Once upon a time most customers had no choice in choosing their telecom provider. Given the area they were in they could only choose the Operator providing service to that area. That was true also for wireless at the very beginning.
Then, competition changed the rules. Each customer could choose the Operator (among a limited few…). In the last five years we have seen a further change: customers are choosing the cell phone they like and in turns this may lead to the choice of the Operator when that cell phone is only available through a specific Operator. Even when that particular cell phone is available through several Operators the real tipping point in the customer choice is now the cell phone, not the Operator portfolio of services.
Clearly it is no longer the dog wagging the tail, it is the tail wagging the dog.
The services attracting the customer are by far those provided on that phone by a variety of third parties and the look and feel is what drive the choice. Design and customer experience have taken the upper end in a buying decision and these are related to the phone, not to the network.
The iPhone is certainly a point in case, but tat goes as well for most smart phones on the market and we know that their market share is increasing.
In this new scenario can the Operators change once again the paradigm?
The power of the consumer in the selection of the Operator is not going to be diminished in the coming year. And we also know that the lion share in her decision is based on the perceived experience that in turns is strongly tied to the cell phone itself. How can an Operator become part, a significant part, in the user experience?
Some new technologies may offer a chance, in particular biometrics and the cloud.
Biometrics gives the opportunity to get rid of the SIM authentication via a password replacing it with biometric characteristics of the person. The palm vein scanning from Fujitsu is an example. We can imagine that cell phones will be equipped with this (or similar) systems in the coming years and that will give the possibility for a seamless authentication with some interesting twists. An Operator can manage the customer biometric data and also set up services to grant access to the cell phone to other persons that have been authorized by their customer by cooperating with other Operators in the management of the biometric data (it may be very similar to the handover of a call from one Operator’s network to another one, in this case it will be the handover of one customer management to his service Provider).
Clearly this requires the management of customer data (the biometric data) and its protection. Those same data can be the key to enable new service access and customization and this in turns is the key for a better customer experience.
The cloud can be the technological underpinning for data management, including data sharing.
This is an open field. Operators are not the only ones that can play this game, although they have the advantage of being controlled by some sort of public Authority that can provide the seal of trust that is needed whenever we are dealing with personal data.
Possibly, the biggest hurdle to this evolution is the Operator itself that in many cases is not “culturally” prepared to transform itself from a network provider into a data manager.