In Telco, Why Is Steerage-Class Treatment Reserved for Business-Class Customers?

A Smith

The retail experience for many modern consumers has undergone a revolution in recent years thanks to digital transformation, which has eliminated much of the tedious overhead of daily commerce. Visiting retail centers, standing in line, completing forms and explaining the same request to person after person is no longer a necessity of the buying process.

In Telco, digital access, or e-commerce if you like, means you can contrast and compare your own choice of handsets, configure your selection and have it delivered to your home in less than 24 hours. When you start using your device, online access to charging and usage information means that many of life’s less enjoyable surprises (such as the bill shock that so often follows a trip abroad for business or vacation) have been all but eliminated.

Amazingly, while the retail experience for the consumer is much improved, the same can rarely be said for enterprise customers, even though enterprises typically produce significantly higher revenues per customer.

It’s almost like the whole concept of “digital first” stopped with the consumer market. Or as though the major incumbent operators, aware that enterprises have typically had a smaller choice of providers, have taken their larger customers somewhat for granted.

However, that complacency is beginning to be challenged. Just like personal customers, business users now have choices over how they make calls, exchange messages and access the web. As a result, operators have started to feel the impact in declining connectivity revenues and growth in mobile data that typically lags the consumer market. It’s a trend that will continue if operators don’t take steps to make their enterprise proposition a more engaging and transparent experience.

Retaining the enterprise customer is essential for Telcos, and not just to defend existing revenues. In 2017, 69% of CEOs surveyed by the GSMA rated enterprise services as the most important revenue growth opportunity from 5G, a view that is unlikely to have changed substantially. It is much easier to sell enterprise services, whether based on IoT, 5G or ICT, to businesses that are already on board with your telecoms offering than to a competitor’s customer. Improving the quality of service to enterprises is a good way to keep them in the fold and addressable with innovative new propositions.

So how should Telcos respond? Most simply, the Telco should “think digital” in respect of the enterprise just as much as it does in respect of its personal customers. This means stepping back and asking the questions that have driven successful digital transformation in consumer markets, and determine if their enterprise customers would like to:

  • Have online access to their account through a number of channels, including mobile
  • Select and configure their (perhaps simpler) service packages
  • Set their usage thresholds and alerts
  • Create and manage user groups
  • Share allowances and credits between individuals and corporate groups
  • Enjoy real-time visibility of ongoing usage and spend
  • Benefit from alarms when thresholds are likely to be breached, particularly when roaming or otherwise putting credit limits in jeopardy
  • Be offered opportunities to move allowances around, make payments, request additional credit or take other remedial action

It seems likely that enterprise customers are just as drawn to the benefits of digital commerce as the consumer and extending those advantages is likely to keep them loyal and receptive. Consumers have shown a strong preference for self-managing their accounts through online channels – and it’s cheaper and more efficient for the Telco too. Giving consumers clear visibility of charges, usage and spend has cut down on costly disputes and bad debt, to the gain of both customer and Telco. Why would this not be equally effective for the enterprise customer?

Telcos have found that digital commerce has been of great benefit to their personal customers and it has made their business more competitive. It’s time they showed their enterprise customers the same first-class treatment.

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