Technology has evolved, as has managed services.In fact, it would be a bit of an understatement to say that it has undergone several permutations and combinations over the years.

Shall we briefly step back in time? The good folks over at BlackPoint IT Services have provided a concise timeline-in the 1990s, managed services was, in a nutshell, a crisis-based, break/fix service. Deemed unpredictable, it relied on reactive support. Moreover, providers mostly used ad-hoc tools and had little or no documentation handy. At the time, most managed services contracts were billed on a “time and materials” basis and presented an unpredictable expense for businesses.

Perhaps most importantly, at the time, every service offered by any managed service provider entailed a service level agreement (SLA). Simply put, this meant a team of experts were always on-hand to resolve any network-related issue. The bad news was that if SLAs were breached, a percentage of the managed services providers’ monies was cut. Net, net, the managed service provider’s role largely entailed end-to-end management of the client’s telecom network and reduction of cost through sharing of monitoring resources, etc.

Now on to the early 2000s! Things hadn’t changed to a very great degree back then, managed services moved towards scheduled visits, where technicians would log reviews and fix any issue a customer may face. Moreover, servers started to be hosted in co-locations and a flat-fee structure was introduced with testing and measurement billing. And, key performance indicators (KPI) came to the fore, which in turn introduced the concept of “service management”, as opposed to “network management”. In other words, this meant end-to-end performance of every telecom service would be measured and monitored proactively to ensure the service performs at the highest possible level. So, basically, as opposed to ensuring the network is up and running in the first phase, a managed service provider would focus on ensuring each and every service wasn’t merely functioning at optimal levels, but at certain pre-defined levels.

For the sake of greater clarity, the best example of this is the 99.9999 per cent service uptime. This, as we all know, is amongst the most common service level KPIs. Other KPIs,of course, include change request management within a specified period of time, reduction of time taken to launch a new service launch by a certain percentage from the current time, etc.

Permit me to add a final word to this section-during this time, managed services still merely provided single-day visibility without any preventive or proactive maintenance.

So, where does the managed services domain stand today? Well, managed services, as we know it now, is able to utilize many more robust tools such as spam, compliance and security management (just to name a few). Indeed, every company is currently operating in hybrid environments, supported by managed monitoring alerts and remedial tools. Given today’s cut-throat competitive environment, it isn’t surprising that ensuring managed business continuity is now considered the bottom line for any business.

Now, permit me to introduce an interesting angle. Today, a managed service provider isn’t just that-a managed service provider. Their role has expanded to functioning as a “managed services partner” for the operators they service. Simply put, certain pain-points faced by an operator-i.e.-revenue enhancement and ensuring an enhanced customer experience (just to name a few) become the bottom line for not just the operator but the managed service provider as well.

So, why this paradigm shift? Well, operators today are faced with a plethora of challenges-saturated voice revenues, wafer-thin margins and cut-throat competition. In this scenario, they are, needless to say, seeking methods to enhance value and benefits to their business. Therefore, as per industry analysts, typically, a business model that is not only based on financial savings, but also on creating sustainable business differentiation is the key. Why? To stand apart from the competition, of course!

Net, net, it all boils down to customer experience. Now, customer experience is a tricky area to navigate. In a nutshell, the idea is to create differentiated experiences at the different touch-points the customer chooses to interact with the operator at. Needless to say, a sound customer experience strategy offers the operator multiple benefits-namely enhanced customer satisfaction, reduced churn, incremental sales, etc. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

So, what role can managed service providers play? Well, managing customer experience across multiple touch-points is a very tall order for any company. After all, all the elements involved, from advertising campaigns to post-purchase support play a very important role and must be treated with caution. This is where managed services come in. Industry analysts are of the firm opinion that the experience-centric managed services model focuses on customer expectations and demands. Thus, aligning service delivery in accordance with these requirements is, needless to say, a must. The experience-centric managed services model aligns service delivery with the operator’s strategic and business objectives, securing a customer experience centric operation that proactively drives business innovation.

Amdocs has presented a few interesting thoughts in this regard. First off, improving customer experience through managed services starts with mapping the customer experience related processes, the underlying systems, integration touch points, and the measurable impact on the end customer.

Now, here’s where it gets a bit tricky-translating the aforementioned factors into tangible KPIs and service level targets that the managed services provider can be held accountable for.

In a nutshell, this can be achieved via these key steps; identifying desired business outcomes, identifying customer experience impacts and operational goals, building KPI models, defining performance targets and commitment periods, developing service level improvement and optimization plans and monitoring, measuring, and reviewing.

And, what will these steps achieve for the operators? Well, for one thing (and this IS the bottomline, really) customers can expect increased reliability, improved quality, enhanced choice and accelerated innovation and time-to-market.

In a nutshell, this is by no means an exhaustive account on the link between managed services and enhanced customer experience. I would like to summarize, though, by saying that today, customer loyalty is at the top of every operator’s priority list. Therefore, placing a premium on a consistent continually improving customer experience at every touch point isn’t a giant leap. Managed services can help (amongst other things) ensure accountability at every stage of the customer’s lifecycle. Remember, though, (and this may just be my next blog), choose the right partner! It makes all the difference!