Once you go Mac you don’t go back

Posted: May 27th, 2011 | Author: Steve Hateley | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

A lesson on capitalizing on the needs and aspirations of the customer, from real users.

On a grey and blustery final morning at Management World 2011 (#mwd11) and in a week when I had received countless notifications about exceeding my mobile data roaming limit, I felt it appropriate to tune into the “Optimizing Customer Experience Summit” specifically its “Creating Loyalty” focus.

Ericsson had “creatively” pulled in a mixed panel from the Facebook generation, selected demographically from the Dublin student and young adult fraternity, to discuss their likes and loathes associated with the mobile subscriber experience.

Almost instantly it became evident that to this select group – who in reality are likely to be some of the biggest consumers of data – that Mobile operator brand was NOT important… a shocker, I know!

Buddy-Bundling: To this bunch of intellectually-apt users, their priorities were led by application bundles that enable them to maximize social interaction with close friends, for the least cost and with offers including group handset deals – some even switching from iPhone to Blackberry to get them. In some examples the panelists talked about entire groups of friends deciding through Facebook discussions to switch operator and handset to get the best inter-friend bundling deals.

Security observation: A common misconception of the younger generations using next generation technology and innovation is of negligence associated with identity and account protection. This group of individuals actually highlighted concerns around security and encryption, maturely stating that other than for iTunes (the exception) they would generally choose not to save credit card details on their handset-accessed accounts. Some of the panelists acknowledged the risks associated with phone theft and the potential identity theft that could follow. I was surprised but pleased to hear this level of maturity and awareness.

It’s of no real surprise that in the eyes of the panel as consumers, Apple emerged as the ultimate brand they would like to build their media and social lifestyles around. Barring the unfortunate high price of the iPhone and iPad, Apple could happily command loyalty. In the words of one of the panelists “Once you go Mac you don’t go back”.

So why is it that operators can’t create such brand loyalty?

Apple’s go to market is built pretty much entirely around the user experience with its intuitive interfaces, media, application and communication on-device ecosystem tailored for ease of use. But take a look at the top operators highlighted in the panel session – Vodafone and O2. The panelists regaled us with their experiences of all-encompassing bundles (with hidden over the top charges for the obvious extras that users would want to use), poor customer service, non-tailored product bundling, patchy coverage in obviously populated areas and unwanted, poorly researched marketing attempts. The fact is that “… Products will pretty much always get commoditized, so differentiation has to come from customer experience – the quality, the way you sell and the way you support them”, a comment made in the customer loyalty session that followed.

So could I be so bold to suggest that if subscriber churn is such a problem for Mobile operators, they start using the data that is available to them from their network, services, devices, billing and CRM systems to up their game on personalization and think about becoming the “Apple of Communications – Social networking enabler or choice”. As commented by Amdocs in the following session, operators should take this extensive data, add some real-time processes and they open the door to a great Customer Experience opportunity.

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