I used to work for a very prestigious mobile operator in the country. I actually worked there for almost 10 years.
When I first joined the company, whenever I met someone and told them I worked for X, the discussions were rather pleasant, unrealistic but pleasant;
Get me a good package noh men?
I’ll see what I can do (I really couldn’t)
With a good number, easy to remember?
Incoming totally free, possibly outgoing also
Ha ha, let me see what I can do (I mean I really couldn’t)
Couple of years later I met the same person, and the discussion was not so pleasant;
You still work for X?
Yeah, still going strong
Bloody rouges no men, this is daylight robbery
You people are just taking my money
I can assure you, nothing of the sort happens
Here, I put a reload for 500, 150 already gone, some bugger VAS has taken it. The only Vass I know died sometime ago
No, those are services you use.
I don’t use anything
Ok, ok, let me check
I’m sure we all have had this experience, from a victims point of view or from the accused. Now, though a bit eccentric, it’s not wholly untrue. This is part of the side effects some OTT players bring to the table. See, operators can’t build all the services they want in-house, no operator has the capacity to do so. Besides if you close your doors as an operator to all OTT players because of a few black sheep, you are missing out.
Innovation is something that happens in the weirdest places, you can’t mass produce it, the option is to adopt it from anywhere it happens. This is also how, as an operator, you stay relevant. If a competitor has signed up with a 3rd party vendor to provide a killer service, that’s going cause fret amongst your customers, even churn in some cases. It’s pretty evident that as an operator you need to deal with OTT players and 3rd party vendors to stay relevant.
For an VAS to work, they need connectivity to an operator, maybe access some resources of the customer, ability to communicate with customers and of course to charge them! I mean none of us a running a charity here.
With all these to think about should you still go ahead? How? Yes, of course and Well, use protection! I mean, better safe than sorry right?
Operators are very protective of their customers. Their credibility as a trustworthy service provider is more important to them than any amount profit a service would bring. There market dominance (or otherwise) depends on it. For this reason operators spend a lot of resources to provide the best services to their customers with a sense of protection.
What challenges do operators face?
TTM (In the telco industry, we love acronyms)
Time to market is key, if both operator A and B are integrating with service X, whoever manages to launch it first scores a advantage over the other. It establishes them as the innovator, the disruptor of the status quo,if you will. One challenge in this is an operator uses services from a plethora of vendors and in-house systems, each most of the time built as a silo. If the vendor tries to integrate with each of those services, valuable time is lost, not cool for TTM. Not to mention the VPN to access to those services. Solution? Well have a single platform which can unify those services and expose them as neat, easy to understand APIs. Super easy to use and platform independent. Use a more widely adopted mechanisms (OAuth2, Mutual SSL, HMAC, etc) to secure your APIs.
To Share or Not to Share
Any service offered to a customer, will be accessing resources belonging to the customer (Name, DOB, Credit Limit) or on behalf of a customer (SMS, Device Info, DCB). Shouldn’t the customer have a say in this? Of course they should! The customer should know the information required to use a service and if they are conference sharing it. Solution? Give the digital citizen his/her right to decide. Consent can be captured before allowing a 3rd party to access user information, after using the service the customer should be able to control access to information shared, revoke it or even execute their right to be forgotten.
Show me the money
This one is tricky, the customer needs to know whenever they are being charged or committing to a charge. The vendor on the other hand, also need to have a guarantee that they are getting paid for what they offer. The silly conversation at the beginning of this read is directly related to this, the customer in that case never knew a service was activated on their account, because there was no consent at activation or AOC (Advice of Charge, acronyms people!) before/after the charge.
From the vendors POV, they need to make sure the customer still has sufficient funds to consume the service. Need to keep the vendor notified of any unsuccessful charging attempts on a customer account to the vendor can suspend the service or engage the customer in a micro-charging model.
The solution here again is to let the customer decide what they want and how much would it cost them. Letting the vendor manage the charging for a service is not the smartest choice either, the operator should be able to carry out the charge and notify both parties of the status. The vendor should be able to define the charging plan for the service and the customer needs to accept it, and then we can pronounce them service provider and customer.
Here’s a little secret, the company I work for, we provide solutions to all of the above problems and more! As we have been in the shoes of the receiving end of grievances from both customers and vendors alike, we feel you. That’s what made us try to solve these issues. Trust me it’s not something you just do and forget, oh no. It requires continuous involvement and refinement to make it work. So if you need to know more about what we do, don’t hesitate to hit us up!
P.S. Credits for the title should go to Gwyneth Paltrow 😉