Traditionally, service providers were the decision-makers in choosing which services went to market, often leaving no alternatives for customers. This has recently changed due to the emergence of cloud and web-scale companies that offer customers innovative value-added network and application services. And while the additional competition has spurred the industry forward, it has also left many business customers—especially SMBs—in a challenging position, forcing them to work with multiple providers in order to get the entire gamut of network, cloud, communications and business productivity applications they need to succeed. In this scenario, service providers are often relegated to the sidelines as connectivity players.
But the market is also changing. Customers now demand personalized offerings, self-service capabilities and omnichannel use experiences. All types of customers—residential, small businesses, large enterprises—also want a fast and simple way to buy new services, or make changes to existing services, without having to wait.
For many customers, turning to the cloud for digital services has given them the flexibility to use those services anywhere, at any time and on any device—a new mandate for both business and residential services. Similarly, the cloud presents an opportunity for service providers, allowing them to implement cloud marketplace environments that allow customers to purchase, manage and pay for bundled and personalized services on demand.
These marketplaces can house all types of services, including cloud-enabled business applications, connectivity services like SD-WANs and IP-VPNs and third-party virtual network functions. By offering a single touchpoint for all services, service providers can greatly improve their relationships with customers.
But while marketplaces can help improve customer experience, they aren't panaceas. Service providers should also enable an automated order-to-activation process that streamlines the ordering process and reduces errors and instances of order fallout or cancellations, improves overall customer satisfaction and gets services up and running quickly.
Service providers must also support the ability to create flexible payment models without requiring major changes to existing BSS. These pricing models should be tailored to specific vertical markets and involve multiple partners, but, in the end, still be on a single bill to the end customer.
Today, business customers want service providers to deliver a true on-demand service model. By leveraging existing relationships and new technologies, service providers can move up the value chain beyond basic connectivity and become the single point of access for all business services.
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