"Mind the Gap!"

Anyone who has travelled on the London Underground has heard this recorded message as the doors of the train open at certain stations. It's one of the "trademarks" of the city. The warning also applies to Communication Service Providers pursuing enterprise customers in the B2B market.

In recent market research conducted by Vanson Bourne, 280 enterprises across five countries were asked why they purchase ICT services from their CSP. The top three responses given were:

1. Reliability
2. Quality of Support
3. Price

These three reasons were cited by roughly the same amount of respondents, but in different order, when those enterprise customers rated ICT services from IT providers and from Value Added Resellers (VAR).

The gap appears when we match what B2B customers want and what CSPs think they those customers find important. CSPs, in a separate survey conducted by European Communications * magazine, were asked what they felt enterprise customers are concerned about in connection with their ICT futures. CSPs felt that multi-national corporations (MNCs) are concerned about Reliability (20%), Cost (20%) and integration with existing communications systems (20%). Noticeable by its absence is quality of support. It is a big gap too. Around 60% of enterprises put it as first or second choice. Support doesn’t appear at all on the CSP survey responses.

The gap exists because providing superior quality of support is difficult in an integrated ICT services landscape. The front-line channels are many and varied, spanning client managers, channel partners, Web self-service and more. The back office is always a heterogeneous environment comprising multiple system, product and organisational silos. Additionally, the larger the enterprise customer, the more likely it is that they demand a complex and tailored service offering which requires partners for fulfilment and service delivery. Connecting those dots and delivering superior quality of support is tough.

It's imperative for CSPs to address the quality of support question, though, because enterprise customers rate IT suppliers and VARs higher than CSPs in this regard. CSPs must be able to use their customer and business processes to innovate in the delivery of customer experience and support while they simultaneously manage the front-line channels and back office complexity.

At Pega, we're helping drive innovation at CSPs such as Telstra and Vodafone that are leading the way by taking a customer-centric approach to enterprise ICT services and using their business processes as differentiation. This approach benefits the other two factors that enterprises regard highly: reliability and price. The process approach means that customer experience is delivered consistently and reliably, regardless of channel, and the cost-to-serve is drastically reduced through efficiency, reuse and appropriate channel choices.

CSPs that want to excel in the enterprise ICT services market need to mind the gap between their customers' expectations and their capabilities to deliver high-quality customer experience. Otherwise, they risk having a nasty encounter with the third rail of declining enterprise market share.

* Page 17, figure 7 of European Communications, Q4 2012.

You can download the Enterprise ICT Spending Preferences & Needs Report to discover how you should be managing your enterprise customer relationships and monetizing services in this increasingly competitive environment.