The mobile business industry panel tackles topical issues

In a highly competitive market, loyalty to a particular brand or a supplier is becoming a significant issue. What’s the best way to encourage a sense of loyalty in the mobile business?  

Director of Marketing, Fone Logistics
VP Product Management, Valista
Managing Director, Avenir Telecom 

Tony Foote
Channel Director, OpenHand
CMO, Airwide Solutions 
Parven, Fone Logistics: Our experience shows that a percentage of users are inherently loyal to a particular supplier, network provider or handset manufacturer and this will remain even in the face of strong competition.
From a network provider’s point of view, there are a number of tools that can be employed to promote customer loyalty – rewards applied to the account after set landmarks in the contract term, exclusive handset offers to upgrade, account credits.
Within the indirect channel, working closely with partners and investing in their businesses by way of close, proactive account management and also financial support to marketing activities can encourage loyalty.
In the handset space, a customer will buy on a number of factors: a positive or negative prior experience; aesthetics; technology or a combination of a number of factors. Loyalty may be encouraged by a manufacturer retaining the key elements of a previous device that proved to be a key selling point, or by aligning its products with popular events, people, or promotions.
However, in all cases the single most important tool that can be employed to encourage loyalty is communication – clear, simple lines of communication with a series of easy to understand messages and a simple to follow call to action.

Seaton, Airwide Solutions: Prices have been reduced to the point where discounts are ineffective in building sustained loyalty. Quality of service and quality of customer support are two of the most influential ways to build loyalty, but they are often too difficult and time-consuming to influence change. Operators can have a more visible and quicker impact by offering enhanced services and features that aren’t available from other providers, such as ‘email’ functionality on text messages or parental controls.
Equally as important are mobile security functions such as anti-spam and EIR (Equipment Identity Register) capabilities which disable stolen phones. These build loyalty by reassuring subscribers that the operator is protecting them (and their data).
The worst way to build loyalty is to offer promotions that have hidden penalties if a subscriber tries to leave; the feeling of resentment will drive subscribers away.

Heeran, Valista: At the moment, any successful loyalty program currently offers consumers credit in some form (whether through redeemable points, cash or goods of some description). Until now the mobile industry has therefore had a relatively straightforward choice, and free call credit plus subsidised handset upgrades have emerged as the established loyalty mechanisms for operators.
Going forward, it will be interesting to see the role free mobile data will play in generating consumer loyalty. Whether it is offered in the form of music, TV/video or access to information, data credit will not only provide a potentially effective loyalty currency but could also drive consumer interest in these services.

Foote, OpenHand: Loyalty will come from unquestioned respect for your dealers while accepting that you have to earn their respect over time. Providing a package that is truly designed around the dealer’s needs rather than the vendors requirements also helps; so does letting the dealer remain in control of their client. There are so many reports of poaching of dealers’ clients by the networks and vendors; it goes without saying that these relationship are sacrosanct.
And obviously it helps to have a fantastic product (such as OpenHand) which provides a great door-opener and differentiator.

Price, Avenir Telecom: Dealers need to be able to trust that distributors can consistently provide packages that will add value and provide opportunities to help grow their businesses.
As the industry, and particularly the role of sales, faces greater pressure to become more professional, distributors need to take more of an advisory role when working with their dealers. Those who can demonstrate an awareness of how dealers can make profit and use this information to provide solutions that support their business objectives, will create stronger, mutually beneficial relationships.
In order to be able to deliver this promise, distributors also need to maintain close relationships with the networks and offer a similar value. By firmly establishing themselves within all relevant industry sectors, distributors are naturally in a position to effectively bring everyone together. Distributors will gain loyalty from dealers by proving themselves to be indispensable to their businesses in combination with taking a consultative approach to working.

Box-breaking for prepay phones has reportedly reached extraordinary levels. Why? And why does it matter? 
Another question that elicited only a single response. Surely there’s nothing to be read into that, even if the issue under debate is box-breaking …
Foote, OpenHand: With Customs and Excise finally using their heads and scanning IMEIs, box breaking is going to become even more prevalent as demand will remain high for cheap stock. As with all fraud the rest of us will meet the cost.
The Mobile Business Industry Panel aims to get views from leading figures on key topics. On the panel we have a selection of senior management from operators, distributors and retailers, plus a couple of industry observers and pundits. Each month we invite comment from some of them and we print the best/most interesting of their responses.
If there are any questions you think we should put to the panel just email them to us:
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