Are MVNOs missing the point on customer comms?

I’m gearing up for the MVNOs World Digital Symposium digital symposium where the agenda will focus on launching, running and growing digital MVNOs.

One question I’ll be posing is whether MVNOs are really thinking through how customers are acquired and managed when the operator model depends on the use of digital platforms? The answer may seem obvious: simply build the comms channel into the apps and service models you design and launch.

It’s true that traditionally, conversations with customers have been led by customer acquisition teams supported by a great app or online UX experience. But I worry that just because the mobile industry has always done it that way, there’s an assumption that MVNOs must follow the mould.

I’d go as far as to say that MVNOs have to take a step back to survive the war on customer marketing. Customers like to use WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, video. Some still like email and SMS. Customers might use them all every day, some might use a few. It proves no two people are the same.

We can’t assume a postcode, or a demographic profile informs how people will behave, shop, buy and request help. Everyone will interact with a brand differently depending on how they run their day-to-day life, the demands on their time, their income and prospects, and their communication preferences. And given all the different ways of communicating today, it’s genuinely surprising that the incumbent operators are still using email and SMS – I know because I’m always so surprised to receive a text from my provider!

MVNOs need to take a different view if they are to win share. Service models need to be organised differently.

This thought process has been confirmed during my time working with a Communication Platform as a Service provider (CPaaS). Fundamentally, telcos are falling behind other sectors like retail and are ill-equipped for having conversations with customers in a way that fits in with their life.

Persisting with text messages is not only out of sync with how I want to do busines but prompts another thought: SMS is easy and cheap to send so is this company really investing in getting their comms right and do they ‘get’ me?

I use WhatsApp, I use video, sure I still use voice, but I am ‘old skool’ as they say. But I also know I’m not alone. Plenty of other people are using this mixture of communication tools too. In the UK, 70% of people are now using video weekly, the biggest growth being in older people. Around the world 3.8 billion messages are sent over internet messaging platforms each day.

You can’t ignore stats like that if you’re a MVNO, especially as for most MVNOs, the core proposition is always focused on highly targeted and segmented bases. MVNOs need to put themselves in other people’s shoes. How do their customers talk to friends? Using that as a starting point can be so powerful in terms of developing not just a communications strategy but an omni-channel one.

What do I mean by that? Take Rich Communications Services (RCS) as an example. It allows brands to send a message that’s interactive. So, you can send a rundown of the best new handsets that customers can swipe through on a carousel and buy instantly, include links to start a chat with a chatbot on pricing (with the option to pass the customer on to a person), or include video content with a phone review. In France, where retailers are using this technique in Christmas campaigns engagement can be as long as three minutes!

The beauty of CPaaS means that companies can use a blend of communication methods but still have a single view of the customer. Whether they use What’sApp, Facebook Messenger of RCS to send the message, they can also see in real-time the levels of engagement campaigns are generating and adjust the tactics and content accordingly. Plus, they have the insight to plan future offers and campaigns more precisely. In turn, engagement scores and conversion rates improve, and operational over heads reduce.

I’ve always been a big believer in taking a different approach to segmentation but immersing myself in the world of CPaaS has been a real eye opener. It’s helped me see there are new and exciting ways of using marketing tech while reminding me of my deep-rooted love for effective targeted marketing.

I hope it won’t be long before we see communication platforms being used by MVNOs and sub brands via an MVNE. I’ll certainly be recommending it to those I work with because I think if they did adopt the approach, they’d see a fast ROI.

Overall, my lasting impression of this world is that any brand that remembers customers are not a homogenous group will not just win market share but also hearts and minds.

If you fancy a chat about who is doing it well and why, or any of the other hot topics that the symposium will cover, why not drop me a message?

James Gray

About James Gray

James has over 20 years of experience working in the telecoms and retail industries. He is an expert in subscription-based business models, CRM, direct and indirect channel management and major proposition development and launches. He has held a number of Marketing Director and Consumer Director roles.