As a communications services provider, your brand ultimately depends on the health of your network. If you have under-performing assets or too much inaccurate data, your company’s customer experience and bottom line are at serious risk.
Network inefficiencies are costly. They reduce the pool of investment capital for new resources, products and service offerings. They inhibit your ability to (a) identify and understand customers, (b) personalize offers and (c) compete effectively in an unforgiving market.
To strengthen your network, the CSP team at Neustar recommends four key exercises. Each zeroes in on a common network weakness, helping turn operational flab into muscle. A stronger network means business agility, enabling smarter responses to network consolidations, the addition of new services, circuit-to-IP migration or network decommissioning. The result of each should be the same: a leaner, meaner network that delivers a superior customer experience and builds your brand equity.
1. Trim Stranded Assets and Underutilized Circuits
In a recent study, industry analysts Infonetics found that up to 15% of CSP network assets may be “stranded” at any given time. This includes network equipment that is under-billed, underused or simply outdated. Also, the market shift to IP-based communications has left many CSPs with unaccounted or under-utilized circuits. Commonly leased by companies that may also be direct competitors, these circuits can result in overpayments of more than $100,000 each year.
To squeeze out unnecessary equipment costs, start with a full network inventory audit. Locate all inventory assets across disparate databases, track utilization rates and compare that data with billing systems to uncover discrepancies between usage and billing. Using predictive analytics can save you money by anticipating under-utilization or under-billing.
2. Whip Your Data into Shape
Like most enterprises, CSP’s have growing volumes of data spread across systems and applications. Even regional service providers find it difficult to gain a single, reliable view of their operational and customer data because of data duplication, incomplete and out-of-date entries, human error and inconsistencies between databases. ”Dirty” data can lead to billing errors, delayed internal processes and regulatory fines.
Conduct a thorough data audit to uncover opportunities for greater efficiencies and network savings. You’ll identify data quality issues across your numerous sources. With a reliable data foundation, you can more effectively migrate and merge data as you transform your network, improving operations, compliance reporting and customer service. If you lack the bandwidth or expertise to do this audit in house, consult third-party specialists like the Neustar CSP team. Often, in-depth experience provides faster results. The savings unearthed can more than cover the cost of outside help.
3. Strengthen Your Number Inventory
Telephone numbers constantly move between different networks and databases because of number portability rules and processes. At any one time, a number might be in several ”states” such as active, available, reserved or ported. This means outdated, incomplete or inaccurate inventories – or in other words, money down the drain. Maintaining an active number – say a white pages listing – can cost $50 or more per year. If only 1 percent of 100,000 numbers is wrongly listed as active, de-listing would save up to $50K per year.
The answer is a rigorous inventory audit and reconciliation. In the case of directory listings, you’ll gain a clear understanding of your embedded base of numbers and discover better ways to manage numbers going forward. Accurate telephone number inventory will help prevent customer dissatisfaction from costly errors like assigning the same number to two parties. Again, if needed, seek third-party guidance on common data issues and compliance requirements.
4. Bulk Up Network Security
The advantages of moving to an IP-based network are well documented: lower costs, richer media services, easier integration. So too are the risks, as service providers open up their once-private networks to the very public Internet. Network hackers have taken a particular interest in communications networks, stealing billions of dollars each year in illegally obtained toll services and flooding networks with costly distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.
A security vulnerability assessment will find weak spots you can fix. For instance, VoIP security experts will share best practices for blocking DDoS attacks and resulting network floods that degrade voice and video service. You’ll learn to strengthen encryption and authentication to reduce identity and information theft. What’s more, you can identify ways to reduce toll fraud and illegal access to long-distance services.