The telco world has two kinds of firms in it these days: the ones that have been around for decades and have engineering in their DNA, and the ones that are newcomers and have marketing in their DNA. Those with engineering DNA sometimes struggle to provide a n integrated customer experience, and Bell Canada is no exception.
If you have ever tried to figure out how to configure the nodes for your Business ISP service, understand your toll-free number billing, or questioned why a small business is getting FOUR statements every month, plus bonus statements quarterly, there is good news on the horizaon. Smart marketers like Marianna Ciocio are thinking about SMEs, and this is real cause for hope.
Because she is thinking some very interesting and insightful thoughts.
Ms. Ciocio spoke to an event earlier this week on B2B research and marketing to SME customers. This is someone who is observing carefully, and listening to customers. Let me share a few of these observations with you.
SME customers struggle with the integration of telecom. They don't have specialized technical staff to deal with it like those enterprise customers do: they're on their own. They're not always sure how to put the pieces together. And they find it frustrating to deal with multiple suppliers. (You are your own systems integrator) IT and telecomm are becoming almost indistinguishable, but the model to put them smoothly together is not yet clear. Should telco's provide servers? Should they lease you a PC?
Funny isn't it -- when we were all talking about convergence, we didn't clearly see the strategy mish-mash that would be faced by enterprises attempting to develop a coherent market position.
A long-term focus on customer acquisition has made retention and loyalty a poor cousin. (I can certainly vouch for this, every time I call to find out why I can't get the discount being offered to acquire new high speed customers.)
Market segmentation has tended to be based on internal spend -- how much is the customer spending with Bell every year. (Doesn't this sound so much like financial services?) There is a need to move towards more behavior based segments and targeting, looking at the whole value delivery system. And not just at a point in time, but throughout the business life cycle.
Good questions are being asked. Like, when in the life of a business does the need emerge for basic service? Is it before you register the company name? When you find an office? Before or after the domain name? And when does the need emerge for additional telcom and other services? What are the life events in the business that trigger these needs?
The history of the company as an engineering company is something of a burden for them culturally -- in the past, they generally had the product in mind -- or even built -- before they started the research. Now they are trying to look out at the behaviors involved in running a business, interacting with suppliers, interacting with technology, and the problems people have.
They are starting to look for areas of opportunity in the customers, not in the technology.
The cultural history is not unique by any means -- there are many examples of relatively introverted companies, especially where there has been a strong regulatory framework in place. The benefits in these industries have been incredible stability and reliability. Let's face it, when you pick up a land line and there is no dial tone, you look out the window to see what disaster has befallen. Because it sure isn't some sort of re-boot situation.
Like other complex service businesses, this firm is also challenged by the need to work effectively across functional and business line silos, and the organization is not really designed to make that easy. (Did I mention the similarities to financial services?)
So don't expect change to happen overnight. But there are some smart committed individuals over there that would like to make things better. And here's to them. Because we all need telecom.