For the 67% of US online adults who use smartphones, everyday life is made up of a web of mobile moments. The gaps in our days are absorbed with checking email while waiting for a grande skinny soy latte, frenetically refreshing a delayed flight status as another winter storm blasts through, or catching up with real, virtual, and long-lost friends on our social network of choice. Wireless carriers such as AT&T and Verizon power many of those mobile moments. Their business and their brands should be booming on the back of consumers’ need for constant connectivity, but our research shows that these brands are falling short.
In our TRUE brand compass survey of US wireless carriers, consumers found brand leadership wanting. Verizon Wireless achieved the highest ranking of the 10 brands surveyed, propelled by second quintile scores for being trusted and essential. But none of the brands achieved the top-ranking tiers of trailblazer or leader. The prescription? Wireless brands must seek to win hearts, not just contracts.
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
The deal between Apple and China Mobile has been a long time coming, with lots of folks disappointed it didn’t happen in September when the latest iPhones were announced. China Mobile is the world’s largest mobile phone operator, with 760 million subscribers. That’s more than 1 in 7 of all people alive, and, as my friend Charlie has reminded me, more than 6 times the number of the largest US carrier, Verizon Wireless, or 3 times the size of AT&T and Verizon combined.
Though Bryan Wang in our Beijing office points out that Apple’s iPhone offerings are very expensive by China standards, starting at about $740 unsubsidized, he also reports that there is lots of interest among China Mobile subscribers. With this deal, we’ll finally find out how far Apple can get in China without offering products that match the prices of market leaders Samsung, Lenovo, and Huawei, or innovator Xiaomi. Based on Forrester survey data, we estimate that Apple sold over 16.8 million iPhones in mainland China in the four quarters ending September, 2013. We estimate that Apple will be able to sell 17 million new iPhones to China Mobile users in the first 12 months – that’s on the low side of public estimates we’ve seen ranging from 15 to 30 million. So Apple will boost global iPhone sales – and iPhone revenues – by over 10%.
After waiting so long, why is China Mobile interested in the iPhone? Because they’re concerned about losing their best customers, which are some of China's most valuable ones, to China Telecom and China Unicom. And China Mobile is just launching the first 4G network in China, and Forrester believes it will have at least a 6 month head start before other operators begin adding 4G. The iPhone 5s and 5c give China Mobile showcase products to show off the power of their 4G network.
Alas: It has finally happened. Vodafone has sold its 45% stake in Verizon Wireless to Verizon for $130 billion in a part cash ($58.9 billion) and part equity deal. The deal values the 45% stake at 9.4 times EBITDA. Markets had been speculating about this deal for years, so why has it taken place now? Arguably, the decision was made easier by Verizon’s share price, which is at a decade high, as well the the potential for rising interest rates. From Vodafone’s perspective, our main observations are that:
The deal is strategic for Vodafone and financial for Verizon. While the deal is a strategic transaction for Vodafone – it has decided to exit the US market – it is a financial transaction for Verizon: It already controlled Verizon Wireless through its 55% stake in the business. But after Vodafone’s exit, Verizon can keep the cash and no longer needs to pay out a dividend to Vodafone. It can instead use this retained dividend cash flow for capital expenditures and other investments to help boost its position in an increasingly competitive US wireless market (e.g., Softbank + Sprint; T-Mobile + MetroPCS).