Stop. Look. UX. Proceed.

Why UX is the key to Indian telcos going digital?

Recently, India has seen a huge wave of digitization come its way. Indian companies have realized this, and are changing the way they do business. One of the sectors that can make most of this is the telecom sector. Telecom players are branded as a utility provider. The digitization wave can change this. Operators have been releasing new services that allow them to compete with the likes of internet companies. While this is a perfect direction to go along, they need to tread with caution.

Internet companies are born digital, and they KNOW their digital brethren. Telcos have been branded as legions of call centers that keep calling for a better bill plan (or worse, caller tunes). And they know their customers as just a voice on the phone.

How does one get rid of such an Image?

The answer is simple — focus on your experience.

Even if Airtel releases a video streaming app that does exactly what a Netflix does, you know what you’re going to use. It’s not that the content is bad on the airtel app either — it is the experience. By experience, I mean everything — the ease of signing in, the moment of truth when you launch the app, the copy, the absence of crashes, no unnecessary notifications — EVERYTHING.

Telcos must attempt to transform their concierge-like attitude to one that is quick, quirky and fun. They must do this in everything they do — bills, apps, new plans, their copy, their web presence, newer services.

But again, tread with caution.

It is easy for telcos to get stuck in a quagmire. This usually results in launching a lot of services at the same time. This results in a confusing the customer with a million (unrelated) experiences. It is recommended to launch a single service to get your experience baselined. Only then must you proceed to make other apps/services that are natural extensions.

What has ensued of late, is companies launching a battalion of apps to counter market leaders. Only last month, Idea Cellular, launched its gaming, music and video apps. To my knowledge, each of these apps has been built by separate teams. Individually, they may be amazing products. But they will find it tough to find the cohesion that a list of Google / Facebook apps would have natively built-in.

The lack of commonality, and hence a brand language is clearly evident in the screens below.

Reliance Jio, the new entrant has been making this mistake since the very beginning. For something that has been in the works since 2012, it is quite surprising to find a list of so many apps that have absolutely nothing in common. In terms of experience, that is.

The folks at Airtel have impressed. While they had their own share of dark ages, they’ve failed fast. But in failing, they’ve come out with a design language that now prevails in all formats of their digital presence. Their rewrite of the self-care portal (now in angular), is a step in the right direction to providing a better experience on the web.

Despite technological prowess, deep pockets, intelligent associations, superb content; telcos will not succeed unless they focus on experience. In the race of the telcos, I see Airtel emerging a clear winner — just due to the cohesiveness of everything they do. It is highly likely that the others will follow suit, but how much of the quagmire will they wade through — remains to be seen.

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