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Turn your data into customer love

For years, mobile network operators (MNOs) have complained about internet companies using MNOs’ infrastructure investment to their advantage. In two weeks, officials from more than 180 countries will gather at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to discuss “fair share” and how to make internet companies contribute to network infrastructure investment. While this may be a way for telcos to recoup their CapEx, it may upset the insatiable thirst for data usage that internet companies have created in the first place. Telcos need products and services that drive usage of the network up, but they also want a piece of the action everyone else seems to be getting. My argument: do it by beating the internet companies at their own game—with CUSTOMER LOVE.

It’s no secret that internet companies have used customer data to improve the customer experience and show their customers how much they value them. By using personalization, proactive support, and targeted marketing, companies like Amazon, Apple, and Shopify have been rewarded with customer loyalty and more revenue. For example:

  • These companies analyze customer data and provide personalized experiences for their customers. This might include tailored recommendations, customized content, or personalized promotions and discounts;
  • Through proactive support, internet companies use customer data to anticipate and address issues before they become a problem; and 
  • With targeted marketing, they analyze customer behavior and preferences to identify the products or services that are most relevant to their audience and tailor their marketing accordingly.

There’s no reason telcos can’t use the same tactics that have made the internet companies so successful—and they can do it better. Telcos are sitting on a gold mine of data as they collect vast amounts of subscriber information on a daily basis. But most telcos still store the majority of their data on premise, making it difficult to use because it’s spread out and siloed, trapped behind vendors’ walled gardens (BOO!). Even if a telco does have access to it, it often requires significant investment in hardware, software, and human resources to manage and maintain. Data stored on-premise is also limited in scalability, requiring organizations to invest in additional hardware or software as their needs (and data) grow.

But with the public cloud, almost all of these problems go away. Public cloud data management and analytical services can provide organizations with greater capability, flexibility, and scalability. By using the public cloud, organizations can focus on their core business and applications, while leaving the management of underlying infrastructure to the cloud provider. Yipee!

MNOs and MVNOs can use customer data to show their subscribers CUSTOMER LOVE by providing personalized experiences, proactive support, and targeted marketing to deliver an overall improved user experience just like the internet companies do. By leveraging customer data in these ways, telcos can deepen their relationships with subscribers and build greater loyalty over time. Here are some real examples of MNOs and MVNOs (and Totogi!) that are using the public cloud with subscriber data to create excellent customer experiences.

Personalization: tailoring plans to the individual

MobileX is a new, US-based mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) on the Verizon network. Led by Peter Adderton, who started Boost Mobile in Australia, MobileX is now in beta. Peter was a recent guest on my Telco in 20 podcast, where he explained how MobileX is building trust with its subscribers. Here’s how it works: MobileX has a “try before you buy” option where subscribers can use it for 10 days for free while it learns their patterns around minutes, messaging, and data. It then combines network usage data with AI and ML technology on the public cloud to analyze patterns and create a plan for each subscriber based on their unique usage, even going as far as to recommend another competitor’s plan if they can get a better deal elsewhere.

By offering a truly personalized, right-sized, and innovative approach to plan pricing that is designed to help customers save money, this kind of transparency and goodwill builds consumer trust from the get-go. Over time, subscribers’ data will continue to inform what other value-added offerings they’re likely to want. Those offerings might be telco-related, or they might go beyond that to payment, content, and other services offered in a super app. Customer satisfaction goes up and ARPU goes up. Sounds like a win-win, am I right?

Proactive support: anticipating problems before your customers do

One of my favorite telco cloud projects is the one with Vodafone and Google Cloud. It all started back in October 2019, when Vodafone rebuilt its data ocean on Google Cloud and eliminated 600 on-premise Hadoop servers. “Neuron,” which is what Vodafone called this big data analytics platform, provides real-time business insights, from customer service to network planning and optimization, for operations in 11 countries.

In May 2021, Vodafone created the Nucleus platform, which is a single source of truth for the whole organization. Nucleus can process dozens of terabytes of data every day; something it never could have done on-premise. What’s unique about Nucleus is that it aggregates data from a number of different sources across different countries within Vodafone’s deployed models.

Finally, in May 2022 Vodafone announced a pan-European cloud-native network performance platform. Drawing on eight-billion network data sources and analyzing them with AI, it created a single source of business insight for Europe, replacing more than 100 network apps. This project gives Vodafone insights into network data, such as traffic patterns, so the company can add capacity, respond to major incidents, manage energy efficiently, and restore services after severe weather. Vodafone cites a nearly 70% fall in network and IT incidents this year as a result of the project. In this example, over the course of two and a half years, Vodafone has gone from data on-premise in 600 Hadoop servers in 11 countries to a single source of business insight for Europe and reduced the majority of incidents. That’s real business impact that is improving the customer experience.

Targeted Marketing

Finally, my company Totogi is working with MVNOs and MNOs to harness data and personalize the subscriber experience by using the public cloud—in our case, with AWS. Our goal is to help all MNOs and MVNOs do it for themselves with our product Auto Plan, which uses data to predict the next best offer for customers, stopping churn and growing revenue for operators. It’s targeted marketing and personalization all wrapped up in one.

Totogi Auto Plan does exactly what the name implies: it uses AI and ML to automatically create plans and offers. It helps telcos show customers love by combining their data with advanced predictive technology to serve up personalized offers to individual subscribers. Here’s how it works: Totogi generates self-serve campaigns you can offer to subscribers based on how they use your network. Click a button to deploy, sending every person in your audience a plan created just for them via email or SMS. As people accept the offers, they train Totogi’s machine-learning model on what works with which type of subscriber. Subscribers get offers that fit their needs and a better experience, which increases their loyalty and lifetime value. Everybody wins.

Telcos don’t need to fight Big Tech to pay their fair share; instead turn the tables and use your vast quantities of subscriber data to offer a differentiated customer experience. Improve your relationship with your subscribers by personalizing product and service offers, identifying issues proactively, optimizing network performance, and improving customer support. By showing your subscribers some CUSTOMER LOVE, you’ll build your subscriber intelligence, and pretty soon the big guys will be coming to you for their fair share, too.

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