Churn prevention and cooperation keys to survival: CEOs

Customer retention, smarter cooperation and better self-promotion of mobile as a force for good were some of the recession survival tips offered by cellco CEOs headlining the Mobile World Congress Tuesday.

Cesar Alierta, CEO of Telefonica, said in his opening keynote in Barcelona that the mobile industry was well-positioned financially to weather the global recession, but staying that way required focusing on a number of factors, with ensuring a "super customer experience" to retain subscribers at the top of the list.

"We are focused on satisfying customer needs to grow our business," he said.

Vodafone chief Vittorio Colao, in a follow-up keynote, framed the customer experience in terms of value.

"We must add value to what we do," he said. "Customers want speed, ubiquity, ease of use, relevant content and services. They want to trust us with their data, and they want us to make all this affordable."

To achieve that, both Alierta and Colao called for more cooperation between cellcos, handset vendors, media companies and other players in the mobile ecosystem to foster more intelligent and focused innovation,

"We need to share investment where it makes sense, and we need to experiment more now that we have the networks, devices and services to do so," said Colao.

They echoed calls from GSM Association CEO Rob Conway for governments and regulators to encourage mobile investment through deregulation.

"We are not asking for money - we are asking for something much cheaper: regulatory stability," Alierta said.

Colao said the industry was partly to blame for its shaky relationship with regulators by not emphasizing enough the positive social impact that mobile can have.

"We as an industry have failed in terms of being proud of what we do and communicating that," he said. "This is an overlooked aspect of mobile - we help increase productivity, we help save on space and transportation costs and save on emissions. But when I meet with politicians and regulators, they are surprised when I tell them these things. They say, why don't you talk about this instead of just talking about gadgets and technology‾"

"Because this industry does well, there is this perception that a mobile license is also a license to print money, but of course this is not the case. We need to convey this in a clearer way," Colao said.