We’ve been asking ‘What should operators give up for Lent?’, and this week we invited a few of our media and analyst friends to dinner so we could pick their brains on the topic.
With an award for the best suggestion at stake, the ideas came thick and fast: give up introducing new technologies that have no business case and aren’t understood by customers, give up innovation and, even, give up customers i.e. become a wholesale network utility company and let MVNOs serve end customers.
However, the advice that operators should ‘give up trying to be cool’ seemed to encompass most of the ideas. The argument being that operators end up looking like the embarrassing dad who is trying to hard to impress with his snazzy trainers. They should, instead, concentrate on where their strengths lie, and leave ‘being cool’ to the OTTs/ DSPs whose subscribers increasingly look to for innovative new services.
Instead, operators should be looking at where they can really add value.
Packaging and selling ‘customer experience-as-a-service’ was one suggestion i.e. managing customer service on behalf of third party apps so the customer has one point of contact for their entire user experience. Developing closer relationships with OTTs as partners/ customers was another, allowing operators to expose their core competencies and IT as ‘services’ and actually drive revenue through partnering with these new service providers.
We would not necessarily advise that operators ‘give up being cool’ but the sentiment – that operators should leverage their strengths, become masters of partnerships-based business model, and look beyond their traditional customer base – is one that AsiaInfo shares.
While operators have been criticized for lack of innovation, this has mainly revolved around creating attractive new services (i.e. Products) – which OTTs/ DSPs seem to have sewn up. We would argue that where OTT players are less strong is around the other ‘P’s’ of the traditional marketing mix – Price, Place, Promotion. Operators are very sophisticated in these areas, but they need to find a way of exposing these competencies as services to be used by partners.
Price, for example. Operators have advanced billing systems that make real-time charging possible. This sophisticated functionality, if shared, enables partners to expand their own business models, via pre-paid day passes, ad-sponsored views, pay-per-view, etc.
If there’s one thing operators shouldn’t do it’s just… give up. Chasing increasingly disinterested customers with late-to-the-game services and offers isn’t working. But there is still huge potential, if operators rethink their business models and have the confidence to capitalize on the experience and infrastructure that exists within the organization.
So – we’d say give up chasing the market, and become the trend-setters for the rest of the telcos.