Predict customer retention

Individualized Service: A way for wireless carriers to get off the new-customer acquisition treadmill

By Ken Reimer

If you think customers have a lot of choice today – and they do, in every industry – you should try being a mobile carrier. Not only are wireless phone customers more informed than ever before, the financial incentives to switch from one carrier to another are great. Wireless customers are likely to treat any blip in the service they receive as ample reason to go elsewhere. And the mobile carriers make it very easy to switch as I noted in part one of our series, “Stemming the tide of customer defections in the wireless telco space.”

Where should mobile carriers begin the uphill battle of reclaiming their customers and competing on quality as opposed to just commodity pricing? In the first part of our series, I talked about the need to understand a customer’s mindset beyond just survey data. Our CXQuest software captures every aspect of customer behavior so you have fuller insight into what customers are thinking and feeling.

The customer relationship management (CRM) industry used to call this concept “one-to-one” marketing. To me, the concept now shifts beyond the customer acquisition or cross-selling phase into the operational service phase in that it encompasses not just personalized sales-driven communication but also unique service experiences.

One of the most compelling examples of personalized service I have witnessed is from a telecomm company that was way ahead of its time, Westcom. I got to know the company through my first ever consulting gig back in the late 1990s.  At the time Westcom was a young wireline carrier based in Germany. (It was eventually acquired by the NYSE-listed GTS Group.)

Westcom saw an opportunity to target foreign nationals and corporations not only due to their lucrative call volume and destinations but also because it understood that many in this segment needed service catering to their native languages. As simple as the personalized language option sounds now, this feature was not being offered in the industry at that time.

After increasing sign-ups through narrowly targeted marketing initiatives, Westcom proceeded to cluster its customer service teams based on language capabilities. It created onboarding instructions and copies of the bill in the customer’s language. Eventually, the company interacted in seven different languages. Not surprisingly, these actions endeared Westcom to its non-German-speaking customer base, who found a bit of home in every interaction. In this way Westcom created a dedicated following and a strong word-of-mouth effect that fueled strong customer retention.

Leverage internal and external data to build rich customer profilesLeveraging both internal and external data sources to build rich customer profiles allows mobile carriers to recognize customers as the quirky individuals they are and serve them accordingly. Or not serve them at all, as the case may be. Even in the cutthroat telecomm space, not every customer is worth keeping.

Crossing traditional demographic data from providers like Experian with internal data such as volume and payment history from CRM and order-management systems yields a powerful tool for safeguarding your customer’s experience. That includes cutting loose customers who are not a good bet. Certain patterns in credit scores, combined with negative payment trends for certain types of plans are statistically likely to result in high delinquency rates. The truth is, this group of customers is not worth your efforts at cross-selling or service-recovery.


The idea is simply to leverage the massive amount of data available today – internal and external, structured and unstructured – and use insights to proactively navigate the customer through a journey that is optimized for them. For mobile carriers, this is a starting point on their own journey to customer retention and loyalty. Watch for our next installment in this series, in which I’ll take a look at how mobile carriers can learn to identify unhappy customers and take action before they jump ship.


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