Category Archives: Operator

Telco industry ranks bottom in UK for customer service

The Institute of Customer Service has released its Customer Satisfaction Index stating the telco industry is the lowest ranked sector in the UK, reports

While the industry has made improvements over the last twelve months, it finished in last place with an index of 72.9, behind the likes of utilities and public services. The industry was one of the strongest improvers over the course of the last twelve months, improving its score by 1.2, it is still the industry with the highest numbers of complaints, 20% of customers compared to a national average of 12%.

“It’s encouraging to see the telecoms sector is making progress, but prevention is always better than cure, so the industry should take note of the areas which need to be focused on,” said Jo Causon, CEO of The Institute of Customer Service. “Efficiency, effectiveness and empathy are key and organisations should always follow up with customers to ensure that the problem is resolved.”

One statistic which could be seen as concerning for the industry is the number of customers who would be prepared to pay a higher cost for enhanced customer service. This was another area where the telco industry was ranking last with only 24% agreeing. The concern here would be surrounding the industry’s long-standing quest to avoid being relegated to the ranks of utilities, though the survey does suggest the industry is heading that direction.

Over the course of recent months, numerous value adds, bundle packages, brand marketing campaigns and customer services initiatives have been launched by the telcos in an effort to avoid being commoditised. Competing on price is worst case scenario for the industry, and despite the efforts, when surveys like this imply a high proportion of customers are basing their decision on price, in could indicate the industry is heading towards a ‘race to the bottom’.

In terms of best performers, giffgaff and Tesco Mobile were the highest performers in the telco industry, and the only two who featured into the top 50 overall.

Court of Appeals hits back at US telco industry with net neutrality ruling

Lady Justice On The Old Bailey, LondonThe District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals has hit back at the US telcos industry, ruling in favour of government net neutrality regulations, reports

Although the decision will be appealed to the US Supreme Court, the decision marks a victory for FCC chairman Tom Wheeler’s camp in the FCC, which has been split over the dispute. Republican commissioner Michael O’Rielly championed efforts opposing Wheeler’s Democratic team, though the decision does appear to move US carriers closer to the realms of utilities.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for consumers and innovators who deserve unfettered access to the entire web, and it ensures the internet remains a platform for unparalleled innovation, free expression and economic growth,” said Wheeler in a statement. “After a decade of debate and legal battles, today’s ruling affirms the Commission’s ability to enforce the strongest possible internet protections – both on fixed and mobile networks – that will ensure the internet remains open, now and in the future.”

The decision itself will now ensure US carriers cannot block, degrade or promote internet traffic, which has been strongly opposed by the telecoms industry and members of the Republican Party. The argument against has been based around the idea of an ‘open internet’ where free-trade rules the roost. Texas Senator Ted Cruz once described the move towards net neutrality as “Obamacare for the internet”, believing it is burdensome and would create an environment of over-regulation for the internet.

The ruling also hits back at claims made by industry attorneys that ISPs are like newspaper editors, and thus have the right to edit content which flows over its network. This has been struck down by the DC Court of Appeals stating ISPs should view themselves as ‘conduits for the messages of others’ as opposed to dictating the opinions which are viewed on the internet.

While this would be considered a victory for the Wheeler camp inside the FCC, the dispute is likely to continue for some time. AT&T has already announced it will be appealing the decision and Verizon has stated its investments in Verizon Digital Media Services would be at risk without an open Internet.

The dispute on the whole has seen conflicting opinions at every level. The ruling from the DC Court of Appeals also demonstrated similar conflicts, with Senior Circuit Judge Stephen Williams stating “the ultimate irony of the Commission’s unreasoned patchwork is that, refusing to inquire into competitive conditions, it shunts broadband service onto the legal track suited to natural monopolies.”

In terms of opposition within the FCC itself, O’Rielly said in a statement “If allowed to stand, however, today’s decision will be extremely detrimental to the future of the Internet and all consumers and businesses that use it. More troubling is that the majority opinion fails to apprehend the workings of the Internet, and declines to hold the FCC accountable for an order that ran roughshod over the statute, precedent, and any comments or analyses that did not support the FCC’s quest to deliver a political victory.”

The other Republican Commissioner at the FCC Ajit Pai stated “I am deeply disappointed by the D.C. Circuit’s 2-1 decision upholding the FCC’s Internet regulations. The FCC’s regulations are unnecessary and counterproductive.”

The end of this dispute will unlikely to be seen for some time, and there are strong arguments for both camps. On the commercial side represented by the Republican Party and the telco industry, there has to be a means to commercialize the billions of dollars invested infrastructure. AT&T, Verizon, etc are not charities. However, the net neutrality camp containing the Democrat Party and the FCC Chairman insists there has to be an element of control. There is a requirement for telcos to be held accountable, and invoking the First Amendment right to free speech in this context could potentially have dangerous consequences from a commercial and political perspective.

Consumer buying decisions still based on price – Nokia

A racehorse and jockey in a horse raceResearch from Nokia has highlighted consumer buying decisions for smartphones and post-paid contracts are still based on financial drivers as opposed to value add propositions, reports

With the worldwide number of smartphone and total number of mobile phone users estimated to exceed 2.6 billion and 5 billion respectively by 2019, the race is now on for operators to capture the biggest share of this lucrative market. Nokia’s research addressed a number of factors surround churn rate and customer acquisition, as well as wider trends, though concerns could be raised on the financial drivers for purchasing decisions placing operators in a similar arena to utilities companies.

Efforts in recent years by the operators have been to shift the focus of the consumer away from price, and move purchasing decisions towards value and performance. T-Mobile US announced a further prong to its ‘Un-carrier’ strategy this week, as it will reward customers with stock, seemingly for nothing in return in the first instance, though additional shares can be acquired by referring new customers to the brand. There have been similar efforts from operators around the world, though the statistics do not suggest there has been a significant impact.

In comparison between 2014 and 2016, the number of respondents who said their attitudes on retention were influenced by cost and billing was still the highest factor, but did drop from 45% to 40%. In terms of the reasons for choosing a new operator, 45% stated this would be based on price, with value adds, mobile technology and choice of devices, only accounting for 17%, 14% and 11% respectively. The quality of a network is also a concern, though the drivers behind choosing a new or staying with an operator are still predominantly price driven.

While price is still the number one objective for customers, the statistics do highlight value added services are having more of an impact on customer retention than acquisition. In terms of definitions, core operator offerings, such as SMS, data and minutes were not included in the research, however value added services increased the likelihood in a customer staying with an operator by 11%, the perception of a network’s quality was up 55% and the number of customers that used more than one gigabyte of data per month was also up 15%.

While operators are generally perceived as trying to avoid competing for new customers solely on price, the research does seem to indicate this would be the most effective route. While retention can seemingly be influenced by value adds, a utility model may be difficult to avoid for customer acquisition.

“We can see the marketing battles to acquire mobile subscribers are fierce,” said Bhaskar Gorti, Applications & Analytics president at Nokia. “What we don’t see as well is the work operators do every day to retain customers. Our study shows how important that work is – and also how challenging it is as customers, attached to their phones, demand higher levels of service.”

In line with industry expectations, 4G usage is on the increase with 38% of new subscribers over the last 12 months choosing 4G networks. The uptake is mainly witnessed in the mature markets, Japan and US are showing the highest levels of adoption, though respondents of the survey highlighted there still are barriers to adoption. For those who are not using 4G currently, a device which doesn’t support 4G or the price being too high were the main reasons.

T-Mobile exchanges stock for referrals in pursuit of new subscribers

GrowthT-Mobile US has launched its new #GetThanked initiative to engage existing customers, offering various rewards including stock in the company.

Building on the company’s view that its competitors only offer rewards as an incentive for subscribers to spend more money, the T-Mobile initiative rewards customers simply for being customers. While those who want to participate in the Stock-Up initiative do not have to spend any money, they do have to ensure their family and friends sign up to a post-paid contract, in a similar manner social media uses viral marketing to promote apps and games.

“Get ready for a gratitude adjustment, America! This Un-carrier move is all about giving you a good thanking! No strings. No gotchas. Just ‘thank you for being a customer!’” said John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile. “At T-Mobile, we already wake up every day working for our customers—so I’ve decided to make it official and turn T-Mobile customers into T-Mobile owners by offering them stock. And we’re thanking customers every week with cool stuff from brands people love. For free. Every Tuesday!”

Newer customers will receive one share for every successful referral, whereas those who have been customers for five years or more will receive two. An individual can receive up to 100 shares a year on the scheme, which is managed by T-Mobile’s brokerage partner, LOYAL3. Aside from the shares, subscribers can also receive more conventional rewards including free in-flight, Domino’s pizza, holidays to Las Vegas, hiking trips to Machu Picchu, as well as other prizes.

T-Mobile currently accounts for 15.8% of the US market share, according to statistics from Ovum’s WCIS service, which has been steadily increasing from 13.9% in June 2014. The Un-carrier initiative was launched in March 2013, seemingly as a means to differentiate the brand in the US, made stronger strides into the post-paid market and increase brand loyalty. While the stock initiative could be perceived by some as a PR stunt, it could have an impact on brand loyalty, as customers may feel more affinity to T-Mobile should they own a small percentage of the company, as well as acquiring new post-paid customers.

The overall Un-carrier strategy itself would appear to be a successful initiative, as the company recently reported healthy Q1 results including subscriber gain, revenue growth, churn reduction and an improved forecast for the remainder of 2016. The company claims it acquired 2.2 million customers over the period, marking its 12th consecutive quarter of over 1 million customer acquisitions. Ovum suggests T-Mobile were amongst the biggest winners of Q1 with AT&T bringing in 1.8 million new customers, Verizon 2.2 million and Sprint just 500,000.

Cloud storage bundles improve stickiness but not revenues – research

Cloud storage helps operators retain customers, not necessarily generate revenue

Cloud storage helps operators retain customers, not necessarily generate revenue

Research undertaken by analyst firm Strategy Analytics has concluded that pre-installed mobile cloud storage bundles, such as Dropbox, have become table stakes for device vendors and are perceived more as a prerequisite than a value-add, reports

SA pooled the resources of three analysts covering mobile content, user experience and app tracking to come to the conclusion that premium storage bundles have already become ‘me too’ propositions that confer little product differentiation. Having said that they also conclude they can still be effective for both device vendors and operators when it comes to customer loyalty.

Christopher Dodge, Associate Director of SA’s Wireless Media Labs, said: “Our research suggests that consumers are agnostic to who the service provider is, but at the same time they place significant emphasis on the trustworthiness of the service, which in turn creates an opportunity for device OEMs and operators in becoming the trusted provider of the service, through pre-installing the application on the device with free storage.”

Nitesh Patel, Director of the Wireless Media Strategies Service, said: “For operators, the focus with cloud storage service should be on indirect monetization – this means rather than relying on cloud as a premium service, they should manage it effectively for reducing customer churn.”

Bonny Joy, Chief of SA’s Consumer Telemetry Platforms said: “ OEM partnerships with cloud storage providers are being received favorably by the end users. The AppOptix based on over one million application sessions in the US found that Dropbox on Samsung devices realize a traffc of 12.8 MB  per day, the highest among  major OEM brands.”

Fellow analyst firm CCS Insight has also published some research today, but focusing on the UK consumer communications services market. CCS is forecasting that by 2020, 79% of UK households will have signed up to a multiplay service bundle, a 60% increase on the current level. Furthermore the number of households buying a bundle of at least four comms services is expected to increase by over 400%.

Paolo Pescatore, Director of Multiplay and Media at CCS Insight, reckons this means premium content will become even more valuable and that industry consolidation is set to continue. “With a furious battle for customers raging, we expect the amounts paid for exclusive content deals on movies, sports and TV shows to continue to skyrocket. Sports will be a major weapon in every provider’s arsenal for many years to come,” he said.

“Our surveys reveal that consumers find it more convenient and better value to buy broadband, mobile, TV and land-line access from one company, so established providers that can offer all these services are in a strong position. Once multiplay packages are the norm, it’ll be the exclusive content on offer that’ll set providers apart. It’s little wonder we’re seeing a frenzy of acquisitions as leading players scramble to secure assets.”