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September 25, 2009

Thought Leadership for the Wireless Industry
In This Issue
Evolution of Wireless Self-Service
What's Next for T-Mobile?
Webcast: Wireless Trends and Directions- Planning for 2010
Aug. 13, 2009. Archived Version Available!

CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment
Oct.7-9, San Diego
Moderating Mobile Apps Panel

Open Mobile Summit
Nov. 4-5, San Fran.
Operator fireside chat

Crystal Ball Conference
April 7, 2010, Montreal
Speech on wireless
Hello all,
A busy Lens this month. First, is a discussion of an important area of potential opex savings: device-based self-service. Operators have been successful in automating key elements of the account management lifecycle. It started with increasing functionality on their Web sites, but now the device is becoming an important medium. Below are the highlights of our recent White Paper on the evolution of device based self-service. Please e-mail me if you would like a complimentary copy.

Second, I have been spending some time thinking about what's next for T-Mobile. They have had a couple of disappointing quarters and seem to be "caught in the middle". Plus, there are rumors about Deutsche Telekom's plans for the U.S. market. How might T-Mobile differentiate going forward? Click here to see my opinion column in Fierce Wireless.

I will be at CTIA in a couple of weeks, moderating a panel on Mobile Applications, among other activities. Please e-mail me if you would like to schedule a meeting.
Finally, I'd like to draw your attention to the Open Mobile Summit, which will be held November 4-5 in San Francisco. This is an important topic, as we debate new and alternative business models for a more open ecosystem. All of the major players in this debate will be represented. I'll be leading a fireside chat with representatives of mobile operators. Use VIP code: LENS for a $100 discount.

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The Evolution of Device Based Self-Service
With a challenging economy and continued high cost of handset subsidies, advertising, and network capex, wireless operators are continuing to search for ways to save on operational expenditures. Over the past few months, I have had the opportunity to do some research in the area of customer service, and particularly the implementation of device-based solutions, as one of the ways in which operators are saving cost without compromising the customer experience. This column presents a summary of the key findings of this research. If you would like a complimentary copy of the full White Paper, please email me and we will send it to you.
Self-service - defined as the ability of the customer to activate, manage, and troubleshoot their service without human intervention, is now being used across three broad categories of functions:
  • Service enrollment and activation
  • Account management and maintenance
  • Customer care  
More recently, the mobile device - with its ubiquity, improved functionality, and usability - has emerged as an important, and complementary tool in the self-service arsenal.
In addition to successful implementations of Web-based self-service solutions, operators are deploying device-based service solutions as well. Properly implemented, these solutions reduce the number of calls or length of call to customer care, while also reducing fulfillment costs, and optimizing service/feature plan selection. Business cases presented in the report demonstrate cost savings of 40-70% for device-based activation and service enrollment functions, with more than 90% of activations/programming now automated in some implementations. For self-care functions, cost savings of 20-50% have been realized, and we are seeing 50% reduction in calls to care centers.
Positive customer experience and demonstrated ROI with initial self-service implementations, combined with improvements in device interface, memory, and speed are leading to an aggressive roadmap for implementation of new capabilities in the account management area, such as viewing data usage consumption, changing price plans, and replenishing minutes for pre-paid accounts. We also see some potential revenue-enhancing opportunities, such as promotion/up selling of services and the creation of loyalty programs and greater tie-ins to advertising. Device-based self-service will also play a critical role in helping operators work with the growing number of third-party retailers selling wireless devices and services.
We also spend some time in the report discussing a successful go-to-market approach. A good user experience, which includes ease of navigation, simple presentation of information, and completion/confirmation of transactions, is one important element. I have also found that many go-to-market solutions fall apart without proper training in the channel, including retail sales and customer support representatives. We have also found cross-promotion with Web-based account management solutions to be effective.
Over the years, I have written about how wireless is unique in providing free customer care across a breadth of issues, many of which have little to do with the core service operators are providing. As devices and services become more complex, I believe one of the more effective ways to "resource" for high-touch interactions on complex issues is to implement a flexible, and user-friendly suite of self-service solutions for the more commonplace elements of activation, account management, and entry-level care, across the Web and device channels.
What's Next for T-Mobile?
T-Mobile USA has been a consistent performer for several years, with its reputation as the "value" operator, success in the youth market, and innovative MyFaves plan. But the company has had a couple of difficult quarters, and seems to be "caught in the middle" - between Verizon and AT&T, who have pulled away from the pack - and Metro/Leap/Virgin/Boost/Tracfone at the low end, who are nibbling away at T-Mobile's young, urban customer base with attractive pricing, and a more mainstream combination of handsets, coverage, and data services. As the other operator in the "middle",  I would argue that Sprint has done a more effective job of late, with its support of "flank brands" (Virgin, Boost), open-ness to new business models (Kindle, Clearwire), and experimentation on pricing. So the question is, how can T-Mobile differentiate? Read more from my recent Fierce Wireless column.
Recent Opinion Columns
Webcast: Wireless Trends and Directions: Planning for 2010

Still available for listening and viewing!

We had a very successful Webcast on August 13. The archived version is still available.  Mobile Dashboard: Wireless Trends and Directions, presented in partnership with Fierce Wireless. This fast-paced, metric and analysis packed presentation will help you start planning for 2010. Many reports and events focus on specific topics, but this Webcast will cover the breadth of the mobile value chain:
  • Operator strategies
  • Network evolution
  • Key device trends
  • Business model shifts
  • Developments in key product areas
  • VC and M&A trends
  • Our "hot list" of exciting companies and technologies 
I'll be joined by top-ranked Wireless Services analyst David Barden, Managing Director, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, who will present the Street's outlook for wireless in 2010, and John Jackson, a leading device analyst with CCS Insights and a former Yankee Group VP.

CLICK HERE for more information and to register.