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3 ways wireless carriers can win customer loyalty

By Udi Ziv

For wireless carriers, customer relationship used to mean primarily one thing – a means of increasing ARPU (average revenue per user). For the most part, the “relationship” element was neglected.

In recent years, however, things have changed. Subscriber loyalty and churn reduction have become a top priority – not less important than revenue increase.

Marketers are investing more effort and resources on keeping subscribers happy and loyal, ensuring they do not switch to competitors. “Relationship” has suddenly taken center stage.

But what does “relationship” and similar terms such as “customer experience,” “satisfaction” and “loyalty” mean in the context of mobile subscribers? More importantly, what are the capabilities needed to make subscribers happy and induce a noticeable change in the eyes of customers?

Obviously, there is no silver bullet answer. But here are three fundamental abilities that carriers should acquire as a starting point to enable such a shift.

1. Get to know your customers
Providing a valuable customer experience begins with filling a knowledge gap.

In recent research, 65 percent of carrier marketers admitted they were not confident in their knowledge of the customer.

Until recently marketers used to spend time devising attractive packages and handset offers. However, now they must gain insight into the personal needs and preferences of customers, and learn what customers really want.

Getting to know dozens, or even a few hundred of customers seems logical, but what about millions of subscribers?

Technically speaking, carriers need big data capabilities – the ability to efficiently collect, process and analyze large data sets related to the network usage of each individual subscriber.

This may include a subscriber’s preferred method of communication such as voice, messaging and data, hours of calling and data usages.

Analyzing, slicing and dicing such data in real-time will help to create a personal profile for each user and enable delivery of tailored personal offers that correspond to customer needs.

Say, for example, a subscriber is paying $22 per month for a package that includes 300 text messages.

Analyzing the customer usage patterns, your system detects that subscriber almost consumes the entire package, but then stops sending messages during the last days of the month to avoid exceeding the package and having to pay double the price per message.

Identifying this individual need, the system automatically offers the customer additional low-priced messages towards the end of the month.

2. The right offer at the right time
Next is the ability to deliver offers to subscribers at the optimal time, or what some call real-time marketing. Consider the following scenarios.

A subscriber with a new handset and phone number has just joined the carrier. Assume you can detect – using the data collection capabilities mentioned above – that the new subscriber has many outgoing calls but very few incoming calls.

You could offer the new customer – on that same day – 50 free SMSs to be used within 24 hours, so he or she could send friends the new number.

Another example. Dan and Jane are family members and have just landed in the Caribbean. What if you could provide them with a special roaming package that can be shared on both their phones?

In both these examples, a personalized marketing offer is delivered at the optimal time and context – when the subscriber needs the offer and is most inclined to accept it.

More importantly, such right-time marketing offers answer real needs, enhances the customer experience and promotes loyalty.

3. Individual customer lifecycle management
In the post-paid world, subscribers will typically hear from their operator only two or three months before their contract ends, at which point they will be bombarded with sales offers.

As for prepaid subscribers, they will usually not be contacted at all apart from top-up offers. This is obviously not the best formula for showing customer care and promoting loyalty.

Instead, service providers should interact with subscribers throughout their lifecycle.

Interaction should not have a single-minded sales objective, but rather follow an overall purpose of ensuring a positive customer experience.

This may include messages related to how much a subscriber has saved compared to her previous price plan, a request for feedback following a point of purchase service or a small gift or award in case of dissatisfaction.

Carriers should proactively engage with subscribers throughout their lifecycle – from the moment they join, through the development stage, and silent or churn-risk stages.

For instance, if the carrier identifies that the subscriber started making many international calls that will spike up his monthly bill, an offer can be made automatically, to adjust the price plan to include international minutes.

This would most likely result in positive experience, as the customer recognizes that the offer saves him money.

FOLLOWING THESE three fundamental capabilities will allow communication service providers to shift their focus from selling to improving the overall customer experience on a daily basis: a long term journey that leads to improved customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Udi Ziv is CEO of Pontis, Ra’anana, Israel. Reach him at [email protected].