By Leif Bohlin, CEO of eBuilder

Opinion is divided among mobile operators as to whether they should provide device care services to subscribers.

Some view taking responsibility for repairs and ongoing support for their subscribers’ phones as a strategic imperative.

Others, however, are content to push customers with a damaged or faulty device to OEMs or other third parties, in order to minimise their own costs.

For the last decade - arguably since the launch of the iPhone - operators have seen their relevance and visibility to subscribers squeezed out by handset brands on one side, and OTT providers on the other.

In the crowded, competitive telecoms services market, an operator that offers device care to its customers has an important opportunity to add value and boost its customer satisfaction levels.

Better customer satisfaction in turn means better loyalty and improved subscriber retention.

Already some operators are taking steps to include device care in their offerings.

In September, O2 UK introduced an offer of a free screen replacement for subscribers who purchased the latest handsets on selected tariffs, should they smash their phone during their contract period.

The screen replacement offer is part of a renewed focus by O2 in the UK on its customer service.

What’s essential to effective device care is personalisation.

Any messages and notifications that an operator sends to subscribers must be tailored to them personally and the specific issues they’re experiencing with their device.

This is possible thanks to the broad range of data sets that are available to operators.

These include information from the handset about its performance and general health: usage patterns from individual subscribers for the apps and services they use: and subscribers’ past and current contract information - including what handsets they’ve owned previously and what they own at the moment.

Thanks to machine learning and prescriptive analytics, operators can combine these data sets with wider market and subscriber trends, and come up with personalised “next best action” recommendations that anticipate potential issues and problems that individual subscribers might have with their phones.

The operator can then send these recommendations to the customer as a push notification.

These pre-emptive recommendations can cover a broad range of issues: how to adjust a phone’s settings to manage its power consumption; a heads-up that that the phone’s on-board memory is nearly full and that the user should back up their photos and other content; a reminder that a handset is nearing the end of its working life and that the subscriber should think about a replacement or an upgrade.

By providing this kind of personalised, practical advice and proactively dealing with problems with a device before they happen, the operator boosts its subscriber relationships, and encourages greater loyalty and retention from its customers.

From a commercial perspective as well, this proactive, intelligent, data-led approach to device care improves service processes and reduces incoming calls to the operator’s customer service centre.

Sweden-based Telia is a case in point. It created a self-branded device care offering for its customers that incorporates prescriptive analytics, proactive support, device repair, self-service and call back.

The “Telia Min Mobil” app sends users push notifications for their phone based on device health analytics.

It also contacts users with upgrade recommendations when their existing device nears the end of its useful service life.

These personalised notifications typically achieved a 67 per cent Click Through Rate (CTR) - a 3X improvement compared to the industry average for similar tools and utility apps.

Since it launched the app in January 2017, Telia’s Net Promoter Score for self-service has soared.

A survey of the Telia app’s users returned a score of 29, which significantly out-performs both industry averages as well as Telia’s wider NPS scores.

The app is also an important touchpoint in Telia’s wider customer service strategy.

As operators like Telia expand their range of digital services to include TV and other connected apps and features, they must also expand their customer engagement with personalised, relevant customer communications available across multiple channels – whether in-store, online, or on the device.

The results achieved by Telia are a wake-up call for other European operators who want to play a more significant part in their subscribers’ digital lives.

They show how operators can use device care as an integral part of their broader customer engagement strategy.

If operators can provide device self-care and remote monitoring of the health of their customers’ handsets, what’s to stop them extending this capability to other smart connected devices – such as tablets, smart TVs and connected home appliances – as they transition to more comprehensive digital services offerings, such as TV and smart home offerings?

More than ever, we live in a mobile first world.

People depend on their mobile device for everything in their daily lives.

When their smartphone breaks down, it’s disruptive and hugely frustrating.

An operator that recognises and addresses this problem for subscribers has an opportunity to steal a march on its rivals - OEMs and fellow operators alike.

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