FT Orange exec: Stopping churn is now No. 1 priority

LONDON--Increasing customer loyalty and driving down churn has become the top priority for France Telecom (FT) Orange, as the company drives towards placing the customer at the centre of its attentions, a senior FT executive said.

Swantee

"The decline in churn over the next few years will be the key metric as to whether we're succeeding," said Olaf Swantee, the executive vice president of FT Orange with responsibility for all of the company's European operations outside of France.

Speaking at the Open Mobile Summit in London on Tuesday, Swantee outlined several initiatives to improve the company's relationship with customers, such as helping new and existing users to better understand smartphones and how to best to use mobile application storefronts.

"We are already helping customers who want to switch handsets by copying their contacts list across to another device, and we're looking to do the same for all user content that is stored on smartphones," he said.

Of note, Swantee revealed that 25 per cent of FT Orange's customers paid for a "start-up" service that gave them an introduction to the smartphone's operating system and help with understanding app store downloads.

This new approach to customer service will see a large proportion of Orange's 20,000 frontline sales staff becoming a revenue source for the company. "These employees will be turned into providing a post-sales chargeable service that can be purchased by customers to help them gain a much improved mobile Internet experience," Swantee said.

The Orange exec also indicated that the company is planning to overhaul its data tariffs to provide a more tailored offering aimed at individual requirements. "We must provide data plans that can be used by the customer across multiple devices--smartphones, tablets and laptops, etc., that they might own," he said.

However, this new strategy of focusing on the user was hedged, with Swantee wanting the involvement of other firms to help build the ecosystem and customer loyalty. But the involvement of these partners could only take place if the agreements are fair, open and flexible, "with reward based upon the value created," he said.

He added that the company is open and ready to work with new partners, referencing the strong relationships it has already built with Apple, Deutsche Telekom and Microsoft.

This was followed by a pointed observation that mobile networks across Europe require massive investments--with FT Orange spending €450 million in the next 12 months on radio access network upgrades--while ARPUs are falling. These comments on fairness and the infrastructure investment requirements to support Internet content providers like Google echo recent remarks made by FT CEO Stéphane Richard.

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