The telecom industry is forever gazing at the future, but instead of focusing on LTE or the threat from Apple, there's a lot to be said for simply executing on existing operations; like stripping out costs, tuning the network, and getting billing and customer service to where they should be.
Most operators have done all they can on the first two and, with the aid of battalions of billing firms, they're doing what they can about the third.
But it's the last one that offers carriers the potential for lasting differentiation. In the age of the smartphone and mobile apps, service providers may not own the customer like before. But they are best-placed to make an impression.
Unfortunately, that impression is too often not a positive one. Right now it's high mobile data roaming charges that are enraging customers. A quick search through the twittersphere throws up angry complaints from users who have unintentionally run up hefty roaming bills.
It's not hard. I intentionally ran up a bill downloading just a handful of emails while abroad at Christmas. The cost, I later discovered, was $60. It wouldn't take long to hike that into the thousands.
Why not share?
Often in these incidents, users only discover the problem after their account has been frozen after getting to a limit set by the operator - say around $2,000. Is it too difficult for roaming partners to exchange billing data to allow them to send customers a real-time alert when they get to a pre-set limit?