Will Ofcom’s contract renewal update make companies more agile?

“Wake me up before you go go,” sung George Michael. The trouble is that these days, companies are quite happy if customers are asleep when it is time for a contract renewal, they would much rather their customers didn’t know they could go if they so choose.

British regulator Ofcom is changing that, and now pay-TV, broadband providers and phone companies must alert customers when their contracts are expiring and inform customers of best available deals.

“We’re making sure customers are treated fairly, by making companies give them the information they need when they need it,” said Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director.

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The new rules mean that telecoms and pay-TV companies must either text, email or write to customers between 10 and 40 days before the date of the contract renewal. Ofcom said that the communications must inform customers:

  • when the contract ends;
  • the price paid before this date;
  • any changes to the service and price paid at the end of the contract;
  • information about any notice period required to end the contract; and
  • the best deals offered by your provider, including telling existing customers what prices are available to new customers.

Is that a blow to these companies? Might they be hoping that any email gets lost amid a sea of spam?

Mark Jackson, the director and industry principal for telecoms & media at Pegasystems, has a quite different take. The time change will force companies to rejuvenate the renewals process. “This requires new digital and agile operating models, based on technology which can personalise the balance between making money and giving real long term value to the customer.”

AI at the heart

He explained further: “At the heart of this technology must be AI and real-time decision making, pre-emptively helping customers to make good, informed decisions about where to place their business. If broadband, phone and pay-TV firms can harness this technology then they should reap the rewards.”

Trust by design

But it is also about creating trust. As the UK tries to emerge as the ethical AI capital of the world, Jackson said: “By providing a more tailored offering, the organisation can build trust and improve their brand perception, and will have a far better chance of maintaining their customer base.”

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About time

Jackson added: “Consumers have enough on their plates without the added hassle of having to remember when their phone or TV contract is due for renewal. They want the company to do the legwork, which is why these new rules from Ofcom are a long time in coming. Having this prompt should encourage people to reassess their existing deal so that they can get the best value offer on the market.

“The latest regulations should encourage businesses to make ongoing improvements to their service and customer experience, so their customers actually want to stay – even if there is a better deal available. Secondly, these organisations should use this compulsory contact as an opportunity to build the customer relationship by giving innovative offers and better, personalised service.”

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Michael Baxter

.Michael Baxter is a tech, economic and investment journalist. He has written four books, including iDisrupted and Living in the age of the jerk. He is the editor of Techopian.com and the host of the ESG...