Someone once said “a lie can travel around the world while trust is putting on its shoes”. Some carriers learnt this painfully, even if it was somewhat unintentional.
Not that long ago, “unlimited” data bundles offered by operators (in fact, typically throttled or blocked with the help of fair usage T’s and C’s at 15GB or 20GB) were about the only promotion in town. Again and again users suffered promotions that, up front, seemed amazing. In reality, users found that they were regularly hammered with out of bundle and unexpected costs when for example they were roaming or past fair usage limits. Idealistic bubbles were burst and like jilted partners, operator trust was lost too (perhaps a number of times if users ported to another network with similar issues). Social media was lit up with examples of people who’d suffered bill shock.
It’s not you, it’s me.
Perhaps it’s a sign of industry maturity or sheer competitive requirements but there are a number of signs that trust is being restored to the extent that users can rely on service providers and may be willing to give them a 2nd chance:
1) We are expecting a dramatic increase in data in Europe to become visible by the Autumn.
This will be driven by the EU “roam like home” requirements. Assuming there isn’t bill-shock for example when users make calls then positive effects can be expected. Telenor in various locations pre-empted EU requirements and introduced roam like home to users in various locations during 2015 and data traffic tripled in some territories. It was a brave, somewhat counter-intuitive and pre-emptive move but pushed users closer to their bundle limits and surely encouraged upgrades, not to mention boosting use of previously infrequently used apps.
[By the way, we’ve also noted with interest a recent Analysys Mason report showing that in advanced Asian markets NPS is closely and positively correlated with users’ data usage. This also bodes well for service providers driving surges in data usage such as Telenor].
2) Relatedly, a maturing of the reality that WiFi and 4G can co-exist as opposed to compete.
So a tourist might have greater confidence in using 4G because of better roaming deals but still get an added boost in coverage or speed from WiFi when back at their hotel. Add to this the improved ability that carriers now have to seamlessly offload users to their own WiFi or WiFi partners and there is opportunity for real and continued engagement with users. No more fiddling for WiFi codes if it’s seamless anyway. No more panic if WiFi is not working since roaming costs are already reduced. As operators push data volumes towards limits of spectrum capability in a number of territories we expect this to remain in focus beyond 2017.
3) Perhaps most importantly: transparency.
The best operators such as Globe in the Philippines are providing users with real-time and total visibility to the extent users want it. So you want daily updates of your balance sent by email? Have it. Prefer an SMS at 6pm each day? Have that instead, or as well. Prefer more passive use of detail via an app with or without notifications? No problem. Consuming a lot more of our partners’ content? No problem either. Some carriers are adding dozens of partners and either zero-rating it within larger bundles or charging for it as an addon and providing users with much more powerful real-time controls and personalised offerings. They’re still managing to provide granularity of usage visibility and controls as required.
If trust is hard-won, it’s harder to regain when lost. Empowerment of users and relentless focus on user experience as well as enabling richer content offerings might well be the path back to forgiveness or even greatness for some carriers in 2017.