Customer churn is a huge challenge in the prepaid phone market. No contract means no commitment. No commitment means pay-as-you-go customers can walk away from you without a moment’s notice. And that makes it tough for telecom operators to grow revenue sustainable from this particular installed customer base. So, how can you hang on to your prepaid customers?
How do you incentivise them to spend more of their hard-earned cash with you?
Let’s look at this problematic issue a little more closely…
Make your mantra “Does this offer value to my prepaid customers?”
As any business student will delight in telling you, it’s more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep an existing one. But this can be tricky in the highly competitive prepaid market, where primary services are quickly becoming commoditised.
So, how can you win loyalty from a prepaid customer?
Offering a cheaper pay-as-you-go plan in a panic to compete may be tempting, but it isn’t going to encourage those long-standing relationships you’re longing for. True, price is important to the cost-conscious prepaid consumer. But price alone doesn’t encourage an emotional connection to your company.
Besides, it won’t be long before one or more of your competitors start to undercut you. A quick price comparison check on the internet and it’s bye-bye, customer.
Offering an upgrade to a postpaid plan—even if it’s a fantastic deal—is unlikely to win over too many pay-as-you-goers either. After all, they don’t want a two-year contract and the hassle of a credit check. All they want (for now) is a flexible, inexpensive plan with good network coverage and no commitment.
Which leaves you with a decision: How to differentiate yourself from your competitors?
Marketing to any installed customer base is not the same as marketing to new customers. It takes a different approach.
It requires helping your customers extract as much value as possible from their existing prepaid plan before they’re ready to move onto a more enduring relationship with you. Stop thinking about how you can convert them into a postpaid customer and start thinking about what would make life easier for your prepaid customers.
What lifestyle solutions can you offer them?
Many of your answers are going to be found in channel management. Establishing direct communication with your prepaid customers in ways that reflect their unique requirements is essential if you don’t want to lose them. And the best customer experiences these days are to be found online.
“Direct communication with customers in each channel is of the utmost importance. Once this is achieved, the business will have a better idea which marketing strategy best suits that customer base.”
Two successful online strategies that focus on improving the customer experience are branded top-up apps and automatic top-up.
Communicate directly with your customers in the same place they top up
Offer your prepaid customers a top-up app that includes a communication channel. It’s a great way to serve your audience and engage them on a regular basis.
Think about it. The majority of your customers are undoubtedly smartphone owners, and mobile is unquestionably the world’s leading digital platform. According to a 2014 study by comScore, mobile usage by US users accounts for 60% of time spent consuming digital media (the rest is done on a desktop).
And the fuel driving this growth in mobile usage?
It’s mainly app usage.
Apps are swiftly becoming a key communication channel between companies and customers, and app users love solutions that make everyday life a little more interesting or easier.
79% of smartphone owners use apps nearly every day, versus 52% for tablet users.
According to analyst Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends report, conversational interfaces are rapidly being integrated into sales and customer services. Why? Because the modern consumer finds personalised message threads offer much more convenience than phone calls and emails and more attentive support than websites.
In short, customers like the fact that conversation, payment and confirmation can happen in just one place.
Once you’ve established a direct channel with your prepaid customers, you can offer them plenty of opportunities to communicate with your company.
You can use push messages to alert opt-in customers of a special event or give them time-sensitive information, for example when tariffs change, a new promotion is launched or new app-content is made available. Push messages remind users to return to your top-up app, which helps keep your company top of mind and reinforce your customer-supplier relationship.
Once customers are in your app topping up their account, you can deliver in-app messages. These notifications are highly effective for marketing campaigns because they look less ‘spammy’ than emails and they reach your entire app audience (no opt-in required).
When combined with push notifications, in-app messages achieve an average engagement rate of between 26% and 44% (depending on the app’s performance).
Source: Urban Airship, ‘Mobile Engagement Benchmark Survey 2015’
Prepaid customers love to get something for just as much as your postpaid customers, so don’t exclude prepaid customers from your community.
Create a bond with your prepaid customers with automatic top-ups
An automatic top-up solution is another highly effective method of preventing prepaid customers from slipping out through the backdoor. Customers love the convenience of topping up their prepaid accounts automatically. It’s one less thing to worry about and they can be confident they’ll never run out of credit or data.
Just as importantly, it will turn your prepaid customers into a hybrid postpaid customer. It’s a small but significant step down the commitment path.
The best way to allow customers to set up their automatic top-up (i.e. the most convenient way) is via your website or top-up app. And if you offer a range of automatic top-up options, your customers will be able to pick the one that best suits their wallet or lifestyle.
Let them choose when and by how much to top up their credit or data bundle. Offer them a choice of payment methods. Send them confirmation top-up messages and allow them to keep their automatic top-up when they swap prepaid plans.
Do all this and your prepaid customers will love you forever.
About the author
Alper Altan – Reload Services
Business Development Manager
I’m Alper Altan, Business Development Manager at Alphacomm Solutions. I make sure that Alphacomm maximizes profit on existing customers as well as new business.