner you act, the easier it is to recover the relationship – and the cheaper the incentive you need to offer. Your analytics will even reveal which retention incentives have had the greatest success for similar customers previously, further increasing your chances of a positive outcome for both parties.

Instead of issuing surveys that can be ignored, or which capture inaccurate sentiment data, analytics use the actual behaviours of your existing customers to make extremely accurate inferences and predictions. Statistical patterns provide actionable insights in a way that the nebulous NPS scoring system cannot, which means that your attempts to improve customer experience will always be more effective because you better understand each customer as an individual.

Fads come and go, but predictive behaviour modelling is just that...predictable. All the answers are there, but very few have the expertise or the tools to spot them, track them, report on them and recommend actions.

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The Customer Effort Score and contagious complaining

In the never-ending quest to find new ways to measure a company’s success with its customers (and to earn fees for the consultants that promote them), the Customer Effort Score has become one of the more fashionable tools.

What is the Customer Effort Score?

For some years, companies have been exhorted to delight their customers – the idea being that delighted customers become loyal and tell their friends how good the service / product is.  This approach has given us the popular and fashionable Net Promoter Score, for example.

The idea behind the Customer Effort Score is that most customers of most companies won’t be delighted if they receive great service – and that therefore a company should instead focus on avoiding bad service.  The Customer Effort Score is a measure of how much effort a customer has to make in order to get a problem fixed.  We have all had problems with suppliers that take up huge amount of our time to get fixed, and the idea is that if a company can just minimise the difficulty of getting problems fixed, that will strike the right balance between customer dissatisfaction and funds invested in customer happiness.

That seems to make sense – especially, dare I say it, for corporate behemoths that never had a hope in hell of delighting more than a select few anyway.  And it particularly makes sense for those products that consumers largely consider as hygiene factors in their lives (i.e. the consumer only notices them by their absence or non-performance).

BT’s ‘Net easy’ implementation of the Customer Effort Score

 BT have been using the Customer Effort Score (CES) for some time, and find it useful for evaluating channels – but only when taken with other measures such as the Net Promoter Score.  Calculation of the score is fairly simple, as the graphic shows – however BT and others underscore the importance of asking the questions in the right way.  CEB tested a number of question variants and found the difference to be striking, as one would imagine.  Remember that CES only measures effectiveness of customer care – if the car you bought drives like a sack of spuds or poor infrastructure means your broadband is slow, good customer care processes won’t fix the problem.

Complaining is contagious

A huge part of the value of delighted customers – and the cost of unhappy punters – is in the fact that we tell our friends about our experiences.  So which has the bigger economic effect – sharing horror stories or evangelising?

We know that when a person feels passionately positive about something, she is likely to share the information with her friends.  From the success of Paul the Apostle (a fine word-of-mouth marketer if ever there was one) in spreading the Christian message to Idiro’s awards for driving uptake of iPhones, we know that passion drives commitment.  However the big issue for companies is that most companies have very few passionate fans.  For most products, the number of evangelists is tiny or zero.  Mr. Fishburne‘s cartoon, above, paints it well.

For every 100 who complain, another 170 friends will also complain
Friends of complainers are much more likely to complain themselves

However, complaining is much more common – and it certainly is contagious.  Research conducted by Idiro has shown that people who complain about their mobile phone operator are highly likely to associate with other complainers – or to encourage their friends to complain also.  In fact, Idiro found that friends of complainers are 70% more likely to complain themselves than are the rest of the customer base.  Backing this up are others’ research findings that customers are more likely to share negative stories than positive one (examples here and here).

Conclusions

Because complaining is so viral, and because typically there is a lot more customer dissatisfaction than evangelism in the customer base, then the Customer Effort Score is a worthwhile measure – particularly where customer service interactions represent a significant part of the customer’s product / service experience.

However, the CES only measures the quality of problem resolution / customer service interactions.   Clearly, other measures must be used to assess the rest of the customer proposition against customer expectations and competitive offerings.  And one useful empirical way to research both the complainers and the evangelists is to measure the word-of-mouth about your product: who is talking, about which product, what are they saying, and where are they saying it?  And if your business has data on your customers’ social links, Idiro can help you turn it into marketing insights.

Insights from the IQPC number portability summit

20131001_091916
Freddie McBride of CEPT presenting on service portability

I had the privilege of attending the IQPC Number Portability Global Summit earlier this month.

Number portability has been important for the development of competition in telecoms.  The conference addressed a wide variety of topics around the subject.

Here are some of the points that resonated:

  • According to one speaker, 75 countries have implemented number portability (NP) on their fixed (FNP) or mobile (MNP) networks.
  • Many others, including Jamaica, Trinidad, Afghanistan, Armenia, Togo and Tunisia are likely to implement number portability by the end of 2014.
  • Some countries, e.g. Russia, are struggling against technical and political barriers to implementing number portability
  • User experiences of MNP vary widely.  In Portugal, callers to ported numbers are greeted with a message warning them that the call may cost more.  In countries like Ireland, Ghana and Israel, mobile numbers can be ported in under an hour, whereas in some other countries it can take weeks.
  • In some countries (e.g. UK) the customer approaches her current network and requests porting (this is known as donor-led porting).  Best practice, followed by many countries, is that the customer requests porting from the network to which they wish to port (recipient-led porting).
  • The technical platforms and processes underpinning porting continue to evolve, in response to customer needs (or rather operators’ new product opportunities), technical advances and the pursuit of efficiencies.

My talk to the conference covered three areas:

1. The evolution of in the importance of number porting

Mobile numbers will continue to be an important way to be reached by almost all mobile users, but callers can now find and contact at least some of their targets on social media.

Porting
The evolution of the importance of number portability

Against that, the cost and difficulty of porting is now very low in most markets, so porting will continue to be popular for the foreseeable future.When truly portable mobile phones arrived (first for businesses, then with the advent of prepaid, for the mass market), the mobile phone number filled a need left unfulfilled: a simple reliable means of reaching someone anywhere, anytime.  Porting was introduced to improve the free functioning of telecoms markets.  In 2003, the value of porting to the Irish economy was estimated at £IR 129M.

More recently, social media has emerged as a far superior way to find and contact people.  Although it has limitations, it removes many of the costs of changing the mobile number.  However, in parallel the costs (monetary and service interruption) to users of porting continue to decline, and many operators incentivise port-in.  Number porting is here to stay.

2. Insights based on analysing data around porters.

Idiro has analysed data relating to porting customers in a variety of markets.  I presented a number of insights (anonymised, of course) on the characteristics of porters based on multiple markets.  I also described in detail the phenomenon of porting contagion.  The power of word-of-mouth results in many consumers following their friends when they switch networks.  This accounts for a high proportion of porting overall.  Big thanks to my colleague Lorcan Treanor for the analysis behind these insights.  Please contact Idiro to learn more about these insights.

3. How Idiro SNA helps meet the challenges of porting churn

Idiro SNA is a perfect fit for the marketing problems around mobile number porting.  Idiro scores can be used:

Porting campaign
Success of member-get member porting acquisition campaign using Idiro SNA scores
  • In Member-get-member acquisition campaigns.  Idiro identifies the customers on competitor networks who share communities with phone users on the operator’s own network.  The likelihood of these to port in is measured.  For the most promising targets, the on-net friends are identified for targeting with a member-get-member campaign.  This can provide very strong results.
  • In retention campaigns to reduce porting churn. This Idiro score is particularly popular with Idiro’s customers.  Idiro runs weekly or monthly models to predict porting churn, and Idiro’s customers use these scores in automated weekly or monthly retention campaigns, as well as in other areas such as the call centre.

I was conference chairman on the second day of the conference, which focussed on Service Portability.  There is great interest in the topic – where the customer can port not only their fixed and mobile numbers but other elements of their package as well, up to the entire quad-play bundle.

Though the concept is an appealing one, in practice the challenges are large.  Imagine being a customer with a home phone, mobile phone, TV and broadband bundle, and moving it to a competitor.  Every provider’s service bundle is different, and porting the entire bundle will require the customer (or the recipient operator) to make careful choices.  In addition, speakers pointed out that the delay in porting different services will vary, so during a transition period the customer will have some services from the door operator and some from the recipient operator.

There are challenges aplenty there and it is clear that there is no consensus over the best way forward.  One might (at the risk of overestimating the similarities) say that the discussion on service portability is where the number portability was 25 years ago.

Overall, the conference was well-organised and the  speakers well chosen.  However, like with many other telecoms conferences, the voice of the customer was hardly heard at all.  Quality was mostly described  in narrow telecoms terms, rather than the quality as measured by the user.  Almost no primary or secondary research on customer experience was presented by regulators, operators or vendors.  At the end of the conference (I missed one talk) I had not learned anything about consumers’ expectations for porting and how well they were being met.

If the voice of the consumer is not heard, how will their needs be met?  It was ever thus in the telecoms industry – or at least, it has been for the last 25 years – and it is reason that OTT services like Whatsapp are eating SMS and MMS’s lunch.  Despite being excellent in what it did cover, by its omissions this conference reminded me again of why the telecoms industry needs to cop itself on and develop a passion for the customer, or risk its share of customer communications being progressively eroded.

Idiro to speak at IQPC conference on Mobile Number Portability

Idiro Technologies, a leading provider of advanced data analytics for enterprises, today announced it is to speak at the 2013 Global Summit on Number Portability.

As described in a recent Idiro blog post, Mobile Number Portability (MNP) is an important topic for nearly all mobile telcos.  Many countries allow customers to switch operators and keep their number.  Among those countries that have not implemented it yet, many are working towards implementation.

MNP is important for telecomms markets because it removes a bar to switching that keeps those with much equity in the number – in particular many business users – prisoner behind a high switching barrier.  The reduction in barriers to switching is of particular benefit to challenger operators against dominant incumbents.

Idiro is delighted to have been invited to speak at the Number Portability Global Summit in London in September 2013.  Idiro will be sharing its experience of the impact of number portability on mobile customer retention and on trends in mobile number porting by Idiro’s customers across the world.

Idiro’s speaker, Mr. Simon Rees, has also agreed to chair the second day of the conference. Idiro has worked with a number of mobile operators worldwide to manage the increased churn that comes with the introduction of portability into mobile markets and to help them profit from the customer acquisition opportunities that MNP introduction brings.

Said Georgina Hajdu, Director – Telecoms IQ, IQPC: “We are delighted to have Idiro share their expertise in mobile number portability at our Global Summit.  We are sure our attendees will benefit”.

Said Aidan Connolly, Idiro founder and CEO: “Number portability is a crucial dimension of telecoms retention, and Idiro is delighted to have been invited to speak at this event.”

For a detailed description of how Idiro can help mobile operators capitalise on mobile number portability (MNP), or for a discussion with Idiro MNP experts, please contacts us at experts@idiro.com.

ABOUT Telecoms IQ – IQPC:

Telecoms IQ deliver carefully focused, operator-led conferences that provide cutting-edge case studies, open discussions, practical knowledge transfer and invaluable networking opportunities. Website: www.telecom-iq.com.

Idiro wins major contract with Digicel Group

Digicel group logoDublin, 22nd January 2013

 

Idiro Technologies, a leading provider of advanced data analytics for enterprises, today announced it has signed a deal with Digicel Group to provide data analytics to a number of the company’s operating entities around the globe.

 

As part of its assignment, Idiro will provide comprehensive subscriber analytics and related consulting to Digicel marketing teams, who will use the service to structure customer-facing acquisition and retention programs.

 

A recognized innovator in the development of advanced data analytics technology, Idiro’s solutions help mobile operators combat churn and improve customer acquisition rates by predicting which mobile users are most likely to switch carriers.  Idiro analytics are also used to improve the results of mobile operator marketing campaigns by predicting which customers are most likely to take up offers for new tariffs, smartphones, and other services.   Idiro combines its analytics solutions with consulting services that create a comprehensive, data-driven marketing service.

 

“We are delighted to reach this agreement with Digicel, which is among the most recognised brands across the Caribbean, Central America and the Pacific region,” said Aidan Connolly, chief executive officer for Idiro. “This deal emphasises the strategic significance that Digicel places on properly using subscriber data to achieve positive business outcomes.”

 

Digicel carried out an intensive trial in a select market in 2012, where the churn reduction capability of Idiro’s analytics service was rigorously evaluated in a highly competitive environment.  Following a successful outcome, Idiro Technologies and Digicel Group have agreed to roll out Idiro’s marketing analytics service to operating companies in other Digicel markets.  The rollout is expected to continue through 2012 and 2013.

 

“We are impressed by Idiro’s technology, its responsiveness, and above all, by the proven ROI we witnessed in the trial,” said Stephen O’Leary, Group IT Director for Digicel.  “We look forward to working with Idiro in other markets, and expect similar successful outcomes”.

 

– Ends –

 

ABOUT IDIRO

Based in Dublin, Ireland, Idiro Technologies is an award-winning provider of marketing analytics to service providers and businesses around the world.  Idiro specialises in advanced predictive analytics for telecoms and online gaming companies, and is a recognized leader in ‘big data’ analytics consulting and the commercial deployment of social network analysis technologies.    For an overview of Idiro’s analytics services, watch the short video on our homepage www.idiro.com.

 

ABOUT DIGICEL

After 11 years of operation, Digicel Group Limited has over 13 million customers across its 31 markets in the Caribbean, Central America and the Pacific. The company is renowned for delivering best value, best service and best network.

 

Digicel is the lead sponsor of Caribbean, Central American and Pacific sports teams, including the Special Olympics teams throughout these regions. Digicel sponsors the West Indies cricket team and is also the title sponsor of the Digicel Caribbean Cup. In the Pacific, Digicel is the proud sponsor of several national rugby teams and also sponsors the Vanuatu cricket team.

 

Digicel also runs a host of community-based initiatives across its markets and has set up Digicel Foundations in Jamaica, Haiti and Papua New Guinea which focus on educational, cultural and social development programmes.

 

Digicel is incorporated in Bermuda and its markets comprise: Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Aruba, Barbados, Bermuda, Bonaire, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Curacao, Dominica, El Salvador, Fiji, French Guiana, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Nauru, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, St Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Suriname, Tonga, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos and Vanuatu. Digicel also has coverage in St. Martin and St. Barts in the Caribbean.

 

Visit www.digicelgroup.com for more information.

 

Media contact information

Simon D Rees, Sales & Marketing Director, Idiro Technologies.

+353 87 240 5999

simon.rees@idiro.com

How Idiro helps mobile operators profit from the introduction of mobile number portability

Mobile number portability (MNP) is being rolled out by telecoms regulators across the world. Simply put, MNP means that a mobile phone user can switch providers and keep her/his number.

And when MNP is implemented in a country, it always results in an increase in churn.  This represents a huge challenge for the mobile operators.

Idiro can help.  Idiro has helped mobile operators in a number of markets to deal with the challenges of MNP.  We help operators to minimise MNP churn and to target the right customers for acquisition, post-MNP.  Using Idiro’s Social Network Analysis (SNA) technology we use mobile operator call records (CDRs) to build a social graph of the mobile phone users in the country.  Using Idiro’s proprietary technology we then identify those at greatest risk of churning and porting their number, and also those customers of other networks who are most likely to join our customer’s network.  We set up an ongoing programme to provide these target lists every week.  Finally, our consultants work with the mobile operator to build the best campaigns to profit from MNP.

Idiro’s long experience of mobile number portability projects and our total dedication to customer satisfaction mean that mobile operators can sleep easy at night.

For a detailed description of how Idiro can help mobile operators capitalise on MNP, or for a discussion with Idiro MNP experts, please contacts us at experts@idiro.com.

We wish our blog readers a happy new year.

Complaining is contagious; focus on the influencers

OFCOM, the UK communications regulator, has just released its latest report on complaints about major telecoms providers in the UK. Some operators attract far more complaints than others. Of the mobile operators, Three UK attracts a consistently high level of complaints, while O2 UK customers tend to complain the least. This is an impressive achievement for O2.

Complaining is contagious chartOne big problem with complaining behaviour is that it’s contagious. Idiro carried out a study recently for an Asian mobile operator on the viral spread of complaining among their customer base. The study found that friends of complainers were far more likely to complain themselves than the overall customer base – so it seems that complaining can cause your friends to complain too.

This tallies with the findings of numerous surveys that report consumers more likely to share negative experiences with their friends than positive ones. This survey, for example, reports that consumers tell an average of nine people about good experiences, and 16 about bad experiences. The ease of communication brought by web 2.0 and ubiquitous mobile communications is only increasing those numbers.

So what to do about it? The obvious answer is to offer a service that eliminates all need to complain. However, even if it were feasible (it’s not), such a strategy might not serve the interests of the company’s shareholders. Finding and fixing the major causes of complaints is a good place to start and is at the heart of this year’s trendy buzzword in marketing, Customer Experience Management. But this is clearly not enough.

Idiro recommends that businesses focus also on identifying the influencers on your customer base. The top 10% of influencers typically have three times more influence that the average customer, according to studies carried out in many markets. Keeping these influencers happy will help cut off the contagion of complaints at the source. For those businesses with link data (telcos, multiplayer gaming companies, online social networks, etc.), Idiro can find the relevant influencers. Then your business can deploy the tools to give them a happy customer experience, increase their loyalty and decrease complaining and churn.