Operators – emulate Digital Service Providers (DSPs) or lose

Written by on July 7, 2015 in Opinion with 0 Comments


With mobile phone users checking phones 1,500 times each week and using them for three hours and 16 minutes every day you would think that operators would be good at communicating with their customers. Sadly, this is not the case. With so many digital service providers in the arena, operators are in danger of becoming bystanders, says a new discussion paper from real-time charging specialist, Openet. There are, however, things that operators can do in order to better engage – and therefore keep – their customers.

At the heart of the argument is refocusing the business around the customer. This does not mean customers as a large block of people, but each and every customer and their context. Although this sounds simplistic and perhaps even trite, by doing this operators will be able to leverage the huge and valuable amounts of data that they have on their customers. A good starting point, says the paper, is to understand a customer’s lifetime value. This is something that many other industries do well, and operators, frankly, do not. If you walk into a car showroom, the salesman knows that you are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, as long as you exchange your car for the latest version every two years for the rest of your life. Because the salesman knows that, it changes his approach from wanting to sell you one car, to wanting to sell you cars for the rest of your life. And that means he wants to start a relationship.

To do this requires knowledge, and this knowledge comes from both historical and real-time data. After all, says the paper, ‘operators already collect customer usage data in real-time (for charging purposes), and now they are looking to carry out streaming analytics on this data. They can then combine this with historical data on the customer to know what offer/communication is most relevant to a particular customer.’

There is, however, a reluctance to use customer data amongst operators. They do not want to ‘impose’ on their customers. They do not want any ethics issues to arise.

Yet, ‘according to research by Teradata and Celebrus Research in 2015, 63% of consumers across every age group like to receive personalized offers. This finding is backed up by the Accenture Personalization Survey 2015, which found that nearly 60% of consumers want real-time promotions and offers.’

It is tempting to get a poster made that says ‘What would Google do?’ as a wake up call to operators. As an example, the paper cites a recently discussed use case that makes complete sense. Analytics can provide an operator with come basic contextual information. A customer segment might be heavy Facebook users, but stop using Facebook on Day 22 of their billing cycle. The obvious conclusion is that these customers are nervous of going over their data allowance, and avoid the risk by stopping Facebook usage for the last week. The obvious offer is unlimited Facebook for a week for $5.

Another example is that an operator knows when a customer turns off data roaming. So, again, the obvious offer, based on that context, is a data roaming pass. This, it has to be said, is being offered by many operators and because of the focus on data roaming and the deadline for the abolition of surcharges, will become widespread. Indeed, travel applications such as TripAdvisor are actively seeking relationships with operators because it is in their best interests that customers do not switch off data roaming – to the point that they are prepared to pay the charges.

There is, though, that fundamental difference that operators need to address. The attitude of the digital service providers such as Google and Facebook is to try it and be judged by the customer. If the customer does not like it, the customer will not buy it. If the customer does not buy it, Google and Facebook stop doing it, and move on.

Operators should emulate the digital service providers, indeed they must if they are to remain relevant. They must ‘go for it’ or lose. This paper provides many sensible use cases, examples and ideas as to how operators can become more proactive, now.

And remember that poster – what would Google do?


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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .


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