The customer relationship with telcos could use a bit of a refresh. Here are the facts.

As smartphone screens get bigger, one thing that takes up less and less space is the carrier logo in the top corner.

If you think about it, it’s pretty symbolic – all the attention is on the device… and the company powering the whole thing, allowing it to connect to the rest of the world, is forgotten.

That is, until service drops out. Or is a bit slow. Or is too expensive.

We get it. It’s tough to be a telco in 2018. Standards are high, there’s plenty of competition, and regulation is hanging over your head. Plus you have the device manufacturers to deal with.

But there are a few issues on the front end that still need addressing.

The problem with our telcos

Telcos are all about customer lifetime value. As they should be – it’s a smart business model.

But from a customer’s perspective, relationships with a telco can feel like a joyless marriage. We’ve all been there. Long contracts and regular price increases (with no improvement to the plan) mean the company is getting a lot more out of it than the customer.

If a customer stays with you because it’s too hard to switch, that’s not loyalty. That’s imprisonment.

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What does the telco customer journey look like?

Let’s look at the crucial points, or ‘moments of truth’ between customers and their telcos, and find a few new opportunities to fix that marriage. We’re thinking about all kinds of data providers here, but some of the research below relates specifically to phone carriers.

It’s a tough relationship to track, a bit like a bank account – we always have one (or more) telco companies in our lives, and we often have them from young adulthood.

Our first phone (a Motorola brick for me) or our first flatshare is where we first lock eyes across a crowded room. It starts so romantically – a partner who opens you up to so many new experiences – before it starts to all get a bit stale. And eventually, if you don’t leave them, they bleed you dry.

Ok, a bit dramatic. But you get my point. It’s not like buying a toaster.

Some good research on this, as always, comes from Google.

The way they see it, there are five key shopping moments where brands can affect consumer decision making.

Here they are:

Think with Google - winning the wireless shopping moments that matter

Each of these ‘moments of truth’ is a chance to impress or disappoint.

Here’s what I found interesting from Google’s research:

Nearly half of wireless shoppers switch providers primarily in search of a better network. That means you need to be seen talking about the strength of your network – or better still, letting your customers do it for you. Network coverage is a sore issue for most, so a brand bragging might not be the most powerful option here.

Nearly one-third of wireless shoppers start their purchase journey unsure of which provider they’re going to select. So it’s anybody’s game. That decision could be made at any moment, so it’s all about having a consistent message all the way through – from national campaigns to local search.

36% of wireless shoppers who switch carriers do so to get a better deal on a new smartphone or service plan. There’s a couple of things for carriers to think about here – one is that to stop people switching in the first place, there needs to be more emphasis on loyalty bonuses or discounts. A new phone every two years might not be enough to keep people interested.

For the other carriers waiting to scoop up disappointed customers, showing your customer satisfaction rating might be a good way to start the conversation.

There are more than a hundred searches for a wireless provider store “near me” every minute. People still want to sign the contract in-store. That puts huge pressure on those stores to deliver outstanding service – and for your marketing team to make sure your local store looks like an attractive option.

So what should telcos do?

Here are a few quick suggestions for telcos based on the research I’ve seen:

1. Invest in content – but not how you think

People aren’t buying data. They’re buying entertainment, communication, navigation – things that make their lives easier. Exclusive content or 3 months of free Spotify are good. Excluding Spotify or WhatsApp from data charges is better. It’s about freedom.

2. Get smart about what you charge for

No one under 30 has or wants a landline. Throwing it in for free with an Internet plan makes you look old-fashioned. Look at online communities about broadband providers. Often hosted by the providers themselves – which makes me wonder whether any of the product and marketing teams are checking what’s being asked? You’ll find many a buyer’s guide to getting internet without a phone line.

3. Be honest about network coverage

Nobody’s perfect, and Lord knows we don’t expect full 4G everywhere we go (yet!). So it’s time for telcos to be a bit more open about coverage issues. And if your coverage is great, then great! But empower your customers to shout about it (through reviews and user-generated content) rather than grabbing the megaphone yourself.

4. Don’t forget about your local pack results.

We’re talking about the set of results that come up when someone searches for a store ‘near me’ on their device.

My Business Reviews on Google

You should be putting just as much effort into these as you do your overall brand. It’s all well and good to spend a bundle on a national advertising campaign, but if your stores are all rating 2/5 on a local Google search people will just go somewhere else.

You can fix this by being more proactive about getting feedback – both for your own use and on Google local results. For example, some of our clients have multiple branches or stores, so we send their reviewers to leave Google local reviews after they write their Reevoo review. After all, they’ve made the effort to talk about your brand – why not show it everywhere you can?

5. Make it worthwhile to be loyal

There’s a huge opportunity for lifetime value here, but the reality is that most people can’t wait to be out of contract. Plans that allow data to rollover, or give an increase in allowance every few years are taking off in some countries but are yet to be the norm.

We love our devices, so why do we still hate our data providers?