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Lessons from the Old World on Loyalty in Telecom

The rate of change in the telecom industry exceeds nearly any other industry I can think of. New devices, smart phones, I-phones, mobile payments and 4G networks – that is just the beginning of a litany of continual changes and new product & service introductions that the telecom industry has unveiled to customers in the last few years.

And – no surprise – we will continue to see the pace of new telecom product & service introductions accelerate even further.

With such a keen focus on product innovations, it is easy to let the role of sound customer relationships get lost along the way. Certainly, when you really listen to what the major telecom companies in North America focus on, it is squarely centered on their virtual “arms race” of features and apps: Whose got the shiniest, coolest new device that you just must have this holiday season?

That’s why I couldn’t help be struck by the keen difference among telecom leaders in Europe while I chaired the Loyalty World 2010 conference in London last week. Not once did I hear one of the four telecom presenters (Telefonica O2, BT – British Telecom, Vodafone, Orange) suggest that the heart of their customer relationship strategy centered on the latest gadgets and apps. In fact, among these European telecoms, their focus is clearly on harnessing the full, 360-degree relationship that customers have with many different products and services. Whether that is the kind of analysis and real-time event-triggered offers that Vodafone has enabled – or the advanced analysis that Telefonica employs to understand & map a customer’s community they regularly communicate with – these telecoms have been overhauling their organization’s incentive structures, analytical data warehouses and approach to communicating with their existing customers. In the latter case, Telefonica began that journey by establishing a center of excellence called the Customer Intelligence Center to lead the technological, analytical, organizational and cultural changes necessary to truly focus on the relevant needs of each individual customer.

Contrast that to the dialogue I witnessed at last year’s 2009 Canadian Telecom Summit: Virtually every presenter at that event focused on the next feature or equipment enhancement that would have customers flocking to their doors.

If the advanced state of Europe’s approach to understanding and enhancing the customer experience is a view of the future, I wonder how long it will be before telecoms in the “New World” (US and Canada) begin learning from their “Old World” European counterparts? Are we ready to move beyond promoting the next, new shiny object as a customer lure in North America, too? I’d love to hear your thoughts …

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