It’s easy to think that little has changed in the telco space in the past couple of years. If you’ve needed to upgrade your mobile plan, as this writer has recently, you might know what it’s like. As an existing customer you’re typically not entitled to any of the “extras” available to new customers. (In this case a free tablet. So much for that free present, now I’ll have to actually pay!). But you are still subjected to endless waiting online, or in this case in-store, as well as seemingly endless bureaucracy with minimum if any further upsell by over-stretched staff.
It would be easy to find it a bit discouraging. At no stage before, during or afterwards was there a question about what the experience was like. All the same, looking around their store beyond the tinsel and normal “Black Friday discounts”, things have really stepped up over the past year:
1) Wearables and devices: some with soft-SIMs have become a reality. Take a look at EE in the UK heavily promoting the latest Apple watch and it starts to highlight a possible future for other connected wearables and add-ons. They’ve been talked about in the industry for years but have become a bit normal…. Even in the aforementioned store, relatively new devices like wearable cameras, dash-cams and VR devices are now non-exclusive.
2) The debate about net-neutrality: while the FCC are going to repeal net neutrality in the US, in other regions operators are working alongside the regulators and coming up with innovative offers. For example, in Europe, advanced operators like T-Mobile Netherlands are pressing ahead with a “zero-rating” of specific content under the blessing and watchful eye of the EU. Others are following suit and feeling rightly justified in proving to consumers that bigger bundles (now including content) allow for larger prices as long as everyone is a winner.
3) “New” plans for new consumers: such as data-only SIM plans are providing more focus on valuable and more clearly identified segments such as millennials and “Generation Z” (the bunch after millennials or born after 1993, if you weren’t feeling old already). This is a wise move by some Operators like Spark in New Zealand. It’s an acceptance that things have moved on for some segments and they don’t use SMS or voice over 2G. Positioning a “data only” SIM is clearer targeting of that segment with an attractive offer and effective use of network resources.
4) “Going digital” is improving: Operator apps and “zero touch” upgrades are a little better with each iteration. Even this writer noticed an improvement to the operator in question’s app once the new plan was activated. The prospect of adding one or more device or service add-ons at the right price points is not as horrific as it might have been a couple of years ago.
So while specific, individual experiences are still extremely patchy maybe there is plenty of hope out there for some operators. It has a long way to go but the winners will be the ones that keep their consumers at the heart of their own change programs and do more of the right stuff more often. We’ll toast to that this season!