American Marketer


Why a mobile CRM strategy is key

September 6, 2011


jon-jacksonBy Jon Jackson

Consider the irony. Wireless carriers spend billions of dollars to acquire new customers. They spend billions more to market their products and services to consumers, and even more billions to subsidize handsets to make them more affordable.

Strangely enough, when it comes to managing relationships with their existing customers, carriers are hesitant to make a sizable investment.

Given the billions spent to obtain a customer, is it not worth spending a few dollars to make sure they stick around and remain delighted?

The basis of any relationship is communication. For businesses that are all about enabling communication, carriers have plenty of room for improvement when it comes to effectively communicating with their own subscribers.

Carrier metrics

Carriers have four major metrics they use to measure their businesses:

• Subscriber additions quantify a carrier’s success in attracting new customers.

• Average revenue per user (ARPU) measures carriers’ success in upselling and cross-promoting device accessories and service bundles.

• Cash cost per customer (CCPU) quantifies the amount spent to support a subscriber on the network. Carriers seek to minimize these costs.

• Churn quantifies a subscriber decision to switch carriers.

Of these four core metrics, three (ARPU, CCPU and churn) can be materially affected by implementing a successful customer relationship management solution.

Successful carriers impact these metrics using CRM strategies to drive results.

Carriers must not be afraid to spend money on CRM. They must be cautious, however, not to waste money and goodwill on useless campaigns.

Evolution of CRM

In the past, most carriers’ attempts at CRM have fallen short.

In-store and outdoor promotions, bill stuffers and Web portals were among the most common practices.

Fortunately, recent technologies have opened the door to new CRM practices that leverage mobile platforms and greatly improve the carrier/customer relationship.

CRM strategies

SMS – SMS campaigns have been popular for years because of their immediacy and ability to reach nearly all of the active phones currently in market.

On the down side, however, mobile users think texting is a personal communication channel for interacting with their friends and peers.

When consumers receive a text from a carrier or another business with a solicitation, their reaction – not surprisingly – may not be very welcoming.

In addition, SMS campaigns are dated, plain and a bit too simplistic for today’s modern consumer.

While MMS campaigns are more visually appealing, they can be expensive when charged by the megabyte, and suffer from the same consumer perception about intruding upon their inbox.

Mobile Web – Mobile versions of account management pages are the new norm, and are often pre-set as the browser’s homepage.

Complete with graphics and interactive messaging, these CRM hubs were built to maximize consumer action and entertainment.

True, these pages may be dynamic, but they still have to rely on the customer visiting the page to receive their message.

The last time you launched your mobile browser, did you think to poke around on your carrier’s homepage and see what was new? Me neither.

Mobile applications – There are now hundreds of thousands of apps available on the larger platforms.

It should be no surprise that one of the newest CRM strategies reflects that larger trend in mobile: the use of apps to engage the consumer.

These apps are more of a core service for the carrier though and often come pre-loaded on phones.

Apps designed specifically for CRM offer a unique set of challenges and rewards.

Some of these apps may even leverage the home screen or idle screen of a phone to connect with users, and offer options such as on-device payment, tutorials and customer service portals.

Like the app universe, in general, there is almost no limit to what these apps can do.

Apps as the future of CRM

The most effective CRM strategies successfully connect with the user while providing engaging content and impelling action.

This is what apps do by combining the reach and timeliness of SMS along with the visual graphics and interaction of the Web.

Moving forward, apps will likely be the dominant strategy for carriers worldwide.

Do not get me wrong – apps still pose some challenges. They can be complex and require upfront costs to implement, and they take a lot of coordination and integration within carriers.

Still, the improvements in customized marketing and on-demand information can recoup those costs quickly.

Many carriers have already seen apps deliver big on their hefty CRM promises.

By reaching out to a highly targeted consumer and using an attractive and interactive CRM strategy, apps can deliver a great value.

Considering the huge dollars that carriers spend to add customers, the additional investment of an apps-based CRM strategy will pay off with long-term rewards.

Jon Jackson is CEO of Mobile Posse, McLean, VA. Reach him at