Mobile network operators today are facing a big problem - the 'Vanishing Customer' - as their subscribers are silently leaving. And when customers do stay, they use fewer mobile calling services or service units, and provide the operator with lower average revenue per unit (ARPU), according to a recent market analysis by Frost & Sullivan. This article is copyright 2014 The Best Customer Guide.

Since mobile network operators are attempting to shift their revenue models to match customer usage models-providing all-you-can-eat calling and messaging but imposing metered data plans-customers are changing lanes, too, using data largely or solely via Wi-Fi, and using free video-conferencing services.

According to Frost & Sullivan, using Big Data could help them to better understand their customers and develop better customer profiles. Having done this, operators would then need to take the next logical step: launch a customer loyalty programme.

In its analysis entitled 'Injecting OSS/BSS with Big Data Yields Big Dividends for Operators through Customer Loyalty' (in cooperation with Comarch), the company explained the benefits of implementing Big Data-driven customer loyalty programmes.

"When operators take a look back, however, they realise they are sitting on a gold mine of customer data," said Jeff Cotrupe, industry director of Big Data & Analytics for Frost & Sullivan. "Processing and analysing this Big Data results in customer profiles and personalised services. This enables operators to create customer loyalty programmes that maximise revenue retention and drive new revenues."

Part of that evolution occurs when operators gamify their loyalty programmes, providing incentives for a wide range of customer actions. Another part of the evolution is combining loyalty with mobile commerce management (MCM) techniques such that the loyalty programme becomes an effective mobile touch point for both customer retention and revenue generation.

Unfortunately, while operators' knowledge of their customers is improving in many ways, they suffer from two major blind spots. First is a failure to employ social network analysis (SNA) to get closer, not just to individual customers, but to the community of users as a whole. Second is a failure to integrate the loyalty programme into the existing operator IT infrastructure: the operator's Operations Support System (OSS)/ Business Support System (BSS). Cross-IT integration is essential to inform the loyalty programme with the best available data from all sources.

"Data solutions that are not integrated, or poorly integrated, with the existing IT infrastructure, are a limiting factor on the anticipated growth of the Big Data market," added Cotrupe. "This prevents companies from receiving maximum value from their data investments because companies are trying to base Big Data initiatives on incomplete information. They also suffer from a holdover of the old 'IT glass walls' concern: business users still need to 'ask IT for help' to derive value from the Big Data systems."

"Pre-integrating a customer loyalty system with OSS/BSS is the best way to go, for both operators and providers," concluded Cotrupe. "For one thing, it ensures that the operator is not taking on yet another point solution-no matter how effective it may be-which the operator then must integrate into its existing OSS/BSS infrastructure."