There is a way to make customers happy and monetize data

I recently changed my broadband and mobile subscriptions’ provider for the only reason of a terrible in-store customer experience while trying to update my data plan. It does not matter how good your network services or how low your prices are. If you cannot keep up with customers’ expectations you are set to fail. As end users we are getting more and more demanding. We expect care channels to be where we are (e.g. Social networks, live chat, self care mobile app, etc), to get back to us within minutes, maximum hours and to have services tailored to our specific needs.

In the last few years, mobile networks have evolved tremendously. LTE and 3.5G data networks are enabling the vision of mobile and ubiquitous and heterogeneous applications. One may think that an operator that builds such a good network must have a clear vision in place on how to attract and retain customers, as well as a vision on how to effectively monetize data. Believe it or not, this is not the case in Europe yet, at least not for all operators.

European operators have opportunities for differentiation by improving customer care through self-care mobile apps and innovative data plans. Mobile self-care apps enable operators to reach directly their customers where they are and put them in control while saving significantly on customer care call costs. However, only very recently European operators have started offering such services, but most only in a limited fashion.

Telecom’s industry is witnessing major changes in the perceived value of connectivity, which is shifting from voice to data. While voice revenues are declining due to competition from OTT services, data revenues are not filling that void. Operators have often (probably too often) justified the overall revenue decline with the competitive situation and price wars. It is too easy to blame the overall market situation especially when operators seem to channel most of their energy into sometimes hopeless “service” innovation instead of where it should go – pricing innovation, package innovation, customer care innovations, etc.

In addition to that, some European operators seem to underestimate the value of their network. When I changed provider I have got such an inexpensive plan that it almost upset me. In Finland, you can get 100 Mbit/s home broadband with a bundled mobile broadband SIM card with unlimited LTE connectivity for a bit more than 15 EUR a month. That price is not sustainable and it will drive end users to treat connectivity as commodity going forward.

North American and Asian operators have already understood that and figured out innovative ways to monetize data that go beyond the bucket-size offers we see in Europe. Specifically, North America has focused on discontinued unlimited data plans and promoted shared data plans. Asia has focused more on micro service charging models, such as buy an hour Facebook access, which were directly delivered through a self-care application on the customer’ smartphone (e.g. Opera WebPass).

Although I am not Finnish I believe there are many other people in Finland (as there are in many other European countries) that would be willing to pay a bit more for their subscription in return for better customer experience, control over spending and the ability to customize subscriptions.


Andrea is a Manager at Northstream

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