AT&T after DirecTV? That’s a bit OTT

The industry is awash with rumours that AT&T is thinking about acquiring DirecTV. This move, if true, would provide some serious competition for Comcast, with or without Time Warner on board.

The press so far has been slightly fixated – as usual – on how many customers each company has and whether, when Verizon wants to join the party, it will buy DISH and create another broadband/TV giant.

Let us leave aside the irony of telecoms companies complaining that OTT players are eroding their revenues, while they themselves try to become, er, huge OTT players.

Instead let us consider another metric than simply how many customers each will have. Think happy.

Many years ago, just as de-regulation was happening, a conference producer who was later to go on and launch a really cool expert blog on Billing was listening to some keynote speeches.

They went like this:

Speaker One: ‘My network is pan European.’

Speaker Two: (puffing himself up in a slightly unpleasant way): ‘My network is global.’

Speaker Three: ‘My network is pan Galactic.’ (This might be a tiny exaggeration, but you get the point.)

Speaker Four: ‘I don’t have a network and I’m going to eat your lunch.’

 Silence followed this, then about 10 years of people saying it would never happen.

But it did happen, continues to happen and will continue to happen for the foreseeable future.

Perhaps in all of this, we should consider a new metric. Instead of asking how many customers a company has we should ask how many happy customers a company has.

Comcast, if recent stories are true, has very few. Indeed they have actually been called the worst company in America. By joining up with Time Warner, given the inevitable shambles as tired IT professionals try vainly to knit various systems together, they will only grow the number of unhappy customers.

If AT&T takes on DirecTV, no-one will convince anyone that it is going to be easy. The front office guys will go about updating their powerpoint slides and shading in new areas of conquest and increasing customer numbers and showing off to investors.

The IT guys will sigh, and look up the late night pizza place’s number.

And customers will sigh and resign themselves to further horrible customer experiences based on appalling communications service.

Many years ago an insanely great and cool club for Billing professionals called the Global Billing Association used to do an annual benchmark survey. The most interesting metric was always – to paraphrase – what is your percentage of unhappy customers to your whole customer base?

We judged it on billing complaints, but it seems that in many cases we should widen the scope and base it on customers simply not getting the service they signed up for.


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About Alex Leslie 400 Articles
Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet.

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