I have recently switched network providers. I admit this to
people sheepishly, because I was once a fierce and vocal brand
ambassador for the network I have now left. I thought that they did
an excellent brand job: fun and dynamic, relevant to - and
celebratory of - local culture, they represented so many things
that I love in a brand.
The problem, though, was that they weren't very helpful when I
wanted to save money. I spend an obscene amount of money on my
phone - a combination of data addiction and family members who live
overseas - and I began to lose my sense of humour about it. I
tried, on two occasions, to speak to my network provider about it.
I asked them to analyse my spending and give me a solution to save
me money. They would do no such thing.
There may be customers out there who are willing to spend hours
going through various pre-defined packages and cross-referencing
these to their phone bills to try and find the one that best suits
their needs. I am not one of those customers. I am pathologically
allergic to admin and I expect my service provider to provide a
service; one that is relevant to me. They have all of my usage data
- why can they not do something useful with it?
When a competitor came along with a drag-and-drop,
build-your-own contract service, I switched in a heartbeat.
It made me realise that the telecommunications industry is built
on inconvenience. The network providers trap you in contracts that
give you too much of the things you don't want and not enough of
what you do. They make it difficult to directly compare what you
are getting against what you are paying for, against what the
There are plenty of other industries like that too. But quite a
few have been radically changed. Before low-cost airlines disrupted
the airline industry, you had to pay for meals whether you wanted
them or not. Before iTunes disrupted the music industry, you had to
buy whole CDs when you only wanted one track. And before City Lodge
disrupted the hotel industry, you had to pay for all sorts of
hospitality services that you didn't want.
Ultimately, forcing your customers into bundles and packages
that they don't want is quite simply bad business. If they stay,
it's not out of loyalty - it's out of inertia and inconvenience.
Sooner or later a competitor will arrive that informs them instead
of hiding information, and that uses their data to tailor relevant
products and services for them instead of making them hunt for
services that work for them. It's a precarious position to be in,
and the surest way to survive is to be the first to disrupt. Think
The age of enforced loyalty and compliant customers is over. If
you are not innovating to give your customers exactly what they
want, you will soon be disrupted by an upstart who does.