I read on Channel News Asia this morning that prices for TELCO services are tumbling, and that it’s good for consumers, but is that all there is to competition? Well, of course not. Competition is what happens when you have scarce resources which have alternative uses. This means whoever purports to provide those services is constantly looking for ways to make those services cheaper so that more people will use them. Of course, another way of making things “cheaper” is also to increase the value of such services in the eyes of the consumer. This is achieved by marketing, besides actually working on one’s offerings in order to deliver those offerings better and faster while maintaining or lowering prices. Price increases will also happen when new or improved goods and services are put on the market, and people who want higher quality will be willing to pay higher prices as well.
Reading what’s on the news, it is telling that human behaviour is human behaviour. Incumbents will try to protect their turf, meaning their brand and profits, by resisting new entries into the market instead of welcoming the competition. Competition opens markets, and you’d better be improving all the time or you’d be out of business. Humans don’t seem to like that, and therefore companies, which are run by humans, don’t like that either. Everybody wants to rise and no one wants to fall. Well, the higher road to take has always been, and always will be, to care more about the daily running and improving of one’s business, TELCO or other, than to worry about the competition or even about changes to the business environment, meaning operating costs.
Going online with customer service is of course a good way of lowering operating costs, but there will always be things about which people who have bought your goods or use your services will want to talk to people who can help them when frustration with goods and services mounts. Companies don’t want customers to talk to customer-service people because having customer-service people on their payrolls is expensive. Well, then make sure you constantly make your services better so customers have less to complain about. Have some of your customer help services online and also have some people reachable by telephone, email, chats, etc so that customers can feel that they are able to reach real help with the issues they face. Don’t blame your need for improvements on stupid customers.
As for operating costs, do your calculations beforehand. I was talking to the American owner of an oyster bar in Singapore a couple of years ago, and asked him if he felt that rents were too high. His reply was that you needed to take things like rent into account when deciding whether or not to set up the business you want to set up. His oyster bar is doing well, as far as I can tell. Again, stop blaming operating costs, assess what you need to do, advance and overcome.
So, want your TELCO prices to be kept as low as possible for great service? Of course. However, at the same time, purpose to be a better buyer so that the TELCOs can be encouraged to do so. Price wars are a symptom of the limits of improvements, too, so bear that in mind, and temper your expectations of cheap, good and fast. As they say, choose only two out of three. Get to know your products and services which you purchase and stop bothering the TELCOs with stupid and unreasonable demands and queries. When you become a better buyer, prices go down for the rest of us as well.