When You Play the “Game of Phones” You Win or You Die. There is No Middle Ground.

The new season of Game of Thrones has finally begun. As I eagerly anticipate Sunday nights to watch my favorite characters scheme and fight for control of the throne, each episode is packed with plot twists and turns, keeping me guessing on who will be victorious. On Monday mornings, I’ll troll around the office to find other Game of Thrones enthusiasts to debrief on what happened the night before (if you watch, you can imagine the solemn office mood after The Red Wedding aired).

While we don’t know who will win the Game of Thrones, we do know there are a few strong competitors who each take a different approach in leading their armies in battle and in ruling their kingdoms. When chatting around the ‘water cooler’ with some of my colleagues, we came to the realization that Game of Thrones also has some interesting lessons for business. We may not be engaged in physical fights, but the telecoms industry is embroiled in a war that is just as difficult. For Communications Service Providers (CSPs) it’s the quest to win the Game of Phones.

There are clear parallels between the game playing out in the fantasy series and the strategies CSPs are taking to reduce customer churn and dominate the market.

In the first season there were many pretenders to the throne, each convinced that they could win over their competitors’ followers and triumph as they pursued the Iron Throne. Each was convinced that they could take advantage of the new opportunities that had appeared. However through battle, deception, or vulnerability in strategy, the playing field has narrowed. One thing has become clear: the characters that have built strong relationships and have gained respect and loyalty with their followers are best poised to win.

The Game of Phones is no different, as the CSP market has gone through technological revolution, through expansion and then through consolidation. It is just as difficult to succeed as in Game of Thrones, once impregnable brands have disappeared or been swallowed up by competitors. And just like Game of Thrones those CSPs that command the loyalty of their followers are winning. The really successful CSPs are honing their customer experience with an understanding that improvements in their retention performance drive massive improvements in margin and value for shareholders.

Today’s customers have high expectations of service and, if the CSP does not continually work to keep them, they are willing to break their contract for a better deal. Customers now demand experiences that are contextual and timely, relevant to their needs, and personalized just for them. We distilled six winning retention strategies to help CSPs win the Game of Phones (these strategies apply equally as well to broadband/internet, and cable providers):

  • Every interaction with a customer takes place at a specific point in time. What is important to that customer now? You need to understand the holistic context for that customer at that moment.
  • Provide education and recommend potential remediation steps BEFORE any negotiation. If tailored appropriately using available context, you can increase the chance of retention by addressing customer concerns without reducing revenue and margin. 
  • Customers are not all the same. Some customers spend a lot, cost little to support and are very profitable. Others cost more than they contribute. Understand the customer value, create the right investment budget and work out who you need to invest in.
  • Traditional approaches to measuring performance do not allow for the subtleties required for a world class retention approach. Create a business case for all relationships and then measure and take action on that basis.
  • Go beyond “reactive” strategies. Use the concept of the investment budget and personalized retention strategies to proactively contact customers before they make a decision to look elsewhere, particularly if you determine that they have issues or concerns. 
  • Respond rapidly. Giving the business stakeholders direct control of implementation of new propositions, competitive strategies and business levers rapidly decreases time to market.

The approach your company takes to reduce churn and drive loyalty within your customer base could bring you closer to rising to the top and claim victory in the Game of Phones.

This had me thinking – which Game of Phones character best represents your service provider?

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