Tag Archives: Consulting

A ‘brand’ view of the telecoms industry

Tim Pritchard, Kantar TNS at the Great Telco Debate

In the spirit of getting outside perspectives on the evolving telecoms market, Tim Pritchard from Kantar TNS, the WPP company which is the largest custom research business in the world, joined the Great Telco Debate on the role of telecoms in the digital economy. The brand perspective raised some very interesting and contradicting themes:


  • The customer is changing. Traditional segmentation is no longer valid. ‘Generation CX’ (young, old, educated, working class – a slice of everyone) is the new reality and brands either listen and respond to customer feedback or risk becoming irrelevant.
  • It is widely accepted that customer loyalty drives profitable revenue growth. As such, customer experience (CX) is non-negotiable. But how does it fit in with today’s telecoms ‘product’ given the world of apps and over-the-top content consumption?
  • Corporate mission statements and brand values tend not to include the customer – you’ll be amazed how few companies, even those spending tens of millions each year on CX, have an agreed customer strategy. Get it written down and socialised across the business so that everyone from the janitor to the CEO knows it, and uses it to frame their work, their thinking, and their daily behaviour.
  • WPP’s 2017 Global BrandZ  shows that 8 of the world’s most valuable 50 brands are telcos. A further 15 are technology companies. You’ve had the power for a long time, but have you leveraged that power? I would say not.
  • Most Telcos have adopted NPS (Net Promoter System) yet their NPS scores are among the lowest of any industry. Virtual network providers often enter markets and quickly start to outperform the network owners, sometimes by as much as 20-30 NPS points. It shouldn’t be that easy – there is something clearly amiss among incumbent telcos to afford disruptor brands that opportunity to create true CX differentiation.
  • A focus on self-serve business models may help to save telcos money but, aside from the customer groups who actively prefer to self-serve, tend to harm rather than enhance brand building efforts.
  • The customer voice is vital, and capturing customer feedback on specific interactions (preferably in real-time) provides critical input for both tactical response and strategy development, as well as brand building

There are 3 basic rules:

  • Don’t let customer down, especially at critical times (i.e. the moments that really matter)
  • Deliver emotional and functional experiences that stimulate long-lasting feelings for the brand
  • Do things that reinforce brand choice and deliver services to customers in a personal, relevant, and needs-satisfying manner

In short, the role of brand is changing with the digital market. Telcos and tech companies benefit hugely from high brand valuations yet typically suffer from poor customer service, reflected in low NPS scores. Part of the challenge is identifying what role the telco plays in the lives of ‘Generation CX’. Identifying, enunciating and promoting a clear customer strategy is vital to re-positioning the telco for the coming generations.

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Plotting the telecoms future

We are entering a major annual planning cycle for many players in the ICT industry. The challenge for the telecoms sector is that there are so many moving parts, some positive, some negative and all interacting with each other. And with the increasing digitisation of everything, factors from outside the telecoms market will seriously impact the future shape of telecoms. Indeed, one thought for the backburner is whether we will even think of telecoms services as a market in the future – but that’s for another day!

The basic equation for the telecoms market looks something like:

  • Demand from individuals, households and businesses and now ,‘Things’ (M2M) continues to grow as communications expands its horizons both in numerical and volume terms.
  • Total Revenues from traditional and new connectivity services are either in decline or about to go into decline – it is still a very big number overall, something like $1.4 trillion worldwide. The mix of legacy and new revenues varies by country but few doubt the gap left once the legacy services have washed through the system
  • New revenue streams such as TV/media, IT services, security, cloud, M2m all have attractive connectivity dependent components but they are also being addressed by other parts of the ICT industry and generally have lower margins than the connectivity services
  • Applications and content leveraging the telecoms networks are increasingly disconnected from the telecoms world and increasingly linked to the apps and links on our multiple screens through which we consume and execute
  • Maintaining a network infrastructure that can handle the explosion in traffic across all access methods and across the core, including in and out of data centres, needs major investment along with a rationalisation of the internal ICT infrastructure for most operators if margins are to be maintained, let alone grown

We need to recalibrate the expectations of the industry and its investors. Perhaps considering how many connections per household, individual, business and ‘thing’ require  and a fixed rate of revenue for each. This would define the worst case scenario, but still potentially very profitable. Add to this a percentage of the adjacent markets from ICT and Media and two-sided business models from pretty much every industry sector, and we have the potential future addressable market. However, remember that this new digital world means that the adjacent market incumbents can equally enter the telecoms space!.

There is fundamentally a lot of ‘spend’ at stake from all on the demand side. As everything digitises the demand side is increasingly likely to dictate through which channel the service (including connectivity) is consumed. So, a multi-channel strategy is needed along with major network and ICT rationalisation to bring the telco of the future into the new digital era.

Don’t get me wrong, Telecoms does have an underpinning role in the future scenario.  It may not necessarily be as the deliverer of the final service function or feature but there is a fundamental role at the heart of the new digital era for a trusted, reliable provider of the digital glue.

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