As more consumer and business customers turn to the Internet for purchases as well as research, companies such as Synchronoss Technologies Inc. are providing telecom companies with a way to both automate customer orders and provide insight into a broad overview of e-commerce operations.
Synchronoss was started six years ago as a spinoff from a previous professional services company owned by Synchronoss’ president, CEO and founder, Stephen Waldis. The company, which went public last June, has clients which include AT&T Inc.’s Cingular service; cable companies such as Time Warner and Comcast Corp.; and other wireless companies such as Clearwire Corp. and VoIP providers such as Vonage Holdings Inc. The company provides services which allow the sale of triple or quadruple-play services, such as Time Warner’s multi-play offer in conjunction with its joint venture with Sprint Nextel Corp.
Placing the order
Waldis helps define what Synchronoss does do in part by what it does not: “We’re not involved in helping the provider land new customers . or helping out with the network.”
So when a customer browses Cingular’s Web site, they don’t actually come into contact with Synchronoss’ service until they place an order.
“Once you hit the send button, our software is in the background, managing all the work flow,” Waldis said.
The company provides its automation for customer orders through both the Web and retail locations, including indirect channels. Waldis said that the real-time element of Synchronoss’ service provides instant information back to customers (such as passing a credit check to make a purchase, or a link to package tracking for a handset) and allows companies to offer seamless e-commerce across their various offerings, as well as shape how customers are directed.
For instance, Waldis said, a customer might pass a credit check for individual parts of a wireless/wireline plan, but not for the total of the combined bill. The client can then decide what message those customers will receive and how they will be treated (bumped out entirely, contacted by customer service later, or perhaps offered an alternative product).
Automating the e-commerce element helps carriers maintain a high level of accuracy with orders, Waldis said, as an alternative to expensive call center where representatives may make errors in orders. The company also guarantees levels of service better than 98 to 99 percent, and offers discounts on per-customer transactions if it isn’t up to par. In addition, he said, the system offers a detailed, “air traffic control” look at data such as how many customers converted to orders in recent hours or how many failed to meet credit standards.
The company also promises a short time-to-market. Waldis said that Synchronoss started working to enable AT&T to sell its Unity plans (which tie together wireline AT&T service with wireless) in December. The company started selling them in late January.
Synchronoss concluded in a white paper published late last year that e-commerce is responsible for roughly one in five gross additions for the wireless industry and in some cases-such as that of Cingular-as many as one in four. AT&T’s wireless unit had 5.5 million gross additions in the fourth quarter of 2006.
Yankee Group has predicted that the channel will grow at double-digit rates as more people turn to the Internet to make purchases-and as carriers encourage them, since increased use of the online channel can reduce their cost per gross addition.