Enabling Customized Dashboards for Enterprise Customers to Monitor Their Networks with Enghouse Service Assurance
The biggest differentiator for an ISP is staying ahead of your customers. Your network needs to be rock-solid, but outages will inevitably happen. But when your network goes down, do you notify your customers? Or do they come to you?
Most ISPs operate call centers that customers can contact when things go wrong. This is fine when a customer has an issue with their home Wi-Fi connection, but it’s another thing entirely if your factory goes offline and stops communicating with other branches and business units.
That's why Vodacom Tanzania created a Customer Service Operations Center (CSOC) team and staffed it with IT specialists to help our enterprise customers with their connectivity issues. At first, I handled customer support alone, but my department has grown, and I now oversee a CSOC team of 50 direct reports.
Vodacom Tanzania was founded in 2000 and is our country's largest mobile telephony provider. Over the years, we've expanded into the home and enterprise internet markets. Our products include IPTV and VoIP for residential customers and VPN and MPLS connectivity for enterprise accounts. We offer fiber to the home and fiber to the office, as well as managed physical and virtual data center hosting at our six sites across the country.
Our Customers Wanted Better Support
When I started growing the CSOC team, we were still very reactive. In particular, we faced two hurdles. First, we didn't have a proper monitoring tool for our fixed network. We used SolarWinds to view and manage backhaul performance and network connections, but it didn't alert us to service outages. The first we heard of a network failure was typically when a customer called to say their internet/data was down, and then we had to go in and figure out what went wrong.
Secondly, our customers lacked the tools to manage and monitor their services. Most ISPs offer portals that provide usage and network statistics and simple infrastructure management tools that allow customers to see how their IT assets are performing. We wanted to roll out such a product for enterprise accounts and asked our customers what features they craved.
We knew they wanted easy logins and dashboards that display mission critical KPIs such as bandwidth usage (utilization), packet loss, jitter, and network availability. We added their requirements to our wish list and set out to find an enterprise OSS (operations support system) solution that satisfied all our needs.
Several vendors came to the table, but only one stood out: Enghouse Networks.
A Long-Serving Partner Had the Best Solution
Vodacom Tanzania already had a long-standing working relationship with Enghouse. We were already using the company's SMSC platform as part of our wireless infrastructure. The team suggested we look at Enghouse NetBoss to be our Enterprise Solutions Provider.
We still sat down with a couple of other suppliers to evaluate their offerings, including Cisco AVVID. In the end, Enghouse Service Assurance offered the best combination of internal and customer-facing tools. It gave our CSOC team the tools we needed to proactively monitor and manage infrastructure, and it provided our customers with the easy-to-use dashboards they asked for.
Customer Dashboards Offer Actionable Data
With Enghouse Service Assurance, we now give every enterprise customer a unique URL and a custom dashboard tailored to their infrastructure. When an enterprise account holder logs in to this customer portal, they can see a map that includes all of their branches. If they have offices in Dar Es Salaam, Dodoma, Arusha and Mwanza, for example, they can see right away that everything is working because all the branches are green. If the connection between two of the branches is red, it indicates that particular segment of the network is down. They can then immediately call our CSOC team to troubleshoot and restore service.
Enterprise customers can also look at a graph of bandwidth usage over a given period, such as a week or a month. If they notice they’re using too little bandwidth, they can decide to downgrade their SLA. Likewise, they can also upgrade their SLA if they're consuming too much bandwidth or data center CPU power and storage, thus straining available resources.
These customers used to have to tell executive teams that they needed to spend more money because their network was too slow and they were running out of capacity. Now, they can show detailed metrics that illustrate the situation. Thanks to Enghouse Service Assurance, our enterprise customers have better tools to make informed decisions about their IT spends.
Alerting Enterprise Customers to Issues
As mentioned, when Vodacom Tanzania's enterprise customers experience an issue, they can spot it on their dashboard and report the network outage to us. But that’s the worst-case scenario. Our new best practice is for my CSOC team to notify customers of the problem before they're even aware of the issue. To do this, we created an internal network services dashboard for all network services called Alert Management.
It works like this: if a customer branch in Dar es Salaam is down, Alert Management will trigger an alert for the CSOC team, and a team member will email or call the customer about the issue. From there, we will work together to resolve the situation. Sometimes the solution is as easy as asking the customer to reconnect a router that was accidentally unplugged.
On other occasions, the problem is at our end. Many of our customers are on wireless connections. If our LTE radio or microwave uplink is down, we have to troubleshoot it from here and dispatch a technician should the need arise.
In the future, we want to examine ways to link our billing tool (CRM) to Enghouse Service Assurance, too. This will help us uncover revenue leakage and ensure our clients are getting the services they paid for.
Taking Pride in Proactive Service
Enghouse Service Assurance has given my team the ability to be proactive. In the past, I was disappointed when customers threatened us with taking their business elsewhere because they had to inform us about network failure. They figured we should be on top of our own infrastructure—and they were right.
Ultimately, customers want simple solutions that just work, and they want us to fix things when they don't. Enghouse Service Assurance has transformed how our CSOC team works with our customers and has given us the tools to provide the best possible service.
Thanks to Enghouse Service Assurance, we longer have to deal with frustrated customers who don't know why they're experiencing an issue. Instead, we can call them before they get to the point of frustration and walk them through a resolution. It feels so good when they call me up to tell me my team is amazing, and to say thank you. I'm proud of all the changes we've made to help our business internally as well as helping our customers.
The competition among ISPs is fierce. We know our customers have a lot of choice, but proactive customer service is what will continually set us apart.