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When was the last time your mobile phone operator got in touch with you? If your experience is anything like mine, then you’ll probably have to think a bit. As for me, I think I got a call a couple of years ago asking if I was happy enough with the service.
Communication service providers who can’t communicate

This call wasn’t so much of an in-depth discussion of their service, offers and a discussion about new products that could be relevant to me. It was a call from a call centre just as I was about to go into a meeting. I was asked if I was happy with their service ‘ Err… yes’. Anything else, they could do for me today? ‘Not that I can think of. Thanks and goodbye’.  End of conversation. I’m looking forward to my next chat, which will no doubt bear a striking familiarity with the last one and come from a call centre at a time that’s inconvenient to me.

This may seem a bit harsh, but from my experience, it’s at the nub of the problem that operators are facing. They are not communicating with their customers. I raised this point with an operator who told me that I was being communicated to all the time from operators and reeled off the advertising strategies of local operators. At the airport, driving into the office or watching football on TV, I’m exposed to mobile operators’ communications all the time. Only thing is that I’m not. These adverts mean nothing to me. They’re all full of the same happy 20-25 year olds living their digital lifestyles to the full and smiling… a lot. I may see advertising but they’re not communicating with me.

Let’s see how some of the OTTs and internet retailers compare. I go onto Google, do a search and get relevant results – sorted by my location and recent browsing history. I go into Facebook – the adverts that appear are mostly relevant to my interests.  I go onto Amazon, download some music – immediately I get recommendations based on this purchase and my history. Here’s the difference, the OTTs and internet retailers are reaching out to me all the time – in many cases its context sensitive and real-time. They are engaging and communicating with their customers in an automated and relevant fashion because they understand the importance of personalised, relevant and timely engagement. You could argue that by comparing Facebook, Amazon and Google with mobile network operators that I’m making an unfair comparison. Not at all – operators need to see where competition and opportunities are coming from.

Operators are missing out here. They’ve got data on customer usage, behaviour and location in real-time. They have trusted customer and payment relationships.  So if they’ve got this all this business intelligence and trust why are so many operators not communicating with their customers? Is this a tacit admission that in the end they’re utility providers and that service can’t really be enhanced or differentiated for different customers? Sorry, but I disagree. Operators can upsell a wide range of add-ons and new services (both direct and from third parties) and offer personalised service. They’ve got the delivery networks for digital services, they’ve got the customer and network intelligence, they’ve got the customer and financial relationships and they’ve got an opportunity to use this to start communicating in a meaningful way with customers.

In the meantime, I’m still waiting for the call from a call centre asking me if I’m happy with the service. Maybe this time I’ll say no.

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