This often leads to operators developing an identity crisis. At one level they have aspirations of being the super agile and efficient digital service provider with the cool brand. At another level there’s the legacy reality of systems and process belonging to the days of plain old telephone companies.
It shouldn’t be a question of ‘what would Google do’, but more ’why aren’t you doing this?’ While some operators shrug their shoulders and sigh that systems, processes, mindsets and culture will take years to change, the good news is that some operators are taking a lead and re-inventing themselves. To do this needs a change of mindset and to stop thinking about the telecom network first and foremost. The best example I heard of this was from an innovative North American operator who asked the following question: “What will society look like in 2020 and what is our industry’s path to meet the future needs of our customers?” The result is that this operator is investing in more efficient new systems and processes in order to deliver better products and services to their customers and in doing so, increasing revenues and profits.
What I like about this question is it focuses on the needs of their customers and asks how telecoms must evolve to meet these needs. Not the other way around – which is crucial, as it turns the old telecoms model on its head. People don’t really care about networks – they care about decent quality services – like being able to watch HD video. To use an old cliché – ‘people don’t want electricity – they want cold beer’. We’ve been talking about a move from network to customer centricity for years now, but for many operators their world revolves around the network. A move to customer centricity also focuses on the most important asset an operator has: its customer base.
Do all operators actually value their customer base? I’m not sure if they really do. I recently dragged myself into the 21st century and signed up for Netflix. I got a lot of emails from Netflix – but they weren’t spam. They were suggestions for new TV shows for me to watch, mails telling me how to watch on multiple devices. As a result I’ve watched more Netflix content than I planned and I’m a happy enough customer. It was interesting to compare this with my mobile operator. I get one e-mail a month from my mobile operator – it’s a bill. They have never contacted me with anything else. I’m not an unhappy customer, in the same way that I’m not unhappy with my electricity supplier. But given a cheaper offer I’d probably move. This is a pretty sad state of affairs, considering my operator collects all my real-time usage and behavioural data, has access to a very large data warehouse to access my historical context and has a direct channel to me (I’ve signed up for and use customer self-care). There is no reason why they shouldn’t be in touch offering me new deals, looking to upsell me offers and generally seeing that I’m having a positive experience. Nope – they send me a bill, and that’s it. I recently mentioned this to a friend of mine who works in an operator. He told me that operators are constantly engaging with me through advertising. I may see these ads – but they’re full of twenty-somethings year olds waving phones about and smiling – which doesn’t really work for me I’m afraid.
They’ve got the customer and they’ve got the real-time business intelligence to understand customer context. They’ve also got a direct and personalised channel and they have some degree of loyalty (or perhaps laziness from customers who can’t be bothered to shop around). As discussed above some operators are actually driving innovation when it comes to customer centricity and engaging customers. These are the ones who are increasing customer spend, loyalty and engagement. They are doing this by leveraging their biggest asset, their customer base, to counter disruptive services, by understanding their customers and giving them services that they want, when they need them. As for the others, who see mass market generic advertising as customer engagement – watch out, Google’s about.