Mark Williams is the Senior Vice President and General Manager for Acision in Asia Pacific. Mr Williams brings with him over 30 years of experience in the telecoms and IT industry. Prior to Acision, Mr Williams headed the global sales team in Amdocs where he also held the position of VP for Australia and New Zealand. Prior to Amdocs, at Ericsson Australia, he served as VP services for ANZ and as VP for the global service delivery centres in Asia Pacific. Mr Williams also held the position of inaugural Country Manager for Sony Ericsson in Australia following the merger of Ericsson and Sony’s mobile handset business. Mark Williams has an MBA (Executive) from the Australian Graduate School of Management, University of New South Wales, Australia.
Mobile subscribers are now using their phones for more than voice and text. Nevertheless, voice still generates up to 70 per cent of mobile operators’ revenues, but these revenues are threatened and operators need new tools to maintain profitability. Visual Voicemail, Missed Call Alerts, Voice SMS, and Email Push are among the new solutions that operators are using to build call-generated revenues. By optimizing voice-messaging systems, stemming revenue leaks and stimulating additional calling, operators can often compensate for declining call revenue.
The emergence and rapid adoption of smartphones means that mobile users are using their phones beyond just voice and text. However, voice remains as a critical mobile service, commanding up to 70 per cent of mobile operators’ revenues, about US$690 billion. Despite this major contribution, research suggests that voice services are under threat, with ARPUs expected to decline to US$116 in 2013 from US$178 in 20081. So mobile operators are looking for ways to stop voice revenue erosion, and maintain sustainable voice incomes in the future. However, as more voice service bundles come to market, the profitability of voice is under threat; mobile operators are searching for new and more compelling applications and services aimed at offsetting the commoditization of their core product. In addition, mobile operators are rushing to keep pace with the evolution of consumer adoption and usage patterns by addressing specific pain points through the deployment of individual solutions such as Visual Voicemail, Missed Call Alerts, Voice SMS, and Email Push. A more holistic approach is needed, however, to identify and address numerous revenue impact points, so operators can optimize their systems and maximize voice revenue opportunities with minimal investment. Building voice revenue Mobile operator voicemail systems are typically underutilized, partly due to system configurations that drive certain consumer behaviours. In fact, recent studies show that a portion of all wireless subscribers tend to turn off their mobile phones when they do not wish to be available. Some subscribers also tend to swap SIM cards in their handsets to take advantage of different charging schemes. This has a direct impact on call completion rates, and usually leads to revenue leaks for the operator. By optimizing voice-messaging systems, stemming revenue leaks from impact points, and influencing and controlling additional calling activity, operators can encourage subscriber utilization and provide a path for further consumer evolution. Driving call activity Next generation voicemail systems empower operators to drive calling activity through: • Intentional messaging: voice SMS - This service allows a caller to leave a message without ringing the subscriber’s phone. The system then sends a notification via SMS informing the subscriber of the message and gives instructions on how to retrieve it. • Record messages for future delivery or distribution to a list - Subscribers can use these calls as reminders for specific events, as a way to cut short a meeting or appointment, or even to bridge time zones. Recorded messages can also be distributed to a group of people at the same time - for example, to colleagues, or to special interest groups. Increasing call success rates Operators can increase their successful call rates by enabling call-waiting as a default feature for all accounts and setting the time for voicemail diversion to 15 seconds, to ensure the caller does not hang up and leaves a voice message when diverted. Attendant Call Coverage can also improve call success rates by allowing callers to either leave a message or to transfer to an alternate telephone number. A similar feature, called Single Number Reach, allows subscribers to provide a number that callers may use to reach them. Encouraging voicemail use Voicemail solutions are one of the easiest ways for operators to achieve call completion success; since the feature allows the caller leave a message, it can result in additional returned call activity. The challenge is that approximately 70 per cent of all mobile subscribers do not see the value of voicemail and choose not to use it. Setting voicemail as a default feature for all subscribers and not deactivating voicemail boxes regardless of levels of use can address this, as it removes the distinction between provisioned and un-provisioned subscribers that might stand in the way of launching additional voice message services tied to the account. Operators using this strategy commonly see voicemail penetration climb to 80 per cent. Another way to encourage voicemail use is not allowing subscribers to cancel voice mail diverts themselves, and to create targeted service bundles (e.g. bundling voicemail with missed call notifications) for subscriber groups. Simplification of the retrieval process by removing the need for a PIN to retrieve a message also increases the adoption of voicemail. Operators can also provide voicemail alternatives using simple solutions like missed call notifications or more elaborate solutions that connect callers to subscribers by means of either caller-controlled or subscriber-controlled parameters. Building deposit and retrieval rates Operators can also drive voice revenues and counter the rate of ‘slam downs’ by focusing on increasing the volume voicemail of messages that are deposited and retrieved. There are a number of ways to increase deposit rates - • Name greetings and personalized greetings - Callers are less likely to disconnect a call when assured they dialled the correct number. This can be done by playing the subscriber name in the initial few seconds of the redirect, where disconnect rates are highest. Name greetings can be enhanced by allowing subscribers to record personal greetings, providing callers with further assurance that they are reaching their intended party. Operators who have enforced personalized subscriber greetings typically experience a 66 per cent message deposit rate. • Visual Voicemail (VVM) - Consumers with visual voicemail are far more likely to use voicemail when message retrieval is simple. VVM messages are delivered immediately and are normally perceived to be more urgent and important than traditional messages. Accordingly, subscribers are far more likely to respond to VVM content and callers are more likely to deposit a message knowing it is likely to be acted upon quickly. This feedback cycle improved the usage of voicemail by 300 per cent in some cases. For operators, this increased network activity is sufficient to counteract the tendency to lose voice revenue. • Voice2text transcription as a delivery option - Some operators use solutions that transcribe voice messages to text and deliver them as either an SMS or an email. The outgoing greeting for this service typically informs the caller that the message will be transcribed and delivered to the subscriber. This influences a higher rate of message deposit. • Voice message push to MMS/Email option - The availability of a push delivery option for voice messages, where a voice message is transcoded and pushed to the subscriber as either a MMS message or as an email, helps increase the adoption and use of voicemail, and the immediate delivery of the message provides the operator with a decrease in system requirements for message storage. Operators can also continually promote the use of personalized or celebrity greetings to stimulate the use of voicemail. Then too, operators can increase retrieval rates by providing a ‘flat rate’ per call or by eliminating the charge for calls to the voicemail platform, by sending SMS reminders to subscribers about messages that are about to expire and by increasing voicemail duration and storage timeframes. Stimulating call returns Field findings indicate that one in five calls completed with voicemail or a missed call notification service result in return call activity. Operators can leverage this with call-back number prompts, which let callers enter a telephone number where they can be reached that is different from the number they are calling from. Operators can also activate slam down notifications that inform subscribers when callers choose not to leave messages on the voicemail system. Success through innovation There are many areas operators can optimize to maximize call completion revenues. Using a holistic approach to evaluate the call completion process will often identify many effective improvements and strategies that do not require heavy network investments.