We have been discussing silos in the telecommunications industry for many years. We know they must go and real-time is driving a sea change in the way that communications providers operate and organize themselves. Silos are being swept away.
But there are bigger silos that are, without us necessarily realizing it, creating barriers to true innovation, intuitive services and ultimately true loyalty.
Most industries offer some form of loyalty scheme and we are used to being asked whether we have our airline, supermarket, pharmacy or retail loyalty card with us when we shop, or when we shop online. This is fine, if somewhat clumsy and sometimes irritating because you have to dig around to find the right one.
Loyalty is one of the great goals of any company in any industry. Win customer loyalty and you yourself win. Lose it and risk losing the customer.
Imagine that every company was part of the same industry, that there were no longer those natural but unseen boundaries between communications, airlines, retail and essentially all the industries we consume as we navigate our lives.
If that were the case, then it would be possible to glue all of the loyalty schemes together and provide a truly compelling, holistic program. Instead of simply knowing where you are, if a company also knew which films you like to go to; which restaurants you like to eat at afterwards; which films you watch at home; where you go for the ‘big’ shop; where you go for the things you have forgotten during the ‘big’ shop; where you buy your coffee on your way to work; which sporting events you like and, of course, what you buy online, what you say on Twitter, when and where you are when you do it, then you have a powerful combination.
This may seem a little ‘big brother’ to some, however if the end result is always fully realized tangible value for the customer then that changes the paradigm. A paradigm that aligns with the gradual move to a digital ecosystem.
Obviously, this kind of holistic approach to loyalty schemes is easiest achieved if your business has many strings to its bow, such as the Virgin Group, but partnerships between communications service providers and other companies from other industries are becoming more common, indeed essential. These partnerships are emerging in the M2M world, where CSPs realize they need to partner with vertical industry specialist to add true value, and in the payments world.
In fact, there is a growing drive, and some would say inevitability, towards collaboration with Over the Top (OTT) players. Real-time functionality will support ever more of these relationships over the coming months and years. We know that CSPs can offer billing expertise and related functions to other players.
So, why not partner with other industries?
If CSPs can become the ‘smart glue’ that allows our world to become truly digital, then they can provide a portfolio of value added services.
Being able to seamlessly earn and spend points across a number of disparate services, being able to ‘buy’ more data by being loyal to that supermarket where you do the ‘big’ shop, or getting free tickets to your favorite cinema when you reach a level of spending online is a compelling concept.
Some CSPs are already partially offering such services but at this point they tend to be limited. That said, the potential for CSPs to take a lead in this kind of holistic approach to loyalty is huge. And the good thing, of course, is that by taking that lead, the CSP not only creates value for his own organization and that of a wide variety of companies, but also does something else.
By creating and supporting the holistic loyalty scheme, the CSP builds a loyal customer base not only by offering communications services but a range of other, offline and online activities. Imagine going to the cinema and feeling loyal to your CSP.
Loyalty should be relative to how I live my life. Not just how I consume one or two parts of it.
Compelling – and possible, now.