Lowering Costs, Reducing Complaints, and Increasing Customer Satisfaction with Automated Disturbance Notifications

Enghouse Networks

Smartphones connect people to the world, and there’s nothing more frustrating than service disruptions, especially for customers who are in the dark about when their provider will restore service. It’s hard for providers, too. Telcos struggle to determine the cause of a disruption, keep users updated on the status of known outages, and deal with customer complaints.

This was the reality at Telia Finland before adopting a solution that would help us communicate better during an outage and keep our customers happier in the process. 

Frustrated and Overwhelmed by Outages 

Telia Finland is Finland’s number two telecommunications service provider, offering mobile and fixed telephony, broadband, and television services. Our history goes back to the early 20th century as Finland’s national telegraph agency. The current company resulted from a merger between Sweden’s Telia and our Finnish predecessor, Sonera.

We used to start notifying our customers only after higher customer impact was reached, but that was a reactionary approach that caused a lot of headaches. Our customers and support teams were frustrated and overwhelmed by the number of outages, especially at times when our mobile network was severely impacted by broader reliability issues.

All that changed in 2017 when we launched an ambitious project to improve customer communications. As a senior technical specialist, I focused on business solution for our tailor-made disturbance notification system known as Säilä. I work as a business manager in a team that oversees the current iteration of that project. It has evolved tremendously since its initial rollout.

Before Säilä, we would send out manual email and SMS notifications when we detected outages—often after customers had informed us of service interruptions. We were not proactive, and we used plain text templates to send email and SMS notifications to predefined delivery lists. We couldn’t bold or italicize text so customers could scan the message for the most relevant information. It was a clumsy way of working, and because the system couldn’t even generate a distribution list, we had to enter affected customers’ email addresses by hand, which took time and introduced potential errors. 

Automating Disturbance Notifications

Säilä automates the process by sending out notifications when our network monitoring system detects an outage and creates a ticket in our information technology service management (ITSM) platform. It analyzes the issue, consults our customer database, and generates alerts targeting affected users. Our team doesn’t have to do anything on our end to contact the right group of users, nor do we have to panic all our customers by notifying them about an issue that only impacts a few of them.

By automating these disturbance notifications through Säilä, we’ve reduced inbound customer support calls, which was one of the biggest drivers behind this initiative. Our customers no longer contact our call center to report issues we’ve already detected, freeing our agents to focus on other activities and leading to substantial cost savings. We also use the system to alert customers to upcoming maintenance and upgrades that will disrupt their service. 

Customers appreciate a telco being fully transparent about current and future disruptions.

Säilä allows us to be fully transparent about current and future disruptions, putting a positive spin on bad news. If people know the extent of an outage and the time to resolution, they’re more likely to feel at ease. While they’re still upset, customers at least know we’re working on the issue to restore service as soon as possible.

How We Grew Säilä’s Capability and Capacity

The initial rollout was relatively limited, and we could only serve a few hundred customers at the time (for reference, our mobile subscription base is over 4,5 million). At the time, we were using CellVision's mBOSS as our service analytics platform, but we didn’t have any system dedicated to customer location monitoring. We created an ad hoc notification system that determined which cell towers and mobile base stations were impacted, and alerted customers who had registered home or business addresses in the vicinity. It wasn’t failsafe and it didn’t always alert all of our affected customers, but it was a start.

A year later, we launched a second version of Säilä, this time integrating more of the  Enghouse Proactive Care solution (CellVision BCS)—with its rich network analysis and monitoring tools—into our customer notification system. This upgrade gave us map views of outages, increased visibility into our network, and provided a more accurate picture of outages that we could share with our customers. The quality of data increased tremendously, but the system was still limited to tens of thousands of customers on a good day. It was great for localized outages but couldn’t handle a network-wide event.

In 2023, we rolled out the most recent update of Säilä, and we are now able to reach Telia’s entire customer base. We’ve been testing the latest iteration of our notification system, and I am confident we can activate a million customers without overloading it.

The current version of Säilä is much more optimized and does a lot of heavy lifting. Each customer location is calculated daily to show what cell towers and basestations serve that particular location. And naturally, we have 24/7 monitoring, so if there's an incident ticket or change ticket, the system analyzes all the customers for those impacted and sends out that notification.

Enghouse was an incredible partner throughout the process. They worked with our architects to build on other Enghouse products we were already using, including their Coverage Portal that allows subscribers and our customer care and technical teams to see accurate maps of the service disruptions caused by updates and upgrades. We now have a sophisticated, accurate notification system that has removed a big burden from our team.

Fewer Complaints, More Transparency, and Happier Customers

It’s hard to track Säilä’s specific impact on customer satisfaction because we continue to upgrade our network and refine our services. We’ve rolled out 5G and are phasing out our 3G network, so speed, connectivity, and reliability have increased, and this makes our customers happier. That said, we have received far fewer calls about service disruptions, which leads us to believe our notification system is achieving its intended goal.

Customers have a right to know about the severity and estimated duration of service disruptions.

The public has become increasingly reliant on mobile networks. As the networks have changed to reflect that need, customer expectations have changed, too. Telia’s customers demand transparency. They have a right to know about the severity and estimated duration of service disruptions. Säilä helps us meet their expectations while staying on top of outages. It also provides a tremendous commercial advantage for Telia because our competitors aren’t as forthcoming about their technical issues, frustrating their customers.

Nobody likes to hear bad news, but it’s better than no news, especially when it comes to the mobile networks that connect us to our loved ones, our colleagues, and the goods and services we use every day. Enghouse is helping Telia stay on top of outages and honestly communicate with our customers, letting them know what’s happening and how long they’ll have to wait before their mobile service is restored.