These are exciting times in the connectivity business. The full fibre (FTTP) roll out continues apace, despite the Covid pandemic. 5G promises a huge leap in capacity for mobile internet. And for all its dire human and economic consequences, the pandemic has proved a tipping point for the wide scale adoption of the technologies that will benefit most from next generation connectivity, from SaaS to automation.
The timing is particularly lucky when you consider that the ISDN switch off is just around the corner. All-IP communications will also drive the need for better, faster, more reliable routes to the internet. With the demand for the fastest dedicated Ethernet lines continuing to grow, all signs indicate that we’re standing on the edge of a new era of connectivity.
Customer experience left behind
Well, perhaps not all signs. Capacity, speed and reliability are certainly forging ahead. But customer experience? Not so much. The connectivity industry has a customer service challenge, and it’s one that Vaioni is determined to meet.
Don’t get me wrong. We have superb customer service and technical support teams, and other connectivity providers do as well. Our people are informed, dedicated and capable. But they spend far too long on the everyday administration of customer accounts.
Connectivity is behind the curve when it comes to service, and especially self-service. A business can order a cloud-based unified communications service and have it up and running in just a few hours, without once picking up the phone. A manager can add and remove features at the click of a mouse. The IT team can monitor and maintain the service from a fully functional online portal.
By comparison, even the most minor service tweaks to connectivity services involve a slow and painful process. Making a simple change to bandwidth might involve telephone conversations with support staff, the raising of a service ticket and the input of technical teams. The process can take days. And yet, with the evolution of Software Defined Networking (SDN), it could and should be the work of moments.
Customers demand control
As connectivity providers, we have to accept that our customers want that level of control. They demand the speed and convenience of self-serve. Business people are consumers too, living in a world where you can transfer money between bank accounts or order a taxi with a couple of taps on a smartphone screen. Understandably, they wonder why a similar level of service isn’t available from corporate connectivity providers.
Yes, it’s a trickier technical challenge with connectivity than it is with cloud, but the simple truth is that if the sector put as much effort into service as it does into speed, it can be done. And that’s our goal at Vaioni. We’ll use SDN to create a fully automated platform for all our services, giving partners and customers complete control over both connectivity and cloud services from a single intuitive dashboard.
Of course, we’ll always be on the end of the phone if you need us, but you rarely will. Our ambition is to create a fully automated and integrated self-serve ecosystem that works as well for business broadband and leased lines as it does for hosted voice or managed security.
With that integrated system in place, customers and wholesale partners get a new level of flexibility, and the freedom to take instant decisions. In addition, less time on routine service calls to a supplier means more time for creativity and innovation, and making the best use of IoT, AI and big data. Technology is taking huge strides forward. Automating our infrastructure means we’ll never be the bottleneck that stops business adopting the most advanced and vital applications.
And that’s good for our business too. When we don’t have to manage changes that our customers and partners would much rather implement themselves, we can spend more time scaling our services and adding innovative new products. We’ll also have more time to do what you really need us to do. That means fixing problems that can’t be solved remotely and giving you the best advice on the latest networking solutions.
An ambitious plan
We’re not the only people talking about the promise of SDN, of course. But our ambitions go further than most. We will give our partners and customers the easiest way to order, manage and maintain their most fundamental digital services, from fixed line and mobile connectivity to voice, unified communications and security.
None of this is pie in the sky. We have a funded five year plan and a roadmap that will see the release of new services at regular intervals. We recently updated our powerful MyVaioni partner portal for our Vaioni Wholesale customers, upgrading the quoting and ordering tool and giving partners the ability to manage in-life services from the same sleek dashboard. By the end of 2021, our connectivity partners and customers will be able to make changes to the speed and bandwidth of their services (or their customers’ services) from the same tool.
That’s just the start, but the direction of travel is set. We recognise that connectivity customers deserve the same great experience as they get from cloud tools and consumer apps. SDN gives us the opportunity to meet their growing expectations. With the full fibre and 5G roll outs, business can look forward to ever faster and more reliable internet services. It’s up to us to make sure customer experience keeps up with that rapid pace of change.