MVNOs and IOT providers have to attract customers early. When they have a new and competitive offering and marketing money is being spent, it is essential that an MVNO attracts customers. This creates a situation where a new business has to manage a sharp influx in business all at once and all the business process challenges that creates. If the MVNO fails to get a grip on its processes and this causes significant problems for customers, their brand can be badly damaged.
A good example of this happening in telecoms, if not to an MVNO, was when TalkTalk launched in 2005. This upstart ISP was going to revolutionise the business by offering “free internet”. They launched at speed. I was working for Carphone Warehouse (the parent company of TalkTalk) at the time. I wasn’t working on TalkTalk projects but everyone at the base level was talking about the reckless timescales being forced on them by TalkTalk management. After they launched there were huge problems with connecting people to the new service which made newspaper headlines. A customer satisfaction poll by uSwitch in November 2006 placed TalkTalk and Orange joint bottom for customer satisfaction. TalkTalk managed to recover and now has a reasonable position in the UK broadband market, but MVNOs need to learn the lesson.
The only way to scale quickly but reliably is to to have a grip on your business processes and to constantly adapt them as the business changes. Without this one department will make a change without thinking about the consequences for another department. That department will be unable to cope with this unannounced change and customers will be left in the lurch. We need to establish clear contracts between teams, or internal Service Level Agreements (SLA), that define the Five Ws – who, what, where, when and why of what needs to be done.
Documenting these internal SLAs can be done in many ways. A simple document living in Confluence or Sharepoint might be enough. Alternatively the formality of a document in a legal style can be a good way to focus everyone’s attention. A link to a proper legal contract may be required with third party suppliers. We always prefer to use process flow diagrams as they are faster to create and easier to understand and communicate. At the least they can supplement formal documentation.
This example diagram took me around 5 minutes to draw. Describing this process in writing would take far longer and would have much more ambiguity.
Clear business processes make it possible to use low code business process orchestration tools to automate repetitive tasks in billing and customer support. The diagram above was created in one of these tools. These tools allow fast creation of user interfaces that customer support teams can use to drive consistent processes and communicate between their teams. The low price and flexibility of these systems allow them to be the duct tape that glues your system together temporarily or permanently in times of uncertainty and fast change. Integration can be set up between your existing systems and change can be made as quickly as the systems were set up in the first place.
Having clear and documented business processes help MVNOs stay lean and agile. They keep costs down while improving service. Virtuser can guide and help you establish rock solid business processes while keeping flexibility.
MVNOs are service management businesses. Their reason to exist is to bring cheaper prices and better service to customers than network operators. MNVOs do this by being more agile and focussed on customer needs than the network operators.
The main indicator that network operators look for in a successful, profitable MVNO is low churn. O2 recognised this early and have advanced from 50% of the UK market with three MVNOs and now they have 70% with two more.
The MVNO industry recognises this and makes customer service their top priority. The Consumers Association in the UK (usually known as Which?) surveys and ranks all networks in the UK for customer satisfaction. In 2022, the top eight were all MVNOs. O2 was the highest ranked MNO in 8th place.
This lack of focus on business processes eats into the profits of the network operators. For example, eSIMs have been far slower to take off than we envisioned 10 years ago. Part of this is because network operators usually still need physical SIMs as their processes have not flexed to handle eSIMs. MVNOs have moved into that gap and are capturing the market.
Establishing and recording business processes helps teams communicate and have clear boundaries. Hand offs between teams are where processes fall down when there is business change. If the end-to-end process is not examined, tested and revised based on a feedback loop, breakdowns will happen, leading to churn. There has to be a high-level strategic view of how teams cooperate between each other. Relying on goodwill to handle broken processes does not scale over time.
A common trap in large, older organisations is that processes are held in a few core peoples’ heads. Managers have to establish a culture of knowledge sharing through documentation. A classic, world-leading example of this from another industry, is Toyota. Their Lean Manufacturing method relies on continuous improvement and respect for people. Their whole culture pivots on improvement of processes ingrained at the lowest level. Toyota cars are world industry leaders in reliability. The MVNO industry needs to embed these lessons.
MNOs and MVNOs all offer a similar process chain from SIM provisioning to customer onboarding to retention. This has been codified in a telecoms industry-standard operating model – the Business Process Framework (eTOM).
The eTOM is exhaustive and fits MNOs, but a lightweight approach is better for MVNOs with tight margins and fast timelines. The right balance is essential. Too much process and money wastes in bureaucracy. Too little process and customers churn as business processes fall apart. Process management does not need large teams of permanent employees. A lightweight approach is best but regular review and constant oversight with clear process owners is essential.
MVNOs need to follow telecoms industry regulations, laws and standards. Business processes help MVNOs comply by providing a framework for decision-making and operations. MVNOs have to prove that they are in full control of their business.
Virtuser have always worked with larger companies. Our agility gives us an advantage in integrating with ponderous big firms. Our modern, advanced tools allow us to have lightweight processes. Twenty years ago, managing an HSS would have meant editing configuration files on physical servers in a datacentre. Digital transformation gives us a single GUI that can handle all core processes in the cloud. One of our clients recently provisioned 67,000 SIMs by accident. Our main network operations teams were in a different time zone. Rather than wake that team up in the middle of the night, we were able to cancel the SIMs in minutes. Our advanced tooling and deep industry experience means we can adopt lightweight processes. We understand the importance of establishing an organisation level process view.
MVNOs must have a tight grip on processes because agility and service are top priority. Virtuser have the experience and expertise to help you control them with an agile, lightweight approach.