However, Thomas Gryta at the Wall Street Journal was quick to point out that most telecom companies neglected to drop roaming fees for their customer’s attending the Olympic Games, making it difficult for people to use their mobile devices. So how can operators hope to go for gold in customer satisfaction if a decent portion of their customers may suffer from bill shock once the Games are over?
Cutting roaming rates for special events such as the Olympics may be a (far-fetched) gesture of good will, but you will still get customers who switch off data roaming in favor of charging $10-a-day to their hotel rooms for Wi-Fi. The main reason why a vast majority of travelers switch off data roaming and opt to use Wi-Fi instead is the fear of uncontrolled charges; most simply, they don’t know how much it’s going to cost them to actually use their devices.
Rather than simply cutting roaming rates, operators should embrace cost transparency and clear, real-time communications as the solution. Many operators are helping customers overcome their fear of data roaming by offering clear, upfront usage offers. For example, operators could offer their traveling customers a data roaming pass for one week of data – up to 500MB, perhaps – for say $20. When the 500MB or the one week is used up, the customer would then get a notification in real-time that their data has been used up. They can then decide (again, in real-time) to buy a new pass or not.
The abolition of roaming fees by the European Union probably won’t be realized for several years, but in the meantime, operators all face the problem – how to get people to start using data roaming. Education and clear communication will help remove the fear of unknown charges, something that is key to increasing data roaming usage and revenues.
There are some trends which show a change in consumer attitudes and behavior. For instance, one European mobile operator just announced a 70% increase in the use of data roaming in the last year. The main reason for this staggering increase? The operator delivers options for customers to get on the mobile internet while roaming in a simple, inexpensive and safe way – no hidden costs and complete transparency helped customers lose their fear of roaming costs. We only hope that more operators will soon take this approach to data roaming in order to go for customer satisfaction gold year-round.