Owning the customer vs. knowing the customer

Many telecoms network operators persist in this quaint notion of owning the customer

This obsession causes a blind spot because they miss out on the opportunities of knowing the customer

While Operators continue to try to ‘own’ the customer – the web players continue to ‘know’ the customer better.

Since most people will want to centralize their personal information with a few players, the longer Telecoms delays in knowing the customer, the more they will lose out ..

The familiar argument goes ..

We (Telecoms) have a lot of details about our customers ..

Knowing the transactional information in CDRs, we can tell you a lot about the customer ..

But .. so can my bank!!

And if my bank attempts to ‘bundle’ insurance every time I book a flight on the web through my bank card .. most people will (rightly) be annoyed and sue them for lack of privacy ..

So, the notion of customer intimacy on the basis of call data records alone is ambitious at best and litigious at worst ..

But what do we mean by knowing the customer? And how can we do it?

Three things are needed:

a) For starters, the customer needs some free incentive to part with their personal information. This assumes that all privacy guidelines and permissions are adhered to

b) Secondly, we need an open ecosystem / platform and factors like data portability are important i.e. leverage the network effects and get others(third party developers) to do work for you and grow the ecosystem both in terms of content and new users. Again, Google/Android and facebook exploit this strategy best.

c) Finally, we need touch points – i.e. places which the Operator can interact directly with the customer and can deliver the ad. Here again, open systems are important as a place where advertisements can be placed. The call center is a customer touch point, but it is an expensive touch point. Hence, Operators need to make efforts to work with Social networks, develop the mobile web etc

We also need a system to manage all the social media campaigns from an Operator perspective. See more on The ten steps to creating a Social media marketing campaign. CDRs capture very limited information anyway – a lot more information is needed to complement the data captured.

An alternate approach some operators attempt is to track user behaviour at a network level. The problems of Phrom show you why this will be an issue.

The problem with network level tracking of user behaviour (even if you did get permission) is this – most people do not understand networks. And people do not trust what they do not understand.

So, it appears to me that Telecoms network operators should take the view of working at higher levels of the stack rather than at the network level.

They should know the customer and engender their trust rather than attempt to own the customer.

If they delay – then they may find that there is already someone else who is bed with the customer first (think Web players here!)

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Image credits: I don’t know! the image is from Google images but I don’t know the source