By Robert Oberhofer, VP of Technical Sales and Marketing
As of mid-June, the European Union officially eliminated roaming fees. According to Natasha Lomas of TechCrunch, the “roam like at home” policy allows citizens to travel within the European Union without amassing any extra costs on their phone bill.
This policy has been a long time coming (since 2006) and has faced a great deal of negotiations led by telcos. Due to concerns from carriers about potential abusers, such as citizens taking advantage of cheaper phone plans in other countries, the policy allows operators to ask customers to clarify their country of residence after four months have passed.
Another major concern that surfaced was that operators in respective EU countries would raise their prices in order to compensate for the revenue lost on this new policy. This prompted the European Council to establish an agreement that caps wholesale prices among operators and, in turn, prevents customers from facing sudden price increases in their home countries.
For EU consumers, this policy promises a lot of mobile convenience. According to a statement featured in the TechCrunch article on behalf of the European Council, Dr. Emmanuel Mallia, the Maltese digital minister, said: “Today’s final vote in the council clears the path for free roaming. When Europeans go on holiday this summer, they can enjoy the freedom of being able to stay in touch and use the Internet as if they were at home. The EU is making our lives easier in very practical ways.”
While the international roaming policy will likely boost customer satisfaction, its sweeping nature poses a unique challenge for carriers looking to differentiate themselves. If every carrier is offering free roaming, not to mention the same type of unlimited data plans, these carriers must offer even better solutions to win over customers. Furthermore, it won’t be long before customers will adjust to the convenience of international roaming and expect more from their carrier.
Carriers’ success will hinge on their ability to provide digital services that cater to what the customer has come to expect. The major benefit of international roaming is that it eliminates bill shock from expected international usage. Eliminating customer phone bills entirely is not a feasible solution for carriers for obvious reasons, but finding ways to mitigate bill shock certainly is. Setting up an on-device alert system, for example, is a great way to inform customers when they’re incurring out-of-the-ordinary charge or when reaching their monthly data limit. Providing them with an easy-access link to where they can manage their plan will also add an extra level of convenience.
Digital services like these will not only match the convenience that customers will enjoy from international roaming, it will also establish transparency and build customer trust. It’s those strong customer relationships that will be key to carrier success.