Communications and Customers – the Last Great Balancing Act?

We are, at last, getting beyond that ‘black and white’ argument concerning the fate of Communications Service Providers (CSPs). They were either going to be ‘dumb pipes’ or ‘value added service providers.’ The consensus was that ‘dumb pipe’ was bad (or not), ‘value added provider’ was good. Now we are beginning to seriously discuss models where ‘partnership,’ ‘openness’ and ‘trust’ are the key words.

If we are to achieve the IBM vision of a smarter planet, then we need to stop thinking of OTT players and payments providers as threats. They will, clearly, erode some of the core revenues of telcos – SMS is the most obvious and the best-known example – but these revenues will be replaced. Big brands will, and have said they will, pay for SMS services in order to enable their ‘precision marketing’ campaigns. Brands want to get their message – and special offers, vouchers, compelling content and stories – to 20,000 people who are in the right place at the right time. Doing that is so much more effective than being background noise during a commercial break.

CSPs can deliver this.

Privacy will continue to become more and more of an issue over the next few months. Particularly in Europe, customers need to feel fully in control of whether they opt in or not. They need to feel in control of how companies are using their data and need to be convinced that it is to their benefit. They also need to be convinced that it is not being used purely for the benefit of the companies offering them services, or the Government offering them more scrutiny, regulation and tax. The only way to do this is incrementally, slowly and in partnership with the customer. Companies need to demonstrate the value of intelligently using customers’ data. They need to be trusted.

CSPs can deliver this.

Without information, OTT players are using CSPs’ networks and customers in the same way as advertisers use broadcast networks. More and more examples are now emerging of CSPs getting control of the fire hose of data and offering more and more targeted advertising to brands and advertising agencies. Using data in this way, in partnership with OTT players will engage the customer better and offer more and more relevant services and products. In short, brands need information, insight and knowledge.

CSPs can deliver this.

Payments providers are no longer seen as necessarily competitive to CSPs. Years ago, there was serious talk of CSPs buying or becoming banks. Thankfully, those days are behind us. Now though, the mobile payments market seems to be a battlefield of technologies warring with themselves and the inertia of merchants and customers. Yet the key to the mobile payments arguments lies in the word ‘mobile,’ backed up by information, otherwise there is no real advantage.

CSPs can deliver this.

In these examples and in others such as the enormity that is M2M, data is a huge asset. Data, well managed, turns into information. Information, well analysed, turns into knowledge. Knowledge becomes insight and turns into tools that allow companies to offer more relevant, safer, trustworthy services to their customers.

CSPs can deliver all of this. Analytics will help them.

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Alex Leslie
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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