When I left college 16 years earlier, some large technology shops were  telecom companies, Alcatel, Ericcson and Lucent Technologies. They have contributed significantly towards the introduction of internet  across population in those years, along with mobile operators. Today all these companies continue to be involved in basic communication infrastructure, but their influence has reduced significantly and are no more driving force in their industry.  The  focus has changed towards customer.

Why these companies not change their focus towards consumer? The internet consumers were their customers or existing subscribers and they hold gateway to internet. Having experienced dissatisfaction calling operator agent over the provided response, I want to find the reason on what makes the agent to respond in particular fashion not aiming at customer delight.

In a simple scenario, where person  travelling abroad and wants to plan deactivation of the service and call operator. the person is asked to call on the day when he wants to disconnect the service. No customer agent accepts that they do not have mechanism to schedule this task  and that is why they are not helping customer in his planning.  The customer agents  are accustomed to the software provided that not does not allow them to schedule deactivation. The software is not helping to focus on  customer.

Traditionally, mobile and broadband operators and telecom providers provided limited freedom of choice  to their customers.  The telecom provider created console clients and provided to the mobile operator. The agents of the mobile operator were trained  on console clients and mobile operator offered services related to plans and capabilities to customers. The customer can either reach the call centre or file a physical application to  activate and deactivate specific plans. Some of these plan activations  were associated with joining fee  charged to consumer to experience the service for first time.

Arrive mobile devices, the mobile operator started to allow the  user to toll free number to en-roll and change a service plan and the  payment is based  on consumption. The pragmatists and conservatives feared that they might not use service post enrolling or changing plan and were doubtful where there was a hidden agenda to charge them for non-usage, similar to Value Added Providers earlier.  Absence of the feature to start and  stop data plans and voice plans from mobile phones  did not help customer to adopt and move to mobile data services and other new capabilities.

Here came Apple with a smart phone and  a application ecosystem.  To win the trust of people to use data services, their mobile phones have a internet soft switch and WI-Fi soft switch.  All the applications running can connect to data services only if the internet soft switch is enabled and the same with WI-Fi too. By providing this to customer, they empowered customer to start and stop internet usage on mobile devices. The customer started to trust that they have control over the mobile data services and they  started using maps and listening to audio and viewing videos, increasing mobile data service usage.

To make customer use more data services, you need to make them perceive that they have complete control over usage and earn their trust. The mobile operators failed to earn the trust of their customers and were only focused on profits.  Additional companies like Google and Microsoft started entering this space and the mobile operator  gave a free ride for new companies to own customer and lead lead the mobile data space.  Why mobile operator  failed to innovate towards customer ?

Today mobile has enable more collaboration for customer. More the collaboration has resulted in more applications developed.

  • Most of us get SMS on our phone based on debit in your bank account or credit card billing.
  • Individuals get PIN to complete on-line payment transaction(debit or credit)  with more sense of trust and faith than before.
  • Enterprises are enabled to collaborate with stakeholders present in multiple locations based on SMS and internet available with stakeholders to authorize company bank account payments using mobile PIN.
  • There can be new scenarios like, when customer talks to user agent, the agent can initiate a real time chat  with customer at the same time and they have the ability to use both of  the communication medium of voice and chat adhering to a seamless experience.

You see WhatsApp  has  taken away SMS revenue of mobile operator, by enabling  mobile operator to effectively use the existing  USSD infrastructure.  Why mobile operators did not create a service like WhatsApp ? How mobile operator gains insights on the customer needs after they have outsourced  customer service to third parties?