Thursday, February 16, 2012

Don't trust your instincts: putting users at the center of the telco business model

Once upon a time, mobile operators competed on network quality and tariff plans. The race was to trumpet 99.999 percent availability and then focus the entire organization on the next technical achievement.
Can we still say that today?  Not really.  Today, it is about price and the coolest smartphones.  Do you have the iPhone?  No?  Well, do you have the best Android phone then?
So how do operators compete then?  Some have started the long shift towards a user experience focus, trying to create their own sticky services.
This is crucial as operators take on new over-the-top (OTT) voice and texting players. By their very nature, OTT players are a few steps higher on the user experience ladder.  These OTT players are going to offer innovative, user-focused services for free, or based on a freemium model. They will be innovative about integrating voice in a whole array of services, from traditional phone calls to a whole range of HTML5-based web solutions.
This does not mean that operator networks do not matter.  They do.  But they have to be built and then optimized to ensure the specific types of service quality that end users demand.
There are immediate payoffs to a user experience focus, as clear goals help system architects come together to optimize systems, focusing on the points where users actually interact with a network . It can cut time to market, and it does not have to go against traditional telecom values like standardization. In fact, user experience and standards go hand in hand – it just depends what you base your standards on.
In our connected world, people are getting impatient with services that do not work exactly as they need them. You can see this already in the “Bring Your Own Device” trend in enterprise communication, as employees reject what they see as inefficient solutions.
Sony sees this big picture now, even as a company traditionally focussed on technology and hardware.  According to its new CEO, user experience is the only way forward.
It can be hard not to go with your gut feeling and not to trust a new technology for its own sake. But, after all, can you really put yourself in the shoes of a 75-year-old Japanese woman on the Tokyo subway?  Do you know her communication needs? You need to observe and get real feedback.
It can’t just be about launching the latest thing anymore.


  1. This post is spot on. Without a doubt, customer experience and satisfaction has become more important than ever before.
    In our mobile era, it's simple for consumers to discover where the best deals/service/tech are available..and to keep your customers delighted and loyal, it's essential to know their needs and expectations.
    Online and mobile feedback will certainly be playing a major role in ensuring that telecoms can discover what makes their customers tick. This will allow them to take informed action to keep customers coming back for more.

  2. Fully agree with the opinions in this post. Actually now it's not the era which we pay a lot attention on those things improving only 0.001% network reliability or service availability, and then we make every thing (network or the services on it) very complicated. Now it's time to think about customer experiences including the experiences from services itself or the services from the operators. Internet-like services focus more on the experiences with very fast service TTM, but traditional telco-like services need a very long time for specification, IOT and then delivering,I doubt how it can compete with internet-like services (or OTT services). Telco also want to open its network, monetize its network capabilities, but really it's not the same thinking from the OTT players. Telcos or traditional vendors need to firstly change their minds.

    1. @Jimmy It will absolutely be a challenge for telcos to climb the user experience ladder, so to speak. The general consensus is that you can climb a step up in a year at the very least. We are talking a complete culture change in some instances. But on the other hand, any actions telcos do take will pay off. And they have to start this journey one way or another ...

  3. The industry must transition (or is transitioning) from vertical integration to horizontal scalability. Service providers do not compete well in the upper layers. The competitive WAN in the US and the early competitive wireless carriers was the closest they got. So they should focus on building smart pipes and scalable exchange models that facilitate bilateral session payments. The future is in the core and that's where the funding for the edge will be derived. Stop thinking monopoly and vertical.

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