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What would you like your MWC experience to be?

It’s two weeks before MWC. Tickets have been booked, hotels reserved, deposits paid and, in but a few short days, we’ll be off. I’ve lost count of how many times we have been to MWC, but there’s generally something new to explore and it remains a nice place to catch up with people.

But it has definitely lost something. The new location is utterly devoid of charm, it’s in quite the wrong direction and, in many respects, going there has become more of a chore. In that respect, I expect a mixed experience. We are indeed looking forward to catching up with customers and meeting new prospects; we are looking forward to some fun evenings; but while the event has grown in size, it seems to have shrunk at the same time.

Let me explain this paradox. MWC now seeks to address the entire mobile ecosystem. As this has grown, so has the scope of the exhibition, announcements, talks and so on. This means that the parts that are relevant to the average attendee have diminished in relation to the whole. I could probably visit everyone I wanted to within a (somewhat lengthy) day, if it wasn't for the fact that the event is so distributed. As for serendipitously finding an interesting new company or a novel solution, the chances of that have all but disappeared.

I think it needs re-organising along thematic lines, rather like CeBIT used to be. This hall is for network infrastructure, that for BSS, the other for OSS, and so on – with separate spaces for start-ups and, perhaps, the national pavilions. Sometimes, silos are useful. At the moment, people have to traipse between, for example, hall 2 and hall 7 to meet similar companies, which makes the whole experience somewhat inefficient – and frustrating. How welcome is the first beer of the evening after a hard day tramping between the different halls! If you can get into a reasonably packed tube car back to the centre, that is.

Which brings me to another point. One of the headline topics this year is going to be “Customer Experience Management”. For the last couple of years, there has been a huge emphasis on big data (subject to definition…) but now vendors are turning more and more to practical applications for this information. We saw many of these at TMW last year but, with VoLTE on everyone’s lips, we should see the more people addressing specific use cases for their CEM solutions with the intention of showing how operators will deliver excellence to go along with this essential new service.

That’s great but let’s not forget that we have a long way to go. I cannot remember the last time I had a good experience with either my broadband or mobile provider. Acceptable is about as generous as I can be. They did their jobs, eventually, but neither of them has delivered an exceptional service that made them memorable to me. In this context, I wonder where they think they will begin to implement improvements? We talk about CEM, but every encounter with the provider is part of the overall experience.

Let’s give a parallel. When I walk into my local, the staff greets me. They know what I want to drink and are often pulling my preferred pint before I have even reached the bar. There are occasional drinks ‘on the house’. There is conversation, when circumstances allow. We know each other’s names. In other words, from the moment I enter to the moment I leave, I have a great experience. I am not, by the way, a high spending customer – but I am a loyal one and I am a (reasonably) frequent one.

Is this kind of service too much to ask? Is my local just as a local should be, or is superior to any other I could choose? I don’t know, as I have no particular incentive to choose another.

When I go to another establishment somewhere else, then my expectations are different – I basically expect the product to be acceptable and everything else can follow from that. The right product is simply a starting point. This is the position in which most CSPs find themselves today. They (generally) offer a reasonable product but they may:

Make it difficult to buy Make it difficult to obtain support, when you need it Fail to recognise you when you have cleared their security questions Hide behind data protection legislation Resolve your problem, but in a lengthy and frustrating manner Make it difficult for you to leave

Despite their investments so far, in call centres, optimised routing, CRMs and so on, most CSPs still do not connect things properly. We’ve written repeatedly about having to pass multiple security checks when making an enquiry, with a lack of visibility of information volunteered from one agent to the next. It’s all very well thinking how big data analytics can enable new applications but most CSPs struggle to deliver excellent services today. It’s all very well thinking that CEM solutions can make a difference (some will, some won’t), but ambitions to realise such investments should be tempered by the fact that most CSPs are starting from a very low threshold. The bar is not set high and, to be successful, CSPs shouldn’t aim for the moon, but rather to raise the bar incrementally.

CEM is a hugely important topic. We expect many announcements from CSPs regarding their investments in solutions that promise to help them deliver a better experience. Many of these solutions are indeed excellent, but CEM is not just a product. It’s a discipline that requires a holistic approach, across processes, departments and services.

It means, for example, that CSPs need to think about quality, not just cost. Is outsourcing your call centre really a good idea if it takes three times as long to explain an issue? Is your self-service IVR working properly if it has more than three levels and still directs you to people who can’t actually help? How does one CSP that acquires another, both of which have shaky reputations for customer service, address this fundamental point or will it even bother, given that the acquisition makes sense for other reasons and is driven by accountancy, expediency and strategic gaps?

So, with this in mind, I have several expectations for my MWC experience. First, I would like the organisers to pay attention to the experience of visitors – many of whom are paying large sums for the privilege. Make it easier for me to find new things. Organise it better, rationalise the structure and ensure there is adequate transport to and from the site. Remember, it’s a bottleneck and most people simply want to get to and from the rest of the city. At the same time.

Second, if our industry can’t deliver a better experience at its premiere event, why should we think that CSPs can or will do any better? CSPs can and should invest in the CEM delivery and enabling solutions on offer, but they won’t be effective unless they have thought things through from the perspective of the customer. What do customers really want? Not much, generally speaking:

A product that works that’s easy to buy Simple, quick and efficient service when it doesn’t The ability to return it and go elsewhere if they get frustrated
Occasional, relevant special offers – either things for free or discounts on others

Of course, there’s lots more that could be added, but that would be sufficient to get started. Get these basics right and you will build loyalty – to which you can add all kinds of exciting new things. The fact is, MWC as an event, like most CSPs, fails to deliver the basic experience, let alone a superior or enhanced one. Unlike my local. It’s still worth going to, but that’s largely because there isn’t a real alternative. It’s become a monopoly, which is why we spend so much time helping our customers find more amenable niche events to exploit. Perhaps people should spend more time in a pub. They might learn something. Cheers!