Do Mobile Operators Hate Business Customers?
By Mike Masnick, Thu Apr 07 03:15:00 GMT 2005

Some are suggesting that mobile operators these days absolutely hate business customers, and are setting up enterprise sales to be as difficult as possible. This might actually be smart -- but it's being done for all the wrong reasons.

Wireless Newsfactor is running an article claiming that mobile operators hate business customers. The article, itself, is a bit strange, because the reporter presents this opinion as fact. There is very little in the article to back up the premise, other than some reasons why an operator might not like enterprise deals -- while leaving out plenty of reasons why some operators actively want to pursue business customers.

Still, there are points worth exploring in the discussion. Basically, the complaint is that business customers have lower ARPU and are much more demanding. Therefore, mobile operators are making business deals less appealing and are being less flexible in giving deals to business customers while hoping they go elsewhere. Of course, this theory only really makes sense if the operators believe in the cult of ARPU -- which some do. However, if a customer is a profitable customer, then ARPU shouldn't matter. The benefits of an enterprise sale is that a single sale brings in a large amount of revenue at once, and enterprise customers are less likely to switch operators, because it involves changing so much for everyone. While they may not be quite as profitable on a per person basis, that doesn't mean they should be ignored entirely.

With all of that said, there are some other reasons why mobile operators might find it beneficial to concentrate on consumers, rather than business customers -- but it has nothing to do with ARPU. It has more to do with a general trend of employees buying their own equipment and setting it up themselves, rather than having an IT department mandate what they should use. This is how many mobile phones and PDAs first entered the enterprise anyway: they percolated up from employees buying the devices for personal reasons. Targeting influencers within a corporation would probably be much more effective. Getting a few people who really know how to use a mobile device to the fullest to pass that knowledge on to others can do much more than any big corporate sale. At the same time, having individual buyers gives the company more flexibility. When there's a big enterprise buy, individuals often have very little choice, and can't always use the devices, services or plans that fit them best.

None of this, of course, has to do with ARPU, but about the best way to serve the customer. The flexibility of letting mobile device purchases percolate up from the bottom are more likely to benefit everyone in the long run by creating happier customers who actually have the devices and services that best fit their needs.