Applying the membership approach to telco customer experience

June 14, 2017 - Openet

The goal of achieving an emotional bond with customers in the telecoms industry is one step closer. According to a new paper from Openet, the key is building a community and attracting and engaging members of that community.

While the membership approach may be rare in the telecoms world, and while it may not be right for every business model, it is becoming a focus for those companies who fully understand that they will live or die through the customer experience.

Possibly the most successful example of a membership based organisation in the telco arena is giffgaff in the UK. Its success is directly related to the strong feeling of membership that its community enjoys.

As Helen Mannion, Head of Business Intelligence at giffgaff says, “we want to listen, we want to collaborate, and we want to create mutual benefits using data. We are rooted in community and mutuality”.

This approach is not just ‘marketing speak’ either. Customers stay because of the feeling of belonging. The paper quotes two giffgaff customers, one of whom says, “for me it was down to the members who I got to know. But in the early days, I was ready to leave until @trudy81 sent me a PM telling me to please stick around. I am so pleased I did I have met so many good people on here who I now class as extended family and friends. ” – A giffgaff customer

Even our own Jonathan Jensen is a fan of the company. As he says, ‘one reason I like being a giffgaff customer is that I know I will never have to talk to someone in a mobile operator call centre!’ If you have a problem, you ask other members.

For a telco ‘implementing’ a membership model for customer experience is not easy. The good news, according to customer experience expert Janne Ohtonen, who has recently joined Openet after consulting for such companies as Apple, Avios, British Airways, British Telecom, and Satmetrix, is that there are examples out there.

A membership approach stimulates the highest level of emotional engagement. ‘Members feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves. They are more likely to be brand advocates and to drive business to the company. In a membership based model, things are done collectively between the members and the company. Initiatives work by adding value to both parties’. It is also a highly effective way of getting the best kind of customer feedback, which then feeds into product development, which feeds customer engagement. It is a virtuous circle.

Other companies that have implemented a membership approach include O2, with O2 Priority, which is similar in design to 3Plus in Ireland.

Care is needed, though. As Ohtonen says in the paper, ‘any service provider could build or lease arenas and start offering exclusive events. But what they have in common is that they create the idea of ‘belonging’ in the minds of their members’.

The good news is that membership schemes are not ‘all or nothing’ strategies. You can definitely mix and match. In fact, to create the strongest emotional bond among members, it will sometimes make sense to take a tiered approach. While there may be elements of community within the tiers, keeping that exclusive feeling to the members of the core group is a good approach.


Read more at Disruptive Views. 


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