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Completing the telecoms revenue puzzle

If the revenues from your telecoms services are represented as a jigsaw puzzle, voice still makes up the biggest part of the picture.  Even though data revenues are predicted to continue growing as new services are launched, voice will be the engine room for operators’ income in the foreseeable future.

Yet most operators are simply throwing away many of the pieces in their puzzle, because only a minority of voice calls are completed and paid for.  Estimates of uncompleted calls vary, but most telecoms analysts agree that only just over half of all dialled calls are billable.  The rest are just taking up network capacity, and not generating cash.

Why are these calls not completed?  It’s usually due to one of these reasons:
1. The called party’s line is busy (or unavailable, if it’s a mobile)
2. The caller hangs up before the call is answered
3. The person being called chooses not to answer

So how can operators convert this unbillable network activity into revenue-generating call minutes?  The first and simplest method usually applied to increasing call completion rates is voicemail.  Although it has proven effective in growing the number of calls completed and returned, voicemail has become surrounded by a number of myths, both in cultural and usage terms.

Voicemail myths

These include pronouncements such as: ”There’s no voicemail market in Asia or Africa because people don’t like talking to machines,” and ”Voicemail doesn’t work in Europe, it’s cheaper to send an SMS.”

Yet these pieces of received wisdom don’t bear scrutiny.  Data has shown that slam-down rates (i.e. calls which reach a voicemail service but do not result in a message being left) are almost identical in Africa, Asia and Scandinavia, at around 80 per cent.

Redefining messaging

The key point is that a traditional, static, answering-machine service may not significantly increase call completion rates – but a more, flexible approach, in both the types of message service available, and how those services are enabled, can boost completion rates and revenues.

So how should messaging services be redefined?  And how can they be deployed effectively to boost subscriber usage, call completion, and revenues?  The key is to move away from basic greetings to a more detailed, personalised approach to voicemail services.

Here are the service offerings that I believe will be key to driving up completion rates.

The ‘Facebook’ and ‘Twitter’ drivers

Thanks to social networking, people are used to the idea of updating their location and activities frequently.  So why not offer subscribers the ability to personalise their greetings or update temporary greeting messages regularly, to drive voicemail usage?

If your messaging platform makes it easy for subscribers to update temporary greetings to reflect what they are doing, such as:  “Hello, I’m not available until 3pm today as I’m flying to Madrid.  I’ll respond when I land”, then you encourage uptake of voicemail usage – which means more completed calls, more returned calls, and more revenue.

The key to enabling this is a flexible, integrated service platform, with personalisation, location-sensitive and intelligent routing capabilities.

Missed call alerts

We mentioned slam-down rates earlier.  Of course, these are all completed calls, but critically, the call recipient may not know someone was calling them.  So missed call alerts are an excellent way of driving additional revenues from short duration slam-downs, as they encourage the recipient to make further calls.  These are usually delivered by SMS to a mobile, and of course can also be delivered to a land-line number using text to speech conversion.

An integrated messaging platform can process slam-downs that reached voicemail as if they were missed calls, encouraging more users to switch on their voicemail, and driving call returns.

Routing matters

One of the barriers to mobile voicemail usage in Europe was the cost of roaming charges to subscribers when they received a message – meaning many users simply switched off voicemail when travelling outside their home country.  Even with the EU now capping roaming charges, subscribers may still prove reluctant to switch their voicemail services back on.

So using a services platform with intelligent routing capability can ensure that a given call to a roaming subscriber’s voicemail is not done via a costly international call – reassuring subscribers that their calls will be routed as cost-effectively as possible.  This will increase roaming voicemail usage, and the number of completed calls – a far better situation than uncompleted, unbillable calls hitting disabled voicemail boxes.

Doing the math

The ROI calculation from these services is simple and compelling.  Let’s assume your network has a million subscribers, and a completion rate of 50 per cent. If by deploying call completion services (such as customisable voicemail greetings or missed call alerts), an extra 10 per cent of your subscribers start using them, and complete two extra calls per week, per subscriber.  At 10 cents for a one-minute call, the recurring monthly revenue would be €80,000.

As well as more billable network traffic, the stickier that you can make your services with more flexible options, the less subscriber churn you’ll experience.  If subscribers feel they are getting use and value from the service, they will also invest more time in setting up and personalising their messaging services – and will be far less likely to switch.

Underpinning these services should be an integrated service platform that can expand according to your needs and allows rapid deployment of new services – while giving subscribers a friendly user interface that makes it easy for them to set-up and manage their personal preferences.

Why not add more pieces to your revenue puzzle, by simply turning more of your network activity into completed calls with flexible call-completion and messaging services?

Einar Lindquist is CEO of Teligent Telecom


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