It is no secret that the telecom industry is undergoing a drastic change brought forth by digital transformation. Historically, differentiation among telecom suppliers was mainly determined by pricing and quality of services. Now however, with customers feeling they can obtain comparable services from most suppliers, that focus has shifted—driven by improvements in technology and the way we do business—to how suppliers can make the customer experience frictionless.
During his two-plus decades in the telecom industry, Darren Kolb, now the Executive Director of the Verizon Partner Solutions (VPS) Client Services team, has held a variety of roles in segments ranging from enterprise and wholesale to small-medium business and government. Darren is now responsible for driving the digital transformation of Verizon’s wholesale organization—developing a new “Ease of Doing Business” platform and creating an improved digital customer experience.
For Darren and VPS, customer relationships are key in creating a partnership for success. With the bulk of business interactions now taking place online, the VPS Digital Transformation program has become one of our organization’s top priorities. Here are just a few ways digital transformation is shaping the telecom industry.
Data Is King
With customers seeking additional details on how to build their business with Verizon technology, Darren and his team have leveraged a world-class team of data scientists and tools to provide forecasting around key areas of client services and key initiatives, such as ordering, provisioning and more. This trend of broadly integrating data technologies into operating models is incredibly important, particularly as it relates to machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities.
As the telecom industry shifts from a “sense and respond” environment to a “predict and act” model, a tremendous competitive advantage is created that can be utilized for rapid optimization of processes and solutioning across all channels—from sales and marketing to client services. When it comes to customer experience, this approach enables operators to develop a progressive strategy centered on an ability to anticipate customer needs and, thus, allows them to proactively prepare solutions faster and more effectively than ever before.
The Digital Transformation program at VPS is focused on building out machine learning and artificial intelligence, and further developing automation capabilities across the organization, particularly with regards to how we can truly drive customer experience to new levels. One such project led by Darren was “Predictive Estimated Time to Restore,” which provides customers of certain VPS services [OWTA1] with a fully-automated, highly-accurate predictive restoral estimate based on a wide variety of data points analyzed in real-time.
Applied last year, “Predictive Estimated Time to Restore” was the first use case in the assurance space for fiber cuts, which can be very complex and significantly impactful for helping to set customer expectations appropriately. Realizing its importance and expanding even further, Darren and his team are taking steps to integrate data sciences in everything they do.
Simplification of Customer Experience
The goal for VPS in each case is a seamless, convenient and real-time experience. This is done through the use of simple tools like our Verizon Partner Solutions Exchange platform (VPS Exchange), which makes the online digital experience easier, faster and more convenient, while improving the ease of doing business.
Traditionally, the Verizon CARE (communication, accountability, responsiveness, empathy) model for customer service involved calling into a CARE center or initiating an email exchange with a CARE representative. This is evolving significantly, with the help of Darren and his team, toward online digital assistance and “click-to-chat” support.
With online digital assistance, customers can find solutions quickly by using an internet [OWTA1] -like search model. The search will return materials, job-aids and other valuable resources to assist customers in resolving their issues without the need to engage with a VPS team member. If online digital assistance doesn’t have the answer, customers will be able to establish a “Click-to-Chat” session in which a live VPS team member can serve them in real time, eliminating the delays inherent to email exchange. This feature is still in development, but expected to be rolled out soon.
VPS has been using APIs with our customers for many years. Recently, VPS has partnered with organizations like MEF and TM Forum to develop new API standards for the telecom industry—standards that will enable more B2B capabilities and allow customers to interact with suppliers more efficiently, including giving them improved transparency into the progress of requests (i.e., quotes, orders and repairs) submitted to the supplier.
With Darren and his industry-best team, VPS continues to drive operational excellence by discovering new process improvement initiatives, building new teams and finding new ways to leverage data sciences and analytics capabilities. This digital transformation is not just impacting our organization, but the telecom industry as a whole.
Executive Q&A with Eric D. Cevis:
Verizon Partner Solutions’ President, Eric D. Cevis, shares his view on how digital transformation is shaping the Telecom industry.
Q. How do you see the current state of Network automation, scalability and robustness especially when remote work has increased exponentially?
The current state of Network automation is dynamically changing, and the need for connectivity and automation has become even greater as more people are working and attending school from home. Network Connectivity is key, as companies continue to focus on using technology to differentiate themselves from their competitors. The ability to deliver innovation is paramount, and a secure, high capacity, global network is the delivery mechanism for this innovation. Thanks to the many products in Verizon’s portfolio, including BlueJeans video conferencing, we were able to seamlessly transition into video meetings with our teams and customers to replace the missing face to face engagements, keeping our customers connected and businesses operating at the highest level.
Q. VPS has established a “Digital Transformation” program. Can you share about the goals and elements of this program?
Yes, VPS has established a program called Verizon Partner Solutions Exchange. Our Executive Director of the Verizon Partner Solutions (VPS) Client Services team and Director of the VPS Client Services team, have been working on this initiative for several years. We started the journey back in 2017 with a plan for the program, then we had a beta version in 2018, launched the program in 2019, and we saw major growth in 2020. The plan for 2021 and going forward is to transform and innovate in the space. We want the VPS Exchange to cover the full customer journey from products through assurance. The VPS Exchange provides ease of doing business, product simplification, APIs, and automation of quotes/ordering. Recently, VPS has partnered with MEF and TM Forum to develop new API standards for the telecom industry—standards that will enable more B2B capabilities and allow customers to interact with suppliers more efficiently, including giving them improved transparency into the progress of requests (i.e., quotes, orders and repairs) submitted to the supplier. Some of the functions we delivered recently, based on feedback from our customers, include setup, shop (Catalog, Quote to Order, Price Options, Status) and assurance (Repair Ticket and Care Request). This roadmap is fundamental for our mutual success in the industry, with the three tenets being simplification, modernization and giving more control to customers.
Q. What is the most exciting development / change you see?
I am excited to see how the need for digital transformation has accelerated. It was always top of mind, but now it’s needed more -- and more quickly -- than ever. Voice of the Customer is so important to us, so I’m excited to see what we have learned from our VOCs over time and how we put those developments into our process. Our current and future platforms help VPS enable customers to go where they want, do what they want -- anywhere around the globe. VPS’ mantra is connecting people, places, and things across the globe, securely and simply. It’s all about helping our customers do business better.