The Ghost of Network Providers’ Future

With mobile network brands almost invisible, what can the present state of utilities tell us about the future of the mobile network sector?

The mobile network sector is consolidating. Most people will identify the logo of the major network, but one imagines they would not be able to spell out a unique characteristic or brand value of any one brand.

So, are mobile network operators now a ‘utility’ given their invisible stature?

There are certain similarities in terms of the buying decisions around contracts with both. As with utilities, after the initial contract purchase, few consumers choose to change their supplier.

Finding and switching to new providers

However, switching from one mobile network operator to another has never been easier with commonality achieved between the players—the consumer has more power than ever before. In the utility sector there’s a secondary industry helping utility consumers find new providers and making the switch—this has gotten easier over time. Just in the example you can see some cross sector parallels.

Back offices in both sectors bare striking similarities which, if combined, could create competitive advantage and perhaps innovate some new services.

Given that competition in each sector is strong and the market mature, if not saturated, both mobile network operators and the utilities will need to reinvent themselves with innovative new ways to serve their consumers.

The loss of a utility to a power failure or other such inconvenience is a real headache needing instant action. The loss of a mobile phone today, in terms of scale of impact, is as inconvenient as losing a utility—if not more so.

So how are network operators differentiating in this market?

Having a supply chain that supports outstanding service

For some, eco credentials play a part, and for others there are other service attributes. For the many, it is simply a price consideration. On its current path, brand loyalty in certain sectors is in danger of becoming extinct.

One or two observers might opine, perhaps unfairly, that network coverage with some operators is infamously ‘patchy’ or perhaps recall a high profile data leak. Those negatives are not the whole picture, but these might be the way some brands are regarded by consumers.

According to Ofcom there are three key factors that mobile users consider.

  1. Overall satisfaction—how satisfied customers were with their service and whether they had a reason to complain.
  2.  Service performance—whether services were available and working as they should.
  3. Customer service—the experience of contacting providers and how effectively they resolved complaints.

The smartest network operators are differentiating themselves based on having a supply chain that supports outstanding service across these three key areas.

It is often the supply chain partners that deliver the critical customer interface—answering the query or dealing with a problem—that can save network providers from being regarded as the ghost of Christmas past and losing customers to more innovative competition.