Telecom Digital User Experience – why is it so bad? And how did we get here?
If we compare the digital channels of Mobile Service Providers with the ones of other services that were born (or reborn) in the digital era such as Uber, Netflix or Spotify (premium) – which I will refer to as digital native services – we will find a significant gap in the user experience.
It is very easy for me as a user to understand the services or products offered by the digital native services, how they work and how much they will cost me. My journey is very intuitive. I can enter my personal information easily followed by the payment details with no hesitation (not to mention free trials).
Now let’s look at Mobile Service Providers. I will take Vodafone as an example. I am a new user, who never used their service before. I want to explore and perhaps subscribe to their service via their Mobile App.
I search for “Vodafone” in the App Store and from the outset I am faced with a handful of Vodafone apps: My Vodafone, V by Vodafone, Vodafone Usage Manager. The list goes on. It is confusing. They have already lost a percentage of new customers.
I eventually download the right app to find out that I can only log in to an existing account. To “explore” their products, I am being redirected to the website, which is overwhelming and confuses me even more. About a dozen plans are listed horizontally, making it very hard to compare against each other. Due to an excessive amount of descriptive text, the only clear difference between all plans seems to be the monthly cost.
We got used to this disorderly and clumsy interface served to us by the telecom service providers. Nevertheless, it should not be like that in this day and age. I only took Vodafone as an example, but the user experience does not vary that much with the other big 3 operators here in the UK, or even in Europe overall (with a few exceptions).
So why is Vodafone unable to deliver a better digital experience to their customers? They do not lack access to technology, technical skills or financial resources. They probably have one of the best marketing and product teams in the entire telecom world. So why the poor user experience?
I would argue that the problem has been inherent to the telecoms industry from its very inception and until now it has been a function-driven service. 2G, 3G, 4G, generation after generation, they have been adding new functionalities and protocols. Increased range,
reduced congestion, higher speed, lower latency – all wonderful advancements that have transformed the telecommunications over the last 4 decades. However, they did not pay much attention to the User Experience.
Even the metrics and KPIs that we evaluate our networks against are all function and availability based. We measure the quality and the features of the service, but we do not care how the user experience it. It is only recently, with the 5G introduction, that we started talking about measuring Quality of Experience.
Hence, it is not a surprise that when Mobile Service Providers started implementing the digital user interface, it was solely function-driven. However, I should not fail to mention that there are Mobile Service Providers that have done very well providing high-quality digital user experience. We find it more common with MVNOs, as opposed to MNOs. Perhaps because they are nimbler, more courageous in their approach, more innovative or simply did not inherit the function-orientated thinking.
The challenge for a Mobile Operators in adopting an effective digital user experience is that they have to rethink their entire proposition and start offering simpler products followed by a change in their marketing strategy, so they can present their services in an uncomplicated and digitally clear way. It is especially important now with the unlimited bundles and application-based products that move away from tariffs, complex plans and endless add-ons.
What is more, they need to adjust their development and delivery approach, so they can maintain an innovative and up-to-date interface. They need to modify their technology and architecture to achieve a modular, fast and nimble environment of their digital interfaces.
Ultimately, they must revolutionise their culture of a function-driven service, to a customer-driven service, which requires a greater focus on Customer Experience.
Furthermore, with the current COVID-19 situation (believe me, I tried very hard not to mention it, but here we go), digital interfaces have never been more critical, and it is believed that this pandemic might change the user behaviour in purchasing goods and services even after everything goes back to normal.
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By Amr Houssein
Amr Houssein is the Managing Director of Mobilise Technology, with international multi-cultural experience supported by an effective combination of technical proficiency and strategic planning. He has 15 years’ experience covering the design, development and delivery of advanced telecommunication services in the mobile industry, with a focus on the MVNO and OTT services segments, with a track record for setting up several successful Mobile solutions globally.