Why telcos aren’t doing personalization as well as they think

4 min. Read

Most telco marketers recognize the importance of personalization to their efforts. Impersonal, mass market campaigns won’t provide customers with the relevance they demand, leading to lower engagement and poorer return on investment, and professionals know this.

But understanding what needs to be done and doing it in a way that actually meets the needs of individual customers are very different things. While the majority of telco marketing professionals believe they’re doing a good job of this, their customers tell a very different story.

That’s one of the key takeaways from a pair of surveys conducted by Intent HQ earlier this year. We polled both telco professionals and customers for their thoughts on personalization, and we found there’s a big gap between how well telcos rate their own efforts and what customers think of this.

The perception gap between telcos and customers 

We asked telecom operators to rate how much they agreed with the statement, ‘my company does an excellent job using relevance and personalization’. Overall, more than four out of five professionals responded positively, with 61 percent agreeing with this and 20 percent strongly agreeing. In fact, only one in ten professionals has the opposite view, including just three percent who strongly disagreed with the statement.

Customers, on the other hand, were notably less enthusiastic. When asked to rate how much they agreed that their network operator personalized their offers, deals and marketing to be relevant to them, only around four in ten respondents gave positive marks.

In other words, customers are only half as likely as operators to believe telcos are doing a good job when it comes to personalized marketing, with 80 percent of providers confident they are doing this, compared with just 40 percent of customers. 

When asked to rate their performance out of five, telco marketers awarded their own efforts an average score of 3.9. But customers only gave their network operators an average score of 3.2 – with just one in ten rating their telco’s marketing offerings as five out of five for personalization and relevance. There were also some notable regional differences, with customers in the UK especially dissatisfied, giving an average rating of just 2.8 out of five.

Where are telco operators getting personalization wrong?

This poses a major problem for telecom providers, as it could mean they’re out of touch with the expectations of their customers and be unaware if they’re failing to deliver on these demands.

So what’s behind this disconnect? Part of the reason may be that marketers believe they are doing all they can within the limitations of their environment, especially in the context of a tight regulatory landscape. But this is not necessarily the case.

For example, both customers and marketers highlighted privacy as one of their biggest concerns. Marketers may therefore believe this means there are limitations on what can be done with users’ personal information, such as their behavioral data. 

But in fact, consumers are generally willing to give their consent for the use of this data, provided they can see clear benefits as a result of doing so – such as more directly tailored offers. Therefore, educating users about what data will be used, what is off limits, and what customers can expect in exchange for granting permission will be vital in delivering more personalized offers.   

Other reasons for the gap between telcos and consumers may include marketers failing to adequately segment their customers based on their real interests. All operators will have some form of customer segmentation in place, but in many cases, this may be too broad to accurately target individuals with hyper-personalized messaging. 

With the right tools that learn from customer behavior, however, telcos can build a complete picture of their interests, traits and affinities in more granular detail, allowing them to create much smaller, relevant segmentations. 

The opportunities for forward-looking marketers

The good news is that if telco marketers do take the time to learn what their customer expectations really are, there are huge opportunities to close this perception gap and get ahead of less engaged competitors.

For example, our research revealed that if telcos do get personalization right, they will be rewarded by customers. Indeed, it found a direct line between relevant, personalized communications and increased spending, highlighting the positive return on investment that an effective personalization strategy can deliver.

More than a third of customers (34 percent) said they were likely to spend more with telcos who meet their expectations and provide relevant, timely messaging. Meanwhile, 41 percent agreed they would feel increased loyalty to their telco with the right personalization. 

This in turn can lead to a significant revenue boost, as not only is it far cheaper to retain loyal customers than it is to find new ones, but happy customers will be more likely to spread positive word of mouth about the brand, acting as free marketing promoters for the operator.

These are just some of the benefits telcos can enjoy through more relevant, personalized marketing activities. Download our full 24-page report to learn more about what customers expect and where you may be missing out.

Image credit: iStock/dontree_m