In 1876, the telephone age was born with a few iconic words uttered by Alexander Graham Bell. Today, more than 900 billion mobile phone calls are made each day in the US alone. That’s a huge number that would have humbled old Alex at a time when the US population stood at about 46 million, or about 10 million more than California today.
What Bell might have been horrified by is how that number masks the number of times callers have to redial due to the dreaded dropped call – a phenomenon largely foreign to landline phones of his time or ours. According to a recent Pew study, dropped call rates remain especially high, not to mention supremely frustrating. Fully 35% of smartphone respondents said they experienced a dropped call at least weekly. Not far behind, phones of the non-smart variety that had weekly drop rates of 28%.
With maddening numbers like that I began thinking about what telecommunications companies are doing to compensate their customers for this ongoing inconvenience. And what loyalty marketing programs have they instituted to help drive engagement, improve customer retention at higher price points, and of course, earn new business?
Current consumer telecommunication loyalty programs aren’t exactly inspiring. Last spring AT&T launched its AT&T Plus loyalty program in select areas of the United States. As of its launch the company offered users free sign up (standard in many verticals’ loyalty programs), members-only phone numbers for customer service (here’s hoping you don’t have a problem), no upgrade fees, no activation fees for second line phones, a 25% discount for non-Apple accessories (because even AT&T knows that Apple prices are sky high) and a $10 Starbucks gift card. Maybe the free caffeine will distract your brain from the lackluster list.
A survey by In-Stat found that more than 60% of business mobile phone users who spend more than $150 a month, felt that their mobile carrier failed to appreciate their business. And ironically, turnover rates, that is, people who switch between carriers, are actually 40% higher than for customers who spend $50 per month. Not only are mobile carriers failing to reward customers, they’re alienating their more valuable customers. This is the furthest thing I can think of from driving effective loyalty.
Of course, there are examples of telecoms doing loyalty right. Sprint has a loyalty program offered to businesses that spend more than $250 a month. And Verizon has taken additional steps — with our help — beyond it’s loyalty endearing ubiquitous Network coverage map with its new Small Biz Rewards (SBR) loyalty program. SBR is a business-to-business loyalty program that reminds small businesses that Verizon understands and appreciates the challenges and above all, costs related to successfully running a small business.
Verizon does this by offering small businesses with fewer than 20 phone lines a host of online and off line rewards, earning one point per dollar spent on Verizon services and for engaging in a number of digital, omnichannel initiatives, such as participating in surveys, sweepstakes, auctions and more fun and rewarding exclusives. Rewards are from top-tier retailers like Apple, Walmart, Buy.com,and others. Plus SBR program members can also earn up to 500 points per month while managing their rewards in a convenient and real-time reloadable MasterCard — reloadable by using points at their discretion.
From a business to consumer angle, Verizon also boasts its Share The Network program where members can earn $25 and $50 gift cards for over 15 popular merchants of their choice, provided they refer friends and family to Verizon services. Verizon – with our help – is pioneering an experience-driven omnichannel loyalty approach.
Loyalty providers must help telecoms design the right loyalty management tools and implement an effective omnichannel loyalty marketing approach that is more than just about discounting an already overpriced phone or offering perks that are mostly run-of-the-mill.
I can’t speak for others, but when it comes to driving a new form of telecommunications loyalty, one that puts quality above quantity, Kobie is ready to take your call – by landline or mobile.