B2B Integration

Why is T-Mobile Winning As The ‘Un-Carrier’? OR When The Telephone Company No Longer Wants To Be A Telephone Company

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First, we should probably try and determine why any communications provider—be it a wireless, ISP or cable company—would want to be known as the ‘un-carrier’? Well, we don’t need to look very far for the answer. Advocacy rates—measures used to determine not only the satisfaction of customers but more importantly, how strongly they feel connected to a brand, how much they will proclaim that brand to family and friends—provide a glimpse at the rationale.

The consumer electronics industry is littered with ‘fanboys’ (and ‘girls) who staunchly defend the validity and prowess of their preferred brands like Apple and Google, not to mention sports entertainment franchises like NFL teams in the US or FIFA clubs around the world—we know how strongly they champion their brands.

But when it comes to communications providers (wireless, ISP and cable), advocacy rates are historically low, reflecting how much we consumers love to hate them. In one study IBM found that globally for each advocate for a communication provider, there are 3 antagonists. The 2013 Temkin Experience Ratings (see chart) shows the poor ratings for communications providers as compared to those for other industries.

chris shaws blogWe should also consider the massive shift in the industry over the past few years and continuing today, as more and more services that were traditionally the domain of the telephone company are now being provided by over-the-top (OTT) providers and social and messaging companies. These companies have long been leaders in social and mobile engagement with consumers and have pushed the envelope of customer experience and free services (it is amazing what we as consumers will endure for a free service!) across all industries. As a result, customers now have higher expectations and demands of their service providers.

Together the newly empowered consumer and the poor experience history of the industry have combined to create a petri dish of opportunity, primed to grow a completely new kind of entity: the un-carrier. Imagine you are the fourth largest wireless provider in a saturated and mature market? How do you go about differentiating yourself from the competition? By becoming the antithesis of what consumers think about the industry.

T-Mobile has begun the shift—from a telecom service and network-based company to a customer centric organization—by listening to their customers and delivering solutions that are a departure from the industry standard. Offers like aggressive pricing with no more contracts, no data usage overcharges, the ability to switch mobile phones anytime and data and messaging included (even internationally) have forced a change in the market that competitors have been forced to react to. (T-Mobile CEO Jon Legere takes a maverick approach himself— like when he crashed, and got tossed from, rival ATT&T’s party at CES earlier this year).

Yes, but does it work—trying to become everything an industry traditionally is not? And how. In the first quarter of 2014 T-Mobile added more subscribers than the #1 and #2 market players combined.

At the heart of all this change is a digital transformation as well – T-Mobile spoke this week at the Smarter Commerce Global Summit in Tampa, FL and highlighted the need to be technologically agile when it comes to commerce and to meet customers where they live—be it mobile, social, in the store or a combination thereof. Customer insight, personalization and engagement of course is at the heart of Smarter Commerce, and one of the reasons a maverick like T-Mobile is working with IBM to help them deliver. Long live the ‘Un-Carrier’!

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