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Filipino teenagers force telcos to change

Telecommunication companies will do well if they listen to Filipino teenagers, according to an industry expert.

Young consumers, particularly those in the age group 15 to 18, think and behave in an entirely different way, with many of them acknowledging they have not prepared a handwritten letter, used a pay phone or bought a newspaper before.

With the future belonging to them, they dictate the way companies treat their customers. Together, they represent a generation that is so unique and influential they force telecom operators to reinvent their business models to adapt to their needs, says Hakon Jacobsen, vice president for consulting division in Asia-Pacific at Amdocs, a provider of customer experience solutions.

Amdocs vice president for consulting division in Asia-Pacific Hakon Jacobsen

“Today’s teens are the future generation of paying customers. Therefore, it is essential for service providers to understand their lifestyle, their wants and expectations. But even currently, they already have an immediate impact on service providers’ business and brand perceptions, given their influence on parents, who are paying customers, as well as the wider impact on other customers as a result of their prolific use of social media,” Jacobsen, who is based in Singapore, says in a telephone interview.

“Ultimately, it is the extent to which service providers succeed in cultivating brand loyalty among teens that will determine their ability to remain relevant in the future,” says Jacobsen, a  Norwegian national who has provided consulting services to major telecom operators in Asia-Pacific.

Jacobsen shares the results of a study on the digital lifestyle of teens, commissioned by Amdocs and conducted by Vanson Bourne, a technology market research provider, with the advice of generational expert and sociologist Paul Redmond.

The study, which surveyed 4,250 respondents (15 to 18 years) from the UK, the United States, Canada, Brazil, India, Germany, Russia, Mexico, the Philippines and Singapore, found that 38 percent of Filipino teens (versus 55 percent globally) have never used or could not remember using a pay phone, while 22 percent could not recall ever sending a handwritten letter (29 percent globally).

About 32 percent (29 percent globally) could not recall ever purchasing a hard-copy newspaper or magazine, while 62 percent (62 percent globally) say the same about listening to a vinyl record.

“This segment is a very, very important segment for the telecom operators because these customers have a different view on how to interact and how to use telecom services,” says Jacobsen, a 54-year-old telecom solutions expert.

“I am more than 50 years and I have used a lot of telecom services in my life and I still know what a phone book is.  I have still my CD and my vinyl record collection.  This new generation, they are quite different in the way they interact,” he says.

Jacobsen says today’s teens grew up in the digital age.  Results of the survey show that 52 percent of Filipino teens (43 percent globally) believe their smartphone makes them smarter and “cooler”, while 55 percent (52 percent globally) check their social media accounts first thing in the morning.

Almost half (33 percent globally) say they would probably not meet someone again if they didn’t have a Facebook account.  About 55 percent of Filipino teens prefer using emojis (47 percent globally) to sending emails, as they feel it allows them to express their feelings more clearly than words. A similar number say the same about posting photos (45 percent globally).

Internet connectivity is important among them. Teens demand constant Internet connectivity, with 66 percent of respondents (56 percent globally) saying they are likely to feel anxious and alone if separated from the Internet – similar to being separated from family (66 percent versus 52 percent globally). The value of Internet access is so significant that 68 percent (55 percent globally) strongly believe that fast Internet access is a human right.

Free content streaming is a way of life for the respondents. Teenagers prefer to stream content rather than download it. For videos, 50 percent (61 percent globally) stream, compared to 27 percent (14 percent globally) who download. For TV, 49 percent (51 percent globally) stream versus 18 percent (11 percent globally) who download, while for music, 40 percent (46 percent globally) stream, compared to 39 percent (28 percent globally) who download.

And they are typically doing so for free, with less than a third saying they ever pay for content.

“This consumer group has a totally different set of expectations from the service providers and in the way they interact with providers of services around us. Our study has indicated quite a significant thing that at least the older generations have video, music, games; they have a CD collection, vinyl collection or Blu-ray collection and DVDs. This new generation, they don’t want to have the physical music or video. As long as they have access to music, and access to videos, TV or movies, they don’t care where it is,” says Jacobsen.

Teens consider content and app providers as “service providers” and love them more. Although 79 percent of Filipino teens (82 percent globally) know who their service provider is, they also perceive over-the-top players and Internet giants as service providers, despite them not being so.

When asked which companies they love, Filipino teens rank Google first at 66 percent (60 percent globally), followed by Facebook at (63 percent versus 48 percent globally) and Apple (52 percent versus 47 percent globally).

Jacobsen says findings of the survey only show that telecom operators need to change the way they interact with the new generation of consumers.  “The new generation of consumers sees Facebook, Google, and other non-telecom service providers act as service providers as well. They don’t see the need to be connected to a telecom operator. They would much rather go to Facebook, and say take care of my access then I will not go to my telecom operator to connect,” he says.

“They believe that the telecom operators don’t understand their lifestyle and their needs because they don’t feel connected on an emotional level. The telecom operators really need to start to understand how to interact with the new generation of customers,” says Jacobsen.

Jacobsen says Philippine service providers can use the results of the survey to move in the right direction.  “One very important finding and element from the study is that if the segment has a poor experience in terms of interaction with the service providers, whether that is poor network quality, slow connection, or a bad online service experience, and was forced to talk to a call center representative, they are more inclined to say ‘I am not interested in using the services from this company again. My experience is so bad, so I’ll move to another.’ That is not unique to any company,” he says.

“What is more unique is that they influence their social network and their peers. And because they are connected through social media, they have a much stronger ability to do it than previous generations. The key is that they are important customers; some of them build strong social relationships and are strong social influences,” says Jacobsen.

He says to succeed among the new generation, telecom operators need to leverage on partnerships. He says fortunately, telcos in the Philippines have been quite aggressive and are quite keen on looking forward to partner with different companies such as Spotify, HOOQ and Netflix. “They are also flexible. They understand that they need to adapt to new business models and putting the mobile digital lifestyle at the core. The Philippine operators are going into that direction and they are doing a lot of good things,” he says.

“The consequence for service providers is that they need to be agile, they need to continuously and very rapidly create new products and services and have even more product development.  This is a very key part,” he says.

Jacobsen says Amdocs solutions for telecom companies are targeted to help them create a better customer experience. “It all comes down to how you can provide a good service and good experience to your customers to keep them loyal and create an emotional bond,” he says. 

Topics: Telecommunications companies change , Hakon Jacobsen , Amdocs , Filipino teenagers
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