Wireless companies are no longer in the network business

When I first went out on my own, my father-in-law, an attorney who had his own practice for many years, told me: “If you think you’re in the consulting business, you’re wrong. You’re in the sales business.” What that meant to me was, there are lots of consultants. If I can’t articulate and communicate the value I bring, clients will hire someone else–no matter how accomplished my consulting work is.

It’s 2009, and a similar fate has finally overtaken wireless companies. You see, they believe they are in the network business. You see it in their advertising (”More bars in more places,” “The Now Network,” “The nation’s most reliable network“). You hear it when they talk, and you see it when they present at conferences. The network rules.

Except this: there are lots of networks (five or more in many areas). Wireless companies are able to drop calls no matter how many bars they have in how many places. People don’t make decisions anymore based on network–they make it based on handset, or price plan, or maybe what ad they saw most recently.

So the mindset needs to change. Wireless companies are now in the customer service business. How can you provide an attractive product, with good reliability, at a reasonable price point… and make customers feel wanted, valued, and treated fairly?

In other words, AT&T needs to be more like Ritz-Carlton and less like… Southwestern Bell, one of its progenitors.

The changes needed to do this are immense. They are no less than devaluing where the company came from (networks, cell sites, etc.) and empowering fringe groups, such as customer service. It means re-evaluating the entire product portfolio and purging it of things that have become shackles to their customers–contracts, bucket plans, hidden profit centers.

It means radically simplifying your business, removing programs, processes and systems that don’t add value anymore.

It means getting real, and putting corporate commitment behind “our customers are our most important asset.” Because don’t say it if you really believe your most important asset is your IMS infrastructure.

Does any company have the courage to do this? One would wager that Sprint has little to lose. Mr. Dan Hesse, why don’t you have a go at it?

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  • Pingback: Customers Are Talking » Blog Archive » Another thing on customer service vs. network at wireless companies

  • NWGuy

    This is spot on but a HUGE hurdle for the companies. This means that wireless is like any other product; the manufacturing (e.g. network, cellsites) is of minimal interest to the customer. It is the device/customer service that differentiates. The difficult internal factor for the companies is that one aspect of product is connection/dialtone; resistant people will always grasp that to say that they are a network company.

    How many packaged food companies show their plant floor? Ever seen a NIKE factory in an ad?