One of my friends was talking about her child’s communication service preferences, which made an interesting conversation. She was talking about how her child, a teenager, chooses her plan, about the importance of SMS and data plan in their world. All these checked out logically – if I were a teenager in this era, I could visualise where these capabilities could come in handy (having two teenaged kids of my own).
However, the most irrational part happened when she started talking about how recently her child had changed operators. Apparently, there were no obvious benefits that could be gleaned out until it was found out that her child’s friends too had switched!
Of course, we laughed it out calling it peer pressure, along with the usual expression of concerns about imagined bad choices made under peer pressure. But it made me think…
Communication Services have undergone an evolution in the last quarter century wherein from a voice-only household and family centric services, it has transitioned through several stages and is slowly evolving into a Community Creation mechanism.
If I were to look at the evolution in the past, I am able to distinguish four stages in all as shown in figure below.
There seems to have been a distinct era when communication services were meant for a family as a unit. One telephone line ran into a home and phones connected in parallel at strategic places in the house enabled family members closest to the phone to attend when it rings. A personal computer with a “home edition” OS was available to meet Internet needs. We had answering machines at home.
This seems to have changed subsequently into an individual oriented service, very clearly after the advent of digital mobile services. This is also seen in the arrival of voicemail services, laptop devices at home and home WiFi.
With mobile data and the arrival of tablets, the focus seems to have shifted towards device specific experiences. The target continues to be the individual, however, the experience of service delivered appears to be tailored more often across several devices. Video services, Internet bookmarking solutions, etc. appear to be services typical of this stage.
With the coming of Social Networks & Media, we have already seen the formation of communities, which in some cases have ended tyrannical regimes too!
Apart from customer satisfaction and customer experience, I feel that telecom products should be tracked for community satisfaction and designed for community experience. Although some measures exist, for e.g. Net Promoter Scores help in deriving Customer Satisfaction by making use of Virality attribute of Communities.
Is it possible to design a Community Experience into telecom products? I believe it should be possible. For example, let us define a Community to be made up of components shown in figure below.
I think it is possible to define products that have all these features if we choose to do so. I recall an advertisement of an Indian Communication Service Provider who had targeted high-school / undergrad kids for a prepaid product in which balance can be transferred from one phone to another. There could be other similar products too, I guess – but, I feel in years to come Community Experience may become a significant requirement in almost all telecom products.