Following the elimination of roaming fees in the European Union last June, mobile operators have been pushed into looking for new ways to differentiate their services abroad. No longer can they compete on the price of data roaming alone. Instead, they increasingly must focus on delivering the best possible experience to their roaming customers. In doing so, they can add new value to their subscriber relationships and open up incremental revenue opportunities to offset the overhead costs of increased roaming traffic.
Since roaming fees were scrapped, the EU has seen a 308% increase in mobile data volumes, a 95% increase in voice calls, and a 34% increase in SMS messages. Those numbers demonstrate that people will use their mobile devices more often when operators lower their roaming rates.
But while lower prices are driving greater mobile use across Europe, subscribers’ service expectations abroad are undergoing a serious change. Increasingly, subscribers want and expect to use their device and receive the same high-quality experience in another country as they do at home.
To better understand these trends and what they mean for roamers globally, it is useful to examine some of the most important forces shaping today’s international roaming use.
A Shift in Subscribers’ Expectations
In enabling subscribers to use their device and receive the same high-quality service at home and abroad, one of the key challenges for operators concerns the use of real-time intelligence.
If they are to understand a customer’s connectivity needs and then determine how to best serve those needs quickly, operators must have access to real-time data for three reasons. First, they need this data to ensure that customers receive a consistently high quality of service, regardless of their global location. Second, they can use real-time data to persuade people to use roaming services instead of turning off devices when abroad. Last, that data can be used to provide real-time usage alerts and personalized offerings for new services.
In particular, operators need to be able to understand and act quickly on when, where and how users need connectivity. Having this contextual awareness means that — if a subscriber travels abroad — the operator can detect that subscriber’s arrival in a new location and immediately send him or her a message with a personalized offer for an enticing roaming package. In this way, the subscriber is given an incentive not to purchase a new SIM card or switch off data roaming for the duration of a trip.
Context Is Key
Real-time visibility also allows operators to empower subscribers by giving them control over their roaming usage. For example, subscribers can set usage thresholds for their data and receive alerts as they approach these limits. Consequently, operators can improve their customer service by reducing the threat of bill shock, and they can drive incremental revenue from subscribers purchasing extra top-up data packages.
Contextual subscriber data also offers new revenue opportunities for operators through partnerships with third-party brands and over-the-top service providers. This can include promotions in which travel companies, retailers or brands offer free roaming in exchange for subscribers using their service. In these ways, customer data can generate revenue by giving partner brands the ability to send personalized promotional messages to mobile users in a particular location, based on their proximity to particular stores, tourist attractions or other sites.
Competing on Quality Instead of Price
The end of roaming fees in the EU revealed a new demand for “roam like home” capabilities. Now, the burden is on operators to respond to this demand.
Delivering a high-quality, seamless roaming experience that is tailored to a customer’s specific usage and location should be the first priority. This experience could offer a critical point of differentiation from rival operators, a singular opportunity to add new value to customer relationships, and a chance to generate extra revenue through personalized packages.
Kyle Dorcas is a former Vice President, Portfolio Market Development, at Syniverse.