Are We Missing an Opportunity to Serve Customers Better and Make More Money?

Thu, 11/11/2021 - 15:46

By Paul Colmer, Exco member at Wireless Access Provider’s Association (WAPA) writes about the missed opportunity below.

We’ve all seen, or even experienced first-hand, that cringeworthy knave who contemptuously mistreats wait staff. Besides the short sightedness of maltreating the person who brings you food, which, let’s be honest, could potentially place you in a very uncomfortable position for an extended period, longer even perhaps than it takes to “research” the whole of Facebook, it’s plain old poor behaviour.

Yet, I suspect it’s not entirely dissimilar to what many of us do when it comes to managing and providing connectivity services.

Disconnection is easy

It’s easy to make assumptions. We do it all the time. But can you remember the name of the last waiter who helped you? Maybe we can ask something a little easier to answer and more relevant to our businesses.

Do we acknowledge that a “bigger” connection, say a 100Mb asynchronous fixed landline, doesn’t necessarily equate to smooth telephone calls and jitter-free video calls?

There’s an old joke about browsers. The narrator asks, “Who are we?” All the browsers but one reply, “Browsers!” What do we want?” The whole group except for that same one again reply, “Fast Internet!” The narrator then asks, “When do we want it?” Before the others can chime in, that one browser blurts out the answer to the first question, “Browsers!”

Yeah, we’ve all seen that laggy person in a Teams or Zoom. I know first-hand how it feels.

We are different!

But you’re bright, you know your Ethernet from your CAT5, Facebook and sundry exhaust ports. Like me, you probably know that big pipes don’t equal low latency. Maybe your particular Achilles heel is another strain of blindness. We’re only human, after all.

Yet, our actions tell a different story. Or that’s what some pundits would have us believe. Lots of people all around the country got very excited a few of years ago. Fixed line broadband fever swept the nation, and we were sold a rosy hue of “the future” where bandwidth, big bandwidth, would serve us up a smorgasbord of online potential the likes of which would make a streaming foodie’s little heart pump pure Pinot Noir.

We wanted to believe it, right? Let’s not kid ourselves. And it was good! At first. I was personally involved. I know.

Then over subscription arrived. That was a real downer. All that beautiful bandwidth up in smoke. Latencies, unlike the value of the rand, kept on going up. Democratic, omnipresent access was a cool idea, but it sucked a bit in our own particular brand of reality. Let everyone else share the pipe, good idea. But we want our own.

The countrywide big pipe land grab that’s dropped on the industry in the past couple of years like a Benoni backyard on a collapsing mineshaft hasn’t done heaps to improve the situation. The upshot?

The world has changed – have we?

After lockdown, rampant digitalisation encompassing everything from e-commerce to the growing tide of IoT gadgets joining the Internet daily and food factories tracking batches online, the seismic shift into cloud and hybrid business, digitalised telephony, streaming entertainment, online education, mobile payments and just a ton more online stuff we do, you’d think we would have figured out by now how to do it better. I mean, can we seriously not get the minuscule amount of data it takes to process a card swipe through a POS in a few seconds? Or is it absolutely necessary to, “Let me get another machine?”

As service providers, these are our businesses, our livelihoods, our profits, our futures. This is how we put food on the table, keep the kids in school, and maybe even drop a freshly minted RTX3080i under the tree a little early. Who knows? Maybe our kid’s got the best pop in the world.

But I suspect we owe it to ourselves to dig into the options a little deeper to make our customer’s lives a bit better, a fraction brighter. What’s a few hundred bucks a month on top of what we currently pay to get a quality of service (QoS) that keeps that POS online, the commerce gateway just a click away, the sales dashboard responsively under our mobile thumb? There’s money in it for us and, more importantly, for our customers who can use it to improve the lives of their own users or customers in turn.

More ponies under the hood

Are customers really so cheap that around R2000 for a fixed wireless service, maybe one that gives us a managed service, with guaranteed low latencies and plenty of pipe over the distances we need, is a stretch? Or don’t they know there are cost-effective options to the best effort, under R1 000 line that gets turned over by trenchers every other week? Or maybe a link that lags due to interference every Tuesday and three times on Friday

I think there’s a business case to be made for better QoS and qualities of experience (QoE). Paradoxically, I have a sneaking suspicion customers will more readily receive this message now. The budgets are out there. But good QoS is often in short supply, markets pressured, and differentiation a growing rarity while end user customer expectations have never been higher, nor competitor experiences better.

What do you think? Do we have space to offer our customers some herb-quality last-mile options alongside the bushels of spinach and carrots they’re accustomed to “open wide” for? Give me a toot, toot, I’d love to know your thoughts.