Designing for trust?

Research by Vodafone Institute found that only 18% of respondents across eight European markets said they trusted telecommunication companies with their data. When it comes to consumer trust even banks and governments ranked more highly according to the study. High profile security breaches such as the Carphone Warehouse data-hack in 2015 only fan the flames of this mistrust even higher.

Trust is a core communication issue for telco brands today. Growth is down to their strength as trusted connectivity providers for billions of people who now rely on their mobile devices to live their lives. The irony is that this explosion in mobile usage has not actually led to corresponding windfalls for operators.

Of course, operators are grappling with a whole host of global challenges. There’s the pressing issue of whether or how to beat off newer, more agile OTT disruptors. There’s also the challenge of building a digital ecosystem that delivers the kind of seamless customer experience we now expect of the brands we interact with. Ultimately it’s the trusted relationship telcos must have with their consumers that will really drive their success.

Read on to find out how brilliant design can help restore consumer faith; from conveying steadfast reliability in a telco’s core network strength to building a responsive and engaging omni-channel customer experience.

Big turbulence precedes big change.

Through the mass digitisation of the last decade, our economy and the worldwide web have now become critically interdependent. The World Bank calculates that with every 10% increase in high speed Internet connections, economic growth increases by 1.3% and leads to ‘democratization of innovation’. In a world where only 40% of the population have access to the Internet we could boost global GDP by $1 trillion by connecting another 327 million people. The sizeable market opportunity is clear.

With 5G incoming, 2017 is set to be a particularly pivotal year for telecommunication businesses as they buckle-up to meet the incessant demand for even more live streaming, home tech and physical-digital integration. Innovations like these places unprecedented pressure on network providers to be of the best quality and design. This pressure has been intensified further by the shockwaves of the “Telco-Over-The-Top” trend, or OTT.

OTT: The race for connectivity.

We’ve seen steps taken by telcos to partner with OTT organisations to better sell their network. Everything Everywhere’s (EE) deal to new customers included six months free access to Apple Music. Three has partnered with Deezer in a similar clash. These moves are becoming more and more frequent in the race for end-to-end connectivity. From voice messaging and cloud storage to TV and music streaming, it’s been predicted that OTT services will have a staggering 300 million subscribers by 2019. And yet, seemingly these collaborations are only going so far in retaining strong brand presence.

Moving sideways.

Some operators are pursuing adjacencies, branching into new sectors in a bid to remain top of mind with consumers. O2 launched its Fidor bank – the world’s first mobile only bank by a mobile provider. Whilst these moves may create some notes of innovation, they result in little shareholder value, making acquisition an attractive target for OTT players needing expanded, global connectivity to their services.

In late 2016, Sky moved from being a pure entertainment service to becoming a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). Similarly, Google recently married T-Mobile to launch its own Wi-Fi service. Just this month, Virgin Media signed a five year deal with BT to gain access to its EE network.

Etisalat, the UAE’s leading telecoms company, is already playing in various digital domains with strong references like Dubai Parks and Resorts and the upcoming Dubai Expo 2020, expanding across into broader industry and economy infrastructure.

So as bundling, partnering, diversification and discounting gather pace as ‘winning strategies’, telcos still need to make sure they’re not in danger of being overtaken by more relevant businesses wholly focused on delivery brilliant experiences.

It’s also worth reminding them of their confident position in the market. After all, they own it.

Trust in the network.

Despite this game of battleships happening in their backyard, the future doesn’t need to include aggressively competing with OTT, as many have predicted. It’s almost too late for that. After all, people want to be connected to the OTT players, not with the network provider. And that’s because of the exceptional customer experiences they offer.

With the Internet becoming as important to governments as providing power and water in coming years, telcos must re-instate their position of power, capitalising on our cravings for data and learning are the experience tricks that are setting OTTs’ apart.

Every company and person on the planet now depend on networks to operate effectively. If they didn’t exist, the industry itself would fall into disarray; we wouldn’t live in a connected society, and we wouldn’t have the luxury of living digitally. Consumers want full connectivity, maximised access to many services, all at once. Being a pure network provider is therefore power and not a shameful desire for today’s telcos.

Design for trust.

As of December 2016, there are an estimated 2.6 million apps on the market. Today a typical consumer spends close to four hours a day connecting to them via mobile and this is only going to increase.

Mobile payments and invisible check-outs such as Amazon Go pave the way for mobile to be the wallet of the future. It is predicted that revenues from virtual reality will grow to close to $50bn by 2020. Much of this growth is fuelled by mainstream adoption of mobile virtual reality platforms, for example Samsung gear.

The value customers place on ease of use, playful technologies, network data and speed outweighs their loyalty to a particular network provider. And yet there is one thing that all apps must design for if they wish to become integrated into peoples lives; trust.

Arguably and due to the amount of companies that now depend on them as well as the surge in customers crying out for network data, telcos need to be seen as the most trusted business in the market. Osman Sultan, du’s CEO, clearly recognises this as a key differentiator, recently announcing the imminent launch of Virgin Mobile into the UAE market. Virgin, a trusted brand, with a net promoter score of 66 (2016) understands consumer preferences, likes and desires. We look forward to seeing customer relationships at the heart of their success.

Restoring customer trust using brilliant design.

Most network operators state customer experience management as a number one priority on their strategic agenda. It’s no surprise that what a brand does, how it interacts with customers, the consistency of the experience it offers is much more important in our social media driven age than what a brand says about itself. These days, trust is built through word of mouth and great customer experiences to get people talking, to nurture relationships and drive loyalty.

So far though, success has been mixed. Telcos are still more famous for their disgruntled customers, data breaches, complicated offers and over-charging than their great customer experiences. The best place to begin mending these fractures is by better building and managing connected physical-digital ecosystems.

Data shows us that online shopping is growing but not at the expense of the high streets and malls. In the US, online sales still only represent 12% of total retail sales, showing that there are still exciting reasons for shoppers to hit stores. It’s a similar picture across Europe and the Middle East.

To their advantage, telcos already have considerable physical store networks. The big opportunity is therefore to exploit the role of the store more strategically against their digital networks.

A lesson in new retail for telcos.

Just like the telecoms sector, retail is experiencing seismic change right now – ironically, mainly because of the ubiquity of ever-smarter mobile devices. They’re asking the same questions: How to diversify, how to build on their core strength and how to stay relevant.

Over the last 15 years we have seen retailers respond. For example, the big supermarkets in the UK have been busy taking on Amazon as well as moving sideways into new areas such as financial services and hospitality.

Consumers now expect shopping to be effortless and fast and they expect mobile connectivity to always be on. However this is no longer a basis for choosing a service, but more the customer experience that is layered around an operator’s network.

Increasingly for retailers, this experience is about creating environments where people enjoy spending time, in an age where fantastic experiences are just as attractive as buying yet more stuff. Start has already written all about that here, Ikea and its dining pop up club. This game-changing concept merges retail theatre and product demonstration taking the brand directly into its customers lives.

Disruptive experiences.

themselves and meet soaring expectations. It’s through the customer experience that people will be reminded of a telcos importance and the trust we put into them. It’s about moving away from classic telco retail design into the realm of entertainment and personalization where every touch-point – in-store, in-app, online, feels like it’s been made for the individual to enjoy.

Start’s work for Etisalat is a great example. Its original stores were damaging the brand’s reputation as the trusted telco in the Middle East. Start helped re-invent the role that telco retail played by creating opportunities for Etisalat’s people to meet customers face to face and offer personalized advice and services. New store architecture, customer focused interactivity, engaging product experiences and a completely new approach to delivering in-store service all combined to create a fresh, responsive and enabling experience. Results saw an increase in sales of higher value product and dramatic cuts to wait time in store.

Start’s work repeatedly proves that a well-designed, consistently responsive customer experience can set a company apart and make for happier, more loyal consumers; challenges close to any telco’s heart. We’ve seen that telcos are at risk of being seen as ‘data pipes’; generic, interchangeable providers with little to choose between them. Investing in the overall experience, through the lens of the consumer can disrupt this perception.

The race is on for “even more connected” digital ecosystems. Key examples of this are already happening.

Data, data and data

Barney’s NYC flagship stores have been wired to notify staff when high-value shoppers enter. It gives the team a wealth of information collected about the frequent buyer; what products they look at, what products they purchase, data about what they might like and a detailed behaviour profile. These devices double-up as mobile checkpoints, making sales even more seamless and pain-free.

Personalised service

Aldo, the Canadian footwear brand, is taking massive strides in the area of individualised experiences. In its World Trade Centre store, New York, shoppers are allowed to pre-select footwear via its app or website before trying it on in store. A text message or email is sent, notifying shoppers of the product’s arrival. On entering the store, the shopper is able to send a push notification to the nearest and most relevantly knowledgeable colleague to notify them that they’re ready to be helped.

Re-drawing the fundamentals.

Investing in customer experience is a holistic approach to strengthening a brand and its bottom line. Trust is fundamental to this. To stake this claim there are some aspects that telcos can begin re-aligning immediately for increased success.

Shake off the conservatism and drive a culture that’s inspired by creativity and left-field innovation.

Plan to reduce planning – quick lead times to meet timely consumer needs.

Destination store – connected ecosystems, experiences and data-led stores – catch up and develop this model to scale.

If you would like to talk to us about how we can help you, get in touch.
Or email or call Kate Barker directly on +44 (0)7888 681869

Mike Curtis Group CEO, Start