Quad play: Will telecoms providers make it work?

At a strategic level, quad play – where telecommunications companies provide mobile, TV, broadband and fixed line services – sounds like quite a simple idea. Customers benefit from bulk purchase discounts, and the provider benefits from increased revenue per customer and reduced customer churn. But at an operational level, quad play is not a simple change and requires robust execution.

It will become increasingly relevant, as BT’s planned takeover of EE progresses. 27 million EE customers will become available for a push to quad play by BT, potentially moving take up of quad play in the UK forward significantly.

In a previous piece, Sarah Hobbs looked at the impact of quad play on customers and asked if they really want the service. This time I’ll look at the impact of quad play on providers themselves.

Quad play is a significant investment for telecoms providers and represents a large increase in complexity. Starting to offer TV as an additional service represents a huge departure from their core offering which was traditionally to provide voice and mobile data packages. 

From a customer point of view, they interact with providers differently depending on the service in question. They have different priorities – whether that is cost, quality or, in the case of TV, content. Typically, customers see fixed line and broadband as utilities, whereas mobile and TV packages are a more personal choice.

So what changes will providers need to make to give the best quad play services to their customers?

A fundamental change will be in customer service. As an industry, telecoms does not perform well in this area. Poor customer satisfaction could prove to be a major blocker to customers expanding their contracts with a single provider, while good service can be a key driver to cross-selling additional services such as quad play. If service is perceived to be poor, will customers really tie themselves to one provider?

For quad play to work, telecoms providers will need to focus on improving customer contact, looking at two key areas: improving customer service systems and providing better training to individuals.

Will customers really tie themselves to one provider?

Telecoms providers already start from a complicated position. They manage 10s of millions of customers with complicated, highly varied issues – where a problem could be from the network, a hardware fault or a software fault. To add to this, many telecoms providers have gone through several company acquisitions and now have to deal with separate legacy systems, which are often poorly integrated. As customers move to quad play these issues will only increase in complexity.

Quad play customers will rightly expect a seamless customer service experience, with staff in stores and contact centres dealing with mobile queries and TV queries efficiently in the same conversation. Customers won’t accept being handed from one person to the next. Therefore, staff will have to be trained to deal with cross-service queries. To also enable seamless ‘front end’ customer service across quad play products, ‘back end’ systems will need to be updated and integrated. Transitioning to a new system, without interruption in operations, requires clear, coherent and experienced execution.

Not only do customers expect one operator to deal with their queries, they will also expect single billing for their services. To receive all services on one bill – one of the stated benefits of quad play – will require a significant shift for current mediation and billing systems.

With all these changes – from training across contact centres and stores, to Business Support Systems, online and app changes – implementing programmes to deal with these will involve careful planning, and rigorous execution.

If the telecoms providers are to succeed with quad play, and get a substantial return on investment, then its success will rely on not just the right strategy, but fundamentally on its effective operational execution.

What do you think are the most pressing quad play issues for telecoms providers?

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