The old telco business model is breaking up. Telcos are at a crossroads, with one path leading to becoming pure utilities, another to transforming into important members of digital ecosystems, and a third to their complete demise.
Telcos have had years to prepare for this situation, but few have used their time effectively. At this stage, I see few reasons to be optimistic about the prospects for most telcos to recover the ground they’ve lost to other players in the emerging digital ecosystems because:
Consumers care more about apps and devices than connectivity than ever.One main impact of the onslaught on telcos by over-the-top providers like Facebook and handset manufacturers like Apple has been to push telco brands to the back of the consumer’s mind. Consumers care more about which handset and apps they use than which connectivity provider they have. Telco brands just don’t rock as they used to years ago.
Business leaders do not see telcos as the first choice to provide ICT services.Data from Forrester’s Global Business Technographics® Networks And Telecommunications Survey 2015 shows that business and IT users trust systems integrators and independent solution specialists more than telcos with a wide spectrum of voice, data, and managed services. One of the reasons is that business and IT users feel that telcos don’t understand their specific business requirements sufficiently.
At the same time, for business leaders, having access to quality network infrastructure represents a vital underpinning for their digital business and their long-term competitive advantage. We predict that by 2015 and beyond:
The telco business model will shift from sustaining to enabling critical infrastructure. Traditionally, the telco business model focused on sustaining operational efficiency of network infrastructure. In the years ahead, we predict a shift toward enabling solutions that support telco clients to engage with their customers more effectively. This mirrors not only the CIO’s shift from IT towards business technology but will also be the overarching theme during the transformation of the telco business model.
Admittedly, going away for two weeks of vacation in July hit my fast forward button. But even so, memories of our Customer Experience Forum East in New York in June are still fresh in my mind.
If you were also at CX East, here’s a reminder of what happened on Day One. And if you weren’t there, here’s a preview of the types of things you’ll see at our Customer Experience West in Anaheim on 11/6 – 11/7, and our Customer Experience Forum EMEA in London on 11/17 – 11/18.
Before the event we surveyed our attendees. That let me open the forum by summarizing their challenge: Although their executives’ high aspirations for customer experience do them credit, their success to date lags far behind their goals.
Megan Burns, Vice President and Principal Analyst, Forrester
Megan showed the surprising findings of a recent study on what drives a customer experience that results in customer loyalty. Guess what? For customers of most industries, emotions matter more – often far more – than whether a brand met their needs or he level of effort needed to get their needs met.
Stephen Cannon, President and CEO, Mercedes-Benz, USA
From Time Warner and Comcast to AT&T and DirecTV, corporate mergers appear to be the latest tactic in winning the battle for market share and driving innovation. From a business perspective, the strategic advantages of such mergers may be clear — but what do these changes look like from the consumer’s viewpoint? To understand consumer reaction to the latest series of merger announcements, Forrester leveraged its Technographics360 approach of linking multiple data sources to give a holistic view of consumers. Specifically, we tuned into online chatter with our social listening platform and engaged our ConsumerVoices market research online community for this analysis.
According to the data, consumers associate mergers with increased costs, fewer opportunities for choice, and decreased product and service quality. While a few individuals appreciate the potential for innovation that mergers might afford, the prevailing sentiment is uncertainty:
The fact that individuals are wary of these corporate mergers partially stems from the timeless truism that “people are afraid of change.” To mainstream consumers, a large merger suggests a loss of customer control and greater uncertainty; according to the Harvard Business Review, these are the top two qualities that underpin a fear of change.
“The future is already here — it’s just not evenly distributed.” This popular quote hit home at the Global Mobile Internet Conference panel on meeting the challenge of global connectivity that I moderated this week. Internet.org is a global partnership between technology leaders, nonprofits, local communities, and experts who are working together to bring the Internet to the two-thirds of the world’s population that don’t have it. Founding partners include Facebook, Ericsson, Qualcomm, Nokia (now Microsoft Mobile), and Opera.
What it means
The age of the customer is everywhere. This point was cemented at the conference. Device makers, network infrastructure providers, and app developers have to work with telecom providers to leverage existing 2G/3G assets to tap unconnected subscribers or miss out on business opportunities. Governments also need to help by, for example, providing consistent electricity to homes. Improving the customer experience can help businesses grow.
It’s that great time of year when I finally get to talk publicly about Forrester's Forum For Customer Experience Professionals in New York at the end of June. If you’ve ever been to one of our events, you know that we always have a theme, and this year that theme is “Why Good Is Not Good Enough.”
We picked our theme because of the good news/bad news story told by our Customer Experience Index (CXi) results this year. First, here’s the good news: The number of brands in the “very poor” category of the CXi is down to one out of 175 brands we studied. What’s more, only a handful of brands — 10% — are in the “poor” category. Together, those findings show that as customer experience improvement efforts got traction over the past year, the number of truly awful experiences dropped like a rock.
Now for the bad news: Just 11% of brands in the CXi made it into the “excellent” category.
Taken together, those two pieces of news mean that most brands are bunched up in the middle of the curve — not awful in the eyes of their customers but not differentiated either. I think of this situation as “okay is the new poor” or, in my darker moments, “the year of ‘meh.’” Regardless, it adds up to the same thing: A merely good customer experience is no longer good enough if you want incremental sales, positive word of mouth, and better customer retention.
The central theme of Mobile World Congress 2014 for me was clearly Connected Living. I’ve been attending Mobile World Congress for quite some time — 2006 was my first, the year that it moved to Barcelona from Cannes. And, this year felt different. No longer did the event feel dominated by handset manufacturers and equipment providers. Mobile World Congress is no longer a telecom event; it is clearly a mobile event. Mobility has penetrated every industry and every aspect of life, and that diversity is now clearly felt at the show. The large presence of car manufacturers and the buzz around Facebook indicate a definitive changing of the guard. That shift is ongoing. The proliferation of connected devices, the explosion of over-the-top services and the rise of the data economy will continue to shape the industry. But for me, this year I felt excitement around our new connected lives.
Carrier IQ software, which consists of embedded software on mobile devices and server-side analytics applications, enables mobile operators and device OEMs to understand in detail a wide range of performance and usage characteristics of mobile services and devices. These include both network-facing services such as core voice and data offerings, as well as non-network-facing capabilities such as music players, cameras and other side loaded media, in order to assist with product and service development and roll-out [emphasis added].
Customer Intelligence is not a spying operation. The promise of CI is not reductively commercial. Instead, proper CI practices help businesses – with their customers' consent – to understand the preferences and needs of their customers. Firms also use CI processes and technologies to determine and enforce an optimal and respectful relationship with customers.
What lessons does the Carrier IQ incident highlight?
CI pros have an ethical responsibility to customers.CI pros are customer advocates after all. They cannot truly represent customers unless they also help their employers understand appropriate boundaries for data capture. Helping customers also helps businesses, protecting firms from the risk of public outrage and litigation. CI pros: Help your employers understand when data capture goes too far.