The differences in data pricing between different regions of the world are becoming marked. In Asia, for instance, there are some interesting and innovating new services. Based around a ‘pay as you go’ model, Digi in Malaysia has launched an on-demand connectivity package that allows you to access Facebook or other sites for a small fee for a day or a week. This has increased their revenues from such services by 56 percent. In North America, both AT&T and Verizon Wireless have launched genuine ‘shared data plans.’ But Europe seems to be lagging behind, according to research conducted on behalf of AsiaInfo Linkage by Northstream.
Essentially, “European operators are not really utilizing self service and real time billing to monetize data and only a few operators in the region are beginning to use the full set of tools,” according to Joonas Merenheimo, Partner with Northstream. It seems that “because most customers of Northern European operators are post paid, the prepaid data opportunity is being ignored, and while there are shared data plans out there, there is no real control for the customer,” according to Merenheimo.
What is interesting in the research is that the countries with the most challenging economic climates or the most cost conscious customers are the ones where Real Time Self Service is taking hold. If customers feel they are truly in control of their spending, while being offered valuable services, the relationship between operators and customers works well. The evidence is compelling – that Real Time Self Service not only increases revenues but is highly popular with customers.
It is clear that all operators understand the need for Real Time Self Service. The frustration, for Merenheimo, is that operators in Europe are still justifying the investment by the drop in numbers of calls to call centres. Whilst there is certainly a saving, it is a short sighted view of the potential.
“When I ask some operators what their plans are for self service, they respond by telling me that I have been working on their strategy for 10 years already. The leap between a web interface and something much more interactive on a mobile does not seem to have sunk in,” says Merenheimo.
Merenheimo is convinced that customers want a real time ‘conversation’ with their provider. “As the customer base shifts to younger generations, their habits and needs change,” says Merenheimo. “Whereas our first instinct is to pick up the phone, the younger guys want to go online, to a social media site. Essentially they want the real time ‘conversation’ as we want, but they do not want to talk to anyone.” The companies that have a younger than average demographic as their target market are seeing the benefits. One operator addressing this segment is seeing better than expected savings year on year.
It seems that the trick is think about a proper ‘screen based’ conversation. Some operators who believe themselves to be offering value added services are still doing it by sending a text with the offer. Instead, what is needed is a message on your screen offering you a roaming deal as you land in Milan. Then you can click and go. The point of real time and the resulting potential of self service is ‘instant applicability.’ Without that, operators will fail to ‘carpe’ the ‘diem,’ let alone the moment.
These issues will be discussed by AsiaInfo and others, including BillingViews at the forthcoming BSS Summit.