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Welcome to the Fire Rooster

The Year of the Monkey was exhausting by almost any criteria. Measured by celebrity deaths, political surprises and global uncertainty, it was right up there.

For the regional telecoms industry it was also pretty turbulent.

All that digital disruption and the erosion of revenues we are seeing in profit results from operators and vendors such as StarHub, Ericsson, Vodafone, Chunghwa and Bharti Airtel. Those consequences have been evident in a slew of results over the CNY break.

Executives at those companies might not be followers of the Chinese Zodiac, but we can be confident that many of them have breathed a sigh of relief that they have seen the back of the Monkey for another 12 years.

So, as we welcome the advent of the Fire Rooster, what can telcos expect?

I thought I’d have a little fun and take some predictions from the Chinese Zodiac and apply them as some advice for the year ahead for regional telecoms players.

As I understand it, the outlook is different for everyone depending on their own sign, so if telecom executives want a more specific forecast they should perhaps take the year of their company’s foundation as a “birth year,” and consult the zodiac for specific advice

But according to the Chinese Zodiac, it appears that everyone can reap great rewards in the Year of the Rooster by tapping into Rooster traits. These include loyalty, commitment, hard work and looking at your absolute best.

Applied to the telecommunication industry, what does this mean? Here’s some off the cuff advice, meant to be taken light-heartedly:

  • work on loyalty by enhancing the customer experience and differentiating your product. Reduce churn in any way you can, be that through product and service or even price, if that doesn’t hurt you too much. It’s a time to invest more in Customer Relationship Management. Telecom services need to fight back against commoditization and being generic. This is not always easy to do but the suggestion is that the Year of the Rooster will reward companies who focus better on their customers and deliver to them. Loyalty reduces churn and can drive acquisition through word of mouth and a better reputation.
  • Hard work and commitment. Surely this all about execution, about bringing the disparate pieces of technology together to create compelling differentiation and service. Was your company struggling with this last year? How do you score yourself on this? It is clear the Rooster won’t tolerate waverers, so its time to roll up those shirtsleeves, review the whole business model and how the technology comes together to deliver that, and commit to execution and follow through.
  • Looking at your absolute best. I take this to be a message regarding branding, which also comes back to the customer experience issue. Focus on making sure your brand means something in a crowded market. Understand your brand proposition and, using the traits of hard work and commitment, execute on delivering it to a high standard.

Another aspect to the 2017 Chinese horoscope is that I read it is a good year for singles to get married, and for relationships. In the telco context, that means enhanced collaboration and partnerships, and even a willingness to merge. Could that mean an uptick in corporate activity.

All this, of course, needs to be taken with a grain of salt. A gweilo journalist is no expert in Chinese astrology.

But I do think that focusing on these traits can bring positive results for telcos, in 2017 and in any year.