Q&A: Growing Allstream’s customer lifetime value

Allstream’s Product & Customer Lifecycle Management Group has a mandate to create, grow and sustain customer lifetime value across all platforms and channels, in addition to traditional product management.

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expertIP talks to Shalini Menon about her new role in leading this team, challenges and learnings from integrating businesses on both sides of the border, and plans for the year ahead.

What are your responsibilities in leading product and customer lifecycle management for Allstream?

My main accountability is twofold. One is to grow the Voice portfolio aggressively. Equally important is to have a thoughtful strategy on customer lifecycle management and ensure that we manage our large legacy customer base as we help them make the leap to the IP world.

Why was this group created?

Parts of the team are new and other parts existed in a different structure. Allstream was previously aligned by product groups where each product portfolio like SIP, Unified Communications and Data/Internet were run independently of each other for most key functions, including product management and delivery. After trying that approach, we realized we needed a structure that reflected a combination of multiple products.

So, Allstream has brought it back under a functional structure. The other key change is establishing a Customer Lifecycle Management team, which is a key focus for Allstream as we plan to migrate our legacy base of customers into the IP and Cloud space.

What is Customer Lifetime Value, and why is it so important to Allstream?

Employing CLV, we can derive actionable information that allows us to design strategies that meet the needs of our customers. We value those relationships. Allstream, unlike some of our competitors, has always taken a long-term approach rather than simply focusing on boosting short-term profits. And, our customers appreciate that.

We will also be working with other functional teams to lead engagement all along the customer lifecycle through a customized and personalized approach. It is true what people say about us: We make it our business to take care of yours.

How will your team create, grow and sustain CLV across all platforms and channels?

The move towards this functional structure is the first step in acknowledging that Allstream is not about single product sales. While we are a Voice services-focused company, we are looking to deliver solutions for these Voice customers that also require data or public or private Cloud services.

Customers are looking for solutions rather than point products, so enhancing our Voice business means packaging and bundling Voice as part of our overall solutions. All modesty aside, we are the Voice experts for business.

What are your team’s responsibilities with traditional product management?

I am a firm believer in a product manager being a general manager of his or her product portfolio, from working closely with the sales teams to ensuring the right experience for all customer interactions with Allstream, all the while maintaining the targeted profitability for that portfolio. In legacy Allstream days, a traditional product manager would have had more of a development hat than a manager hat. In the new Allstream, they’ll be wearing a manager hat. They will act as a product evangelist who cares soups-to-nuts about their product — so this is good for customers, too.

What is the focus of your team in the year ahead?

Since CLM is a new function for the new Allstream, efforts will be to establish the team and drive actionable insights very quickly. We are also working on an SD WAN launch for Q1 2018 and continued enhancements on our Next-Gen Voice products, such as integrating the U.S. and Canadian platforms, continuing to increase resiliency and enhancing self-service capabilities.

What challenges, if any, are there for your team working on both sides of the border?

There are some differences in customer base, product lifecycle and competitive landscape. I find that more exciting than challenging.

Alternatively, are there synergies, best practices and learnings from one that can be easily applied to the other?

Definitely. The U.S. is a more mature market in terms of technology adoption, such as SIP Trunking and UC cloud services, so we are taking some learnings from our experience in that market and applying them to Canada. Conversely, Allstream has a long history providing comprehensive solutions to enterprise customers in Canada, which is a competency we can replicate in the U.S. We’re taking the best of both worlds and combining them together, so both markets will benefit. It’s a great time to be at Allstream.

When it comes to customer service, what sets Allstream apart from its competitors?

The transformation of the market to IP-based technologies is accelerating and we have the right products, services and experience to help customers with that transition. With our U.S. operations, we’re the only telecom provider positioned to deliver products like SIP and Cloud Voice throughout North America. We have a focused Voice product set — and that is unique among our competitors. At the same time, we have the data products to round out the solution.

Last but not least, we are the business market telecom experts. We work with our customers to understand their needs and tailor the solution to solve their business problems … today and tomorrow.

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