The Mobile Phone Industry and Customer Retention
The mobile phone industry’s growth has slowed. It is now operating more like a stable, moderate to slow growth market. This is particularly true in Europe. To face the challenge of slower growth in the industry, European mobile operators are turning to customer retention, but they are careful of the customers they seek to retain.
The Europeans have observed that less than 20% of an operator’s customers generate to 80% of the operator’s total revenue. This pattern repeats itself in many industries. When we have seen these patterns in other industries, we have also noted that less than 10% of the total customers generate an astounding 50% of total revenues. These are the really important customers in an industry.
A company must retain its key customers. In the mobile phone industry, as in most industries, the largest 20% of the industry’s customers are likely to be what we would call Core customers for the industry’s larger competitors. A Core customer allows supplier company to earn at least the cost of capital through a business cycle. The retention of these core customers is of paramount importance to long term company success. It costs a great deal more to find a new customer than to retain and build the relationship with a customer you already have. In the European mobile phone industry, carriers have found that it costs ten times more to acquire a customer than to retain one.
The industry has found another important phenomenon associated with customer defection. Recent research has told it that defection is a social phenomenon. If defecting customers leave an operator, they usually are not quiet about it. They tell their friends. In turn, some of their friends defect as well. So, the loss of a Core customer to an operator will often bring with it the loss of several other Core customers.
The mobile phone operators in Europe are working on retention by focusing particularly on those Core customers most likely to defect. These operators have analyzed the value of their customers and have assigned a rating to each customer. When a customer calls a call center, the information about the customer, including his rating, is readily displayed on the service representative’s screen. This customer specific information enables the service representative to respond with different value offers, depending on the importance of the customer. Most of these offers reflect lower prices for a potential defector.
But the industry is responding to potential defections with more than simple price reductions. Some companies are developing personal calling rates and plans tailored to individual Core customer habits. One European company instituted this individual approach and cut its percentage of customers defecting each year in half, from 20% to 10%.
The industry has found another important phenomenon associated with customer churn. Recent research has told it that defection is a social phenomenon. If defecting customers leave an operator, they usually are not quiet about it. They tell their friends. In turn, some of their friends defect as well. So, the loss of a core customer to an operator will often bring with it the loss of several other core customers.
Customer retention is an important, strategic management imperative, even in fast growing markets.
29 June 2011