USINESS PROBLEM-SOLVING CASECustomer Relationship Management Helps Celcom Become Number OneCelcom Axiata Berhad (Celcom) is the oldest mobile telecommunications company in Malaysia and its largest, with a reputation for quality and reliability that is unrivaled in that country. Nevertheless, maintaining its competitive edge has been a struggle. In 2006, Celcom dropped to third place among Malaysian cellular providers and posted losses. Since then, management has worked feverishly to turn the company around, and Celcom has regained the top spot in its market. To do this required major changes in the business, including a new CEO, changes to corporate culture, and new technology and business processes for managing the customer experience. To become number one in the Malaysian market again, Celcom’s senior management knew that the company had to build better networks and market more aggressively, but the real key to success lay in improving the customer experience. According to Suresh Sidhu, Celcom’s chief corporate and operations officer, there will always be a competitor who can beat you on price, or even out-innovate you. However, it’s much harder for a competitor to disrupt a strong, positive relationship with customers. Celcom believes it’s the market’s best differentiator. The Malaysia telecommunications market is quite mature, so there are few opportunities to acquire new customers. Customer retention is essential, as is luring customers away from competitors. Malaysia’s customer base of 14 million is large and diverse, which requires multiple approaches to interacting with them. Older customers prefer in-person service from Celcom dealers or retail outlets, whereas sophisticated young urban users prefer to do business online. All want reliable mobile service. Companies such as Skype, Google, and Netflix provide services that companies access over a variety of networks and devices, which can disrupt traditional telecommunications billing models. For Celom to be number one in data services, it would have to build enterprise systems that would be able to collaborate with these new players. Celcom was unable to address these challenges because it had a siloed information technology architecture and business processes that could not provide a complete view of customers. For instance, customer data from one system such as billing were not easily available to other systems such as inventory. This is a common problem for mobile providers because carriers have traditionally counted customers by looking at SIM (subscriber identity modules in mobile phones) IDs. However many customers have multiple devices and SIMs for personal and work uses. Celcom needed systems that could identify and serve each customer rather than that person’s SIMs. Otherwise, Celcom service representatives would waste valuable company and customer time making sense of a customer’s multiple SIM IDs scattered among various records in the system. The company wanted to be able to see a customer as a specific person, not a SIM or a number. For Celcom, customers included not only mobile users but also its dealers and resellers. Celcom has nearly 30,000 channel partners who provide many in-person customer services, such as handset sales and activation. Any change in technology and business processes would need to improve the customer experience for Celcom’s partners as well as for the company itself. Celcom’s solution involved changes to the company’s technology, processes, and people. At the core is an Oracle-based business support system (BSS) that consolidated customer records, centralized inventory management, and sped up business processes. This system consolidates customer information into a single view of the customer to improve customer service across online, call center, and retail channels. The Oracle implementation included new customer portal sites and retail stores as well as an Oracle Siebel call center system and Oracle inventory management and Communications Order and Service Management applications. Celcom’s chief sales and commercial officer Eric Chong was co-chairman along with Sidhu of the BSS transformation. They kicked off the project by asking two questions: What do Celcom’s business users need from BSS? What experiences should BSS deliver to Celcom’s customers? The BSS project team asked approximately 700 Celcom employees in customer service, retail, marketing, and other divisions to list the top ten experiences that users and dealers wanted, such as fast activation, less paperwork, and always having the most popular phones in stock. The BSS transformation team then developed technical and business process requirements based on these Top 10 lists and then compared offerings from several vendors. Celcom chose Oracle as the primary technology provider for the new customer experience management system. The company wanted the most complete suite of customer relationship management (CRM) tools that would support multichannel and cross-channel marketing efforts. Oracle seemed the best fit and had the most functionality built-in without requiring additional modifications. Celcom enlisted Accenture consultants to manage the implementation and EMC for storage technology. BT Group assisted with network deployment and ongoing network support. Celcom’s transformation plan entailed retaining some of Celcom’s existing systems, and the Celcom team liked Oracle Communications’ modularity and interoperability as well as its cross-channel capabilities. Oracle Communications is a cross-channel product suite that provides a variety of services, including broadband data, wireless data, and mobile voice services. It helps communications services providers such as Celcom manage and integrate customer interactions across multiple channels to improve customer support, reduce problem resolution time, customize marketing to narrow market segments, and expedite time-to-market for new products and services. Celcom understood the importance of cross-channel customer experiences and wanted to use this to differentiate itself from its competitors. Celcom’s systems solution enables customer interactions to traverse its retail shop, online shops, call center, and partner/dealer channels seamlessly. BSS provides a single customer record, regardless of how many services (mobile, landline, and data) and devices a customer purchases, that is populated with data from various touchpoints. By consolidating customer data into a unified customer record, Celcom can offer tailored promotion offers in real time that fit a customer’s individual history. Celcom’s holistic view of a customer includes family relationships, which has special significance when marketing in Asia. The company can see every aspect of service each customer uses, which makes cross-marketing and up-selling more efficient. Celcom completed the BSS implementation in just 18 months. Celcom replaced 17 systems with one seven-module Oracle system. Oracle Communications Consulting experts played a crucial role in helping Celcom meet its customer satisfaction goals by providing strong program governance, advising about best practice approaches and working with Celcom to improve deployment speed, enhance its customer experience, and reduce operational costs. Celcom officials explicitly tried to get employees invested in the new system to ensure that it aligned with the business. The company enlisted project directors from both business and IT departments. Representatives from sales and marketing chaired the technology selection committees to ensure that people outside of IT were making the case for the project. Top management, including sales and marketing department heads and Celcom’s CEO, are part of a steering committee for customer experience management that meets every two weeks. A group of business advocates was charged with championing the causes most important to the business staff. Their connections to business departments also helped expedite funding for the project and obtain review and approval of project plans and specifications. In addition, Celcom also replaced some telecommunications technical terms with ones that were more easily understood by nontechnical users. For example, business support systems (which included applications for customer-facing business operations) were renamed the Best Sales and Service (BSS) platform. BSS conveyed the key objectives of Celcom’s business and technology transformation better. Celcom’s integrated systems make it possible for call center representatives to respond much more rapidly to customer queries. In the past, customer agents needed to toggle between two and five screens to do their work. Now they work with just a single screen, which increases efficiency. Sidhu estimates that using fewer screens cuts average call-handling time by 15 to 20 percent. BSS includes a new tablet-based app for Celcom dealers that makes signing a customer up for a new mobile phone completely paperless. New-phone activation time has been cut from two hours to two minutes. Fewer activations require manual followup. Celcom dealers and customers are happier. Celcom’s dealers used to be paid once a month. With BSS, they can be paid twice a month and even more frequently in the future. Chong believes that just being able to pay dealers more frequently will enable Celcom to take market share from competitors. Inventory of mobile handsets at Celcom facilities and dealer stores is now centralized and managed using BSS. Dealers can see what Celcom has in stock, and Celcom inventory managers can monitor the stock on dealer shelves. More detailed inventory control helps Celcom move more products because it can ship fast-selling units to dealers before shortages occur or have marketers target promotions in regions where the company wants to move specific products. This would have been impossible before. Salespeople are beginning to use big data collected in BSS to manage sales by region better. Celcom now can provide a single consolidated product catalog, which helps it get products out faster to the market—another way the new system will help Celcom achieve its goal of becoming number one. Celcom is now much closer to achieving its brand vision, pleasing its customers and exceeding their expectations.Case Study Questions1. What was the problem at Celcom that was described this case? What people, organization, and technology factors contributed to this problem?2. What was Celcom’s business strategy and what was the role of customer relationship management in that strategy?3. Describe Celcom’s solution to its problem. What people, organization, and technology issues did the solution have to address?4. How effective was this solution? How did it affect the way Celcom ran its business and its business performance?5. Describe two operational activities and two business decisions that were improved by Celcom’s new CRM capabilities.