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Q&A: Mark Price, director, CoralTree

coraltree_logo_cmyk CoralTree director Mark Price talks to DTVE about the billing and customer relations challenges facing TV service providers as they deliver multiscreen and personalised services.

What are the main billing and CRM challenges facing service providers and content owners as they seek to support the delivery of services to multiple devices, including tablets and smartpCoraltree Systems Ltdhones as well as TV set-tops?
For many operators a key consideration is its pricing strategy for multiple devices. To date, operators have used multi-device services as a competitive differentiator, bundling the service at no additional charge to customers, but limiting the number of devices per account. However, as the market develops, consumer expectation is expected to drive more flexibility for multi-device usage to match family viewing habits. Operators will likely adopt variable pricing strategies for different package offerings to provide more choice and help generate revenues. This is where having a flexible billing capability is crucial to support real-time charging of content, dynamic pricing structures, and multi-service and device offers. Data capture, authentication, and service activation for multiple devices and technologies is a new challenge for most operators. Many CRM and order management systems are not able to cope with these requirements, but investment in their IT will have to be made to support the growing demand.

How well placed are multiservice operators to deliver a single bill for all services they provide – such as TV, both linear and on-demand, fixed and mobile broadband and fixed line telephony? How essential is this ability to their business?
Service providers in European markets where DTV, VOD and triple-play services are prevalent have had to invest in their CRM and billing infrastructure to manage and bill customers. However, in markets where operators are offering basic subscription based TV packages, it is unlikely that their billing systems can be enhanced cost effectively to support multiple service billing on a single statement. There have been long running debates in the business regarding the benefits of single bills for multiple services, versus bill shock, these debates will no doubt continue. Meanwhile it is commonly understood that bundling of services is key to driving customer loyalty. So the ability to offer and charge service bundles would appear to be a must – whether an operator flows that down to billing and payments is another question.

How well placed are service providers to bill individuals rather than households for TV and broadband services and what needs to be put in place to support this?
Again, this is another area where operators have been evolving their CRM and billing capabilities to cope with a more flexible management of the individual customer rather then a household or premise. However, it is a complex situation, especially when taking into account regulation around billing or data protection. That aside, an important consideration is to understand who is the customer and how can these ‘individuals’ be identified? Households can be made up of a range of people – the person who pays the bill, the channel viewer(s), children, or lodger. Many consumers consider this type of billing and insight a bit too ‘big brother’ and it will likely receive push back, but ultimately the customers will probably have the final say. In the meantime, operators will continue to analyse how best to serve and retain the customer, whether a household or individual.

How well placed are current systems to accommodate the ongoing shift in viewing and consumption habits away from linear TV to on-demand and à la carte patterns of consumption?
Operators recognise and are looking at their systems to match this shift in customer demand, which is definitely headed towards on-demand becoming the norm. This is a similar situation to the single bill, from a systems capability point-of-view. In countries where more advanced services are already popular and in demand, operators would have the advanced infrastructure in place to accommodate an on-demand model. Those with an existing next generation IT infrastructure will be able to quickly take advantage of technological and consumer advancements and trends, as well as being able to do more dynamic marketing, such as creating bundle offers to up-sell and cross-sell services. In contrast to this, where linear TV is still common they are unlikely to have the advanced BSS systems required to cost effectively support new services, such as VOD or TV Everywhere. As these services grow in popularity, driven by consumer demand, if operators do not invest in their IT, competitors and new entrants, like OTT players will increasingly steal more market share.

To what extent do operators need to install completely new systems to cope with changes in the consumption patters and to what extent can they still use legacy systems in a way that makes economic sense?
Some of the BSS systems on the market today have evolved from legacy systems, which despite on-going investment are often constrained by the underlying architecture. We believe that this is not a viable option. Next generation systems need to be installed to service the demands from consumers. TV anywhere, on any device, family hierarchy, etc., and we do not predict a slow down in the pace of change in this dynamic market. That said, many operators cannot afford the capital outlay of a full rip and replace solution, but there are options. Implement incremental components, augment existing infrastructure with new capabilities, or select vendors offering opex pricing models, such as SaaS – to align to the business strategy. For the operator, it is best to find the right partner who has integrity and who is interested in developing alongside to enhance their business to better serve customers.

What are the main areas you are focusing on currently in terms of new product development and innovation?
CoralTree has recently launched daVinci, a next generation, end-to-end BSS suite. daVinci offers innovative solutions across sales and marketing, CRM, order inventory, and revenue management functions and supports innovative capability, such as multi-channel contact, including social media, a powerful graphical workflow engine, flexible sales commissioning module, and a scalable real-time rating and billing engine – a suite pre-configured to meet the needs of multi-service communications and media operators. Developed without the complexity of addressing existing component integration or customer upgrade paths, daVinci is not constrained by legacy. The suite has been designed to be forward-looking, flexible and scalable to support business growth from start-up to tier 1 operator. Our team has extensive experience in the BSS sector, which we combined to develop this exciting proven BSS suite, with leading operators already on-board. We believe that thinking about tomorrow is key to the success of today.

For more about CoralTree visit its new website.

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