Personal service

The ability to offer personalised services and solutions could be a key weapon in the battle to meet customer expectations and achieve a competitive edge. Bill Chard, senior director, product management and development, Evolving Systems, looks at some of the benefits.

Tags: Evolving Systems IncorporatedSim CardsUnited Arab Emirates
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Personal service Evolving Systems’ Bill Chard says offering personalised numbers allows operators to connect more closely with their customers.
By  Bill Chard Published  January 17, 2010 Communications Middle East & Africa Logo

Delivering number choice represents a highly effective way to build market share, reduce churn and tap into a rich new seam of revenues.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to do this effectively using today’s pre-provisioning model for Sim card distribution. The arrival of Dynamic Sim Allocation (DSA) changes the situation significantly, introducing new technology which allows phone numbers and other resources to be allocated to new Sim cards at the point of first use.

 For decades now, individuals have been prepared to pay thousands of pounds a time for the privilege of having their own personalised car number plate. In recent years, mobile phone numbers have been monetised in a similar way. 

In many parts of the world, and in parts of the Middle East, where high disposable incomes are common, the ability to choose a personalised number exerts a powerful attraction for prepaid users. African operators are currently focused more on optimising use of core network capacity and minimising the costs of Sim card distribution but as the market matures, the opportunity to achieve enhanced levels of customer engagement through number personalisation is likely to become a stronger driver.

Sometimes, interest in personalised numbers is driven by cultural factors, or by a straightforward desire for a combination that is easy to remember or has significance to a given individual – a sequence of digits that ‘spell out’ a birthday, or consecutive numbers for different family members.

The ability to offer this kind of service provides operators with an additional source of income as well as a means of attracting higher spending customers and boosting average revenue per user (ARPU).

However, as they look to roll out number choice to prepaid users, many operators face a series of frustrations. Often, they are limited to offering the service via a flagship store. Even then, the selection is typically restricted to numbers allocated to Sim cards stored on the premises.

The distribution model used by most operators today means that the telephone number is associated with the card early in the process - typically weeks before going on sale. The use of this pre-provisioning approach means that the number has to be paired with a specific Sim card in various systems on the operator’s network. Typically, it is even printed on the packaging containing the card. From the perspective of both operator and user, this is unsatisfactory as it mitigates against flexibility in number selection.

New approach

Fortunately, a new approach has emerged which allows numbers to be allocated dynamically, providing an opportunity to offer number choice at the time of first use via the handset. This is more convenient for the subscriber and the user experience is  further enhanced, as the choice of available  numbers is much wider than it would otherwise be.

DSA has access to all numbers available for allocation. A menu containing a series of simple questions is presented to the user on the handset when the Sim is first activated. This provides a list of available numbers and often also includes a search for vanity or golden numbers, corresponding to letters on the telephone keypad.

Also, because the system is in the operator’s network, users have access through their handset to a greater range of numbers than the retailer has available in store. To complement this approach, the handset dialogue can be customised to support a tiered charging structure, enabling operators to more effectively monetise specific combinations.

 From the operator’s perspective, the ability to provision numbers at first use means that Sim cards in the distribution channel do not tie up numbers until that point and a lost or damaged Sim card does not mean a wasted number. As a result, it becomes much easier for the operator to ensure an adequate supply of Sims and mobile numbers to their target markets.

 Extending this model further, the interaction with the subscriber at time of first use provides an opportunity for the operator to deliver additional value added services to further build competitive advantage.

 As we look to the future, flexible number personalisation for prepaid users looks set to become an increasingly valuable tool in operator arsenals across the Middle East, Africa and the rest of the world.

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