Big Data

Why your mobile carrier just sent your mom a ‘free upgrade’ notice

Image Credit: Yana Lyandres
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Your mobile phone carrier knows what you want before you do.

Mobile carriers like Verizon and AT&T are starting to use social media analysis and big data techniques to save big money and reduce subscriber churn.  By analyzing what you do on social media, customer demographics, and how you’re using your phone and tablet, they know what you want before you do — and can build a plan to satisfy those needs before you turn to a competitor.

In other words, that free upgrade notice wasn’t random.

blue-iPhone5cAnd, like Target knew a teenage girl was pregnant before her own father did, corporations can figure out what you want, and what you’re likely to do, sometimes before you actually do it.

One carrier in South Africa used social network analysis and its subscriber information to determine priority users and “customer networks” in order to reduce annual churn, or customer turnover, by 20 percent. This kind of analysis, and the actions that carriers take, will save $9 billion in revenue for carriers by 2018, according to a new report by Juniper Research.

It’s not just what you say on social media, or that Sprint noticed you were interested in the new iPhone 5S even though you’re currently sporting a countercultural BlackBerry. It’s also what your relatives, friends, and coworkers are using — and moving to. Because with carrier promos like five numbers that are free to call, if they’re on the same network, changing phones and changing carriers is all about the network effect.

Which is why Mom matters, of course.

“By gaining control of structured and unstructured customer data for the first time, operators in emerging markets can gain far greater consumer insight than was previously the case,” Juniper analyst Keith Breed said in a statement.

So while a free upgrade might keep you with your current carrier, a customer loyalty program that offers your mom or spouse or friend a better deal for more minutes could more subtly but just as surely keep you in the fold.

Big data, meet business imperatives, meet consumer behavior.

Right in a nice little Venn diagram. And, of course, in a savvy mobile carrier’s balance sheet.


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