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Highlights from the fall 2016 Global Telecom Survey


Telecom providers need to focus on improving the customer experience—and building on existing customer trust.

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We surveyed nearly 21,000 consumers in 42 countries that account for 73 percent of global population and 90 percent of global GDP. What did they tell us?

The primary hurdle telecom companies face today is their low customer experience reputation, which has affected customer loyalty. To find out more about this, the IBM Institute for Business Value conducted a survey based on three specific aspects:

  • Consumer experiences with the basic (network) services, in particular video
  • The extent to which telecom companies create meaningful connections with their customers
  • Digital trust and the willingness of customers to share personal data with their telecom providers.

It’s all about video

The mobile internet is gradually morphing into a video distribution network for both digital entertainment and social media. As a result, the definition of the consumer experience is rapidly changing.

Telecom companies are adapting to this and experimenting with a spectrum of new services and business models. However, our survey revealed that telecom companies are not highly valued for their video services, compared to other types of providers.

Consumers increasingly watch video on their mobile devices, but many say the experience leaves much to be desired. Sixty-six percent of our respondents said they often or regularly experience buffering problems. While there can be many reasons why these video problems happen, customers are more likely to blame the telecom company. More than half of the respondents said they would even switch providers if video quality becomes particularly bad.

Call center interactions are not enjoyable

The customer experience and loyalty section of the survey reflected that telecom companies generally have negative “reputational” Net Promoter Scores (NPS), often scoring near the bottom of lists that rank various industries.

Delighting customers involves surprising them with an experience that forms an emotional engagement. Yet telecom companies are falling far short of that ideal. They are generally rated average to good-but that isn’t good enough. To be competitive, they need to excel at customer experience.

The fine line of trust in customer relationships

Monetizing personal data has become the new battleground. The ultimate potential for competitive advantage goes to those companies that can extract insight from personal data and create value for consumers. That requires customers to trust the companies that collect and analyze their data. In that regard, telecom companies actually score on the high end. On our list of different business sectors—including retail stores, social media, and others-telecom companies and banks are, globally, the most trusted.

If telecom providers are going to manage consumer data in digital ecosystems, trust is imperative. Yet the survey indicated that trust in telecom providers has declined in the last three years in all mature countries surveyed, although it has increased in most emerging markets.

The biggest concerns consumers expressed about data collection involve companies selling data to third parties (60 percent) and failing to keep it secure (45 percent). Clearly, it is important to consumers, that their providers tell them how personal data is used and allow them more control over their data.


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Meet the authors

Bob Fox

Connect with author:


, Global Industry Leader - Telecommunications


Nick Gurney

Connect with author:


, Communications Sector Leader


Rob van den Dam, Global TM&E Industry Leader - IBM Institute for Business Value


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