We have been saying for a while now that trust is the key to winning customers. If operators can develop and maintain a relationship with their customers such that customers see the operator as a trusted partner in the digital jungle, good things will happen. Do the opposite and bad things will happen.
Sadly, bad things are happening.
Two telecoms giants have fallen foul of the trust trap. In fairness to them, some of this is not their fault.
First, our friends at Telecom TV reported that Verizon had been switched off in Germany for doing what their Government wanted, but not what their customers wanted – providing information on them.
Secondly, they suffered one of those upgrade problems which meant their customers could not get into their online accounts. This, according to a spokesman, was only a problem in the Mid West, the Mid East, the Far West, the Far East, the North and the South. Customers took to Twitter and hashtags such as #verizonfail were created. Cartoons abounded.
Oddly, these are forgivable. We can empathise with the late night stress and pizzas of the IT guys trying to fix a software bug (big bug! Ed). The lack of sleep, the increasingly irate phone calls from the boss, whose boss is trying to phone him because he is increasingly irate. We know the score. And the score is not good.
Then we read that T-Mobile, the funky people’s ‘uncarrier’ is hiding charges for trivial texts that their customers did not even want and are very expensive. According to the Huffington Post, the summary bill shows ‘usage charges’ which many customers will look at, not understand and move on. Huffington Post operatives did not move on and discovered that they found the detail of these usage charges on the equivalent of page 123 of the bill. Trivial texts such as horoscopes.
The allegation – by the Regulator, as a result of customer complaints – is that T-Mobile knew that this was happening, knew that customers did not like it and did nothing about it. Thus earning extra revenue.
There are several examples at the moment of operators earning ‘dark’ revenue. Charging for paper bills is one. Under the guise, for guise it is, of saving the planet, they think it is acceptable to charge for paper bills. And by charge, we mean charge. Actually, while saving themselves millions of dollars by getting their customers to accept online billing – which is a good thing – they then charge those who do not have access to online billing for sending them paper bills. People who do not have access to online billing will generally be older people who do not have computers in their lives. Not a nice practice.
Reputations are being damaged. Trust is being lost. Customers will be lost too. Operators need to take a leap of faith. They need to see that being open, honest and fair – in billing, in charging for third party items and in roaming – will prove to be a lot more profitable in the long run than gouging customers in the short term.