More than nine out of 10 communications managers want a unified communications infrastructure, but most worry about being able to identify and manage the cost of the individual services provided, according to research just out.
A survey of 200 UK comms managers in January revealed that 96% of respondents want to introduce unified communications to their firms, and that four in 10 plan to cut the number of suppliers they deal with.
This was partly due to poor quality information received from their suppliers and the difficulty of integrating it for management purposes, said MDS, a customer experience management solutions provider to communications service providers (CSPs) on customer experiences, which commissioned the survey.
"Gaining better control of existing costs (69%) was found to be more important than reducing overall spend (43%), while 71% said they would like to understand better the ways their company communicates," MDS said.
The poll showed that 62% spent more on telecoms each year, but 65% were under pressure to justify that spend to budget-holders.
"The market has become fraught with challenges for service providers looking to cement ongoing profitability from business customer bases," said MDS chief executive Drew Rockwell.
The report also revealed that 43% of telecoms managers are paying for a telephone, mobile or internet service that they no longer need. Another 28% said that they had been shocked or surprised by a telecoms bill.
Rockwell says existing billing systems are mostly unable to provide a single bill for combinations of services such as fixed, mobile, or broadband. He says many networks that provide both fixed and mobile services still have separate systems for their CRM and billing.
This is a "great limitation" to providing a unified customer experience from call centre reps through to portals and billing, where the data cannot be presented and therefore analysed in a unified way, according to Rockwell.
He says CSPs have concentrated on their network infrastructure at the expense of the front-end customer experience.
"There is still very much a silo approach, which limits the ability to provide the single view and greater levels of analytic capability across services, hence the desire to move to unified comms," he said.
Half of respondents said they struggle to find the time to analyse their bills for savings, but two-thirds recognise that this would useful. Almost six out of 10 say they are more likely to buy from a service provider that offers analytics services.
About 53% think the increasing convergence of telecoms services makes it harder to review telecoms infrastructure, and 48% think mobile contracts and packages are too complicated.
Rockwell says many telecoms managers lack insight into telecoms usage across their business. "Service providers must increase their customers' sense of control and value through analytics and insight if they are to secure long term revenues and growth," he said.
"Ultimately they must prove that the end customer experience is unified and working as intended, to the highest standard, or risk losing out in an increasingly competitive and crowded market."
Larry Goldman, head of telecom software research at Analysys Mason, said, "Providing an integrated view of services and costs will improve relationships with CSPs' customers, and also let them determine the profitability of individual services."