Prompted by two emails, one from the TM Forum and the other Telco Transformation, it struck me how absent the word ‘Customer’ was from their messages. In one, the word did not appear at all.
On reflection, I realised that Telcos and their Vendors tend to talk about ‘Users’ more than ‘Customers’ For Digital players such as Amazon, it is the reverse. This is worth further research, but this is what I think.
First the Logic!
According to Merriam-Webster:
User – a person or thing that uses something
Customer – one that purchases a commodity or service
What’s the difference? Customers ‘purchase’, Users do not. Almost all Customers are Users but no Users are Customers! This will be even more true with 5G and IoT. The words are not synonyms, they are too often used as such.
Telco Licencees vs Digital Transactors
Telcos are asset rich and regulated, themselves licensees, so it is probably natural (if arrogant) that they tend to see Customers first as Usersr licensees, granted a temporary license to access scarce services.
This is closer to how Microsoft and SAP operate than Amazon or Uber. The latter are retailers of services, transaction-based, their future success depends on the quality oftheir last transaction, every transaction counts.
Compare this with your Telco. The former committed you to the end of your subscription so there is little incentive to optimise each transaction so customer service suffers. Telcos have it too easy.
This might have been ok when demand outstripped supply but in most markets this is no longer the case . Now it is illusional, dangerous and revenue destroying.
Interestingly, the opertaors closest to a ‘transactional’ model of customer service are found in developing markets with multiple operators competing for almost every call, becuase of competition and SIM switching.
Telcos, Vendors & Analysts need to smell the coffee and conciously insert the Customer into their rightful place in all conversations, especially those about Digital Transformation. Not doing so will ensure their irrelevance in the face of those that do.