10/04/2011 11:44 am ET | Updated Nov 27, 2011

What the Explosion of Mobile Devices Around the World Means for Consumers

Ten years ago, nobody knew exactly how mobile phones would change our lives, but the consensus was that it would be dramatic. Technology analysts projected big things, but even some of their wildest expectations have been surpassed. In 1999, only 15% of the world's population had access to a telephone. Today, there are 2 billion users on the Internet, roughly half of which are accessing the web through a mobile device. That's a ten-fold-plus increase over the last five years, according to technology consultancy IDC.

The mobile phone isn't just a phone, it's a pocket GPS, a wallet, a portable hard drive, a camera, an entertainment center, a phone book - it has evolved into a personal concierge. Moreover, wireless carriers are seen in the consumer's mind as a trusted identity to manage privacy of data. Carriers know a lot about their users -- they know when subscribers use their phones, where they sleep; where they travel; where most of their calls are directed, etc. Sure, we all know carriers are in business to make money, and consumers want to get the best features -- and a good value for the money they spend. But there can truly be a win-win scenario for both parties...if the wireless carriers get it right. Carriers that adapt their own technology to all of this useful information can offer customized services that reflect the user's unique lifestyle when a consumer opts in (or out) of allowing the provider to use the data.

The implications are far-reaching. Just as credit card companies monitor card holders' purchases for abnormal transactions (which might suggest theft) wireless carriers could use data analytics to identify abnormal phone usage, alerting the service provider that the phone was stolen or that the user may be in danger.

And in an industry plagued by churn, wireless carriers armed with smarter computing can identify specific customers who may be on the verge of canceling their service and prevent them from leaving by proactively offering the customer unique, customized promotions. For example, one of the leading wireless carrier in the Philippines has a higher-than-average number of prepay customers (which is more common in the Southeast Asian country). To prevent customers from switching carriers, the provider redesigned their computer systems to leverage customer data so they could automatically send special targeted deals, via text messages, to users whose balance is running low. It's a win-win situation for both the customer and the wireless carrier. The more deeply a cell phone service is integrated into a person's daily life, the less likely that person is to cancel the service. Customers, in turn, are offered services that are more relevant and helpful to them.

Wireless providers that adopt smarter computing to learn about what their customers want and need can not only reduce churn rates and increase customer satisfaction, but they can also determine how to allocate resources in the future and evaluate which potential new services would be most valuable to customers and help attract new customers. And as customers come to expect more from their phones, wireless providers are in a position to meet those demands. What do you want from your cell phone carrier?

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