update The nation's third-largest telco AAPT last week said it would begin migrating the rest of its customers to its new Hyperbaric billing platform this September, after stopping the process halfway earlier this year due to a wave of complaints.
AAPT GM networks and
technology, David Yuile
Hyperbaric is the company's new AU$100 million customer management system. AAPT started developing it back in 2005, with the intention of replacing legacy systems and simplifying the creation of new products as well as making it easier to bill and connect customers, allowing them to deal with the company online.
However, after starting to migrate customers in June 2007, the telco hit a rough patch in December where its call centres couldn't handle the volume of calls from disgruntled customers, who had been confused by the new online and billing processes and faced delays in the connection of new services.
"Monday after New Year, it was clear we were having a poor customer experience," AAPT GM networks and technology David Yuile told ZDNet.com.au last week. It was a situation the executive felt keenly, after taking calls from customers himself. "It was almost as if you were drowning at the time," he said. "We let them down."
The first thing Yuile did when he realised the extent of the problem was to stop the migration, meaning that by April this year, 185,000, or 55 per cent were on the new system, while the other 45 per cent remained on the old.
Although migrated customers fumed in long call centre lines throughout January, Yuile's task force, which meets regularly to tackle the issue, couldn't solve the problems until March.
Yuile said the telco was now ready to begin to migrate the other half of its customers onto the new system, a process which will commence in September.
The problem, according to Yuile, was not the system itself, which he said proved to be robust, but the processes behind it. Because all possible eventualities had not been properly mapped out, the processes told the system to do the wrong thing.
Yuile expected minor hiccups with the new effort: "There still are errors — you're never going to eliminate all errors," he said. However, the team will take a more gradual approach to the migration this time. "Instead of migrating 80,000 people over a couple of weeks, we'll do 10 to 12 thousand of them and see where it goes," he said.
With the lessons the company learned from the first migration, however, Yuile hoped the company would avoid the bulk of the problems it experienced the first time around, where the likelihood of success in migration was low, he admitted.
The delay in the migration has put the company back AU$20 million in benefits, Yuile estimated. People shouldn't judge the company harshly, however, he said, since AAPT took the lead in the telco space on tackling its billing system. "We're halfway, which is a lot more than most," he said. "It was a very bold project at the time."
Yuile pointed to the advantages of moving from the legacy systems. The billing was no longer done months in arrears, he said, and introducing a new product takes months rather than a year. The time to deliver tweaks to pricing or data caps has gone down to hours, he continued.