When someone stands up and says ‘people hate telcos’ you have, at least, to admit that they are brave and actually saying what we are all thinking. When a company uses the sentence in an advertising campaign, you have to raise an eyebrow. When a telco uses the sentence in an advertising campaign, you have to unstick your eyebrows from the ceiling and reattach them to your forehead.
It is, of course, true and it is a historical problem. Complex tariffs, lousy coverage, crap customer service and over promising about every G that ever came along (when it eventually did) has sunk their reputation and it will be hard to get it back.
The good news is that telcos are now not alone.
The darlings of the last decade, the now digital giants, are feeling the backlash too. People are using the cool social media platforms as battle grounds, recruiting places for radicalism, kids are becoming addicted to devices and what they can find on them, buy on them, bet on them.
Restrictions are being put in place, fake news (or the battle against it) is attracting almost more investment than cool new stuff. There are now apps that tell you how much screen time you have used and whether this is good or bad. Governments and customers alike are throwing the brakes on the roller coaster ride of Facebook. Amazon is detested, Apple has peaked and Google is gone.
Except, actually, we still use them all. For now.
Remember when we all used cameras without thinking until someone said we didn’t have to because it is in the phone and better and faster and cheaper?
As we watch the telcos come the beginning of the end of this ridiculous era of hype around a technology that customers do not care about and we come to the end of another year (cue 2019 predictions by the thousand) there are a few words (keywords if you will) that stick in the mind.
Responsibility is a word that Telenor Research points to – is intrinsic in their own thoughts on 2019. Trust is a word that has been used for a few years now, and is widely seen as an asset (assuming you can deliver it). Common sense is another that we have championed in the past, realised that we are dealing with people involved in technology, and given up.
The truth, however, is that the backlash is no longer something that some of us thought might happen. The backlash against putting the technology throttle to the floor and bugger the consequences is happening now.
Naturally the digital giants who caused the problem in the first place are now at the forefront of helping us manage it, and keeping us safe and weeding out content that might offend (or recruit) us.
In essence, humans now already realise that without humanity at the helm of the technology platform, chaos (addiction, hate, outrage) quickly follows.
Whether it is for telcos, Governments or communities to put the trust and responsibility back into our use of technology, the point is that back in 2017, even 2018, the problem was not bad enough to catch the attention of those big enough to do something about it.
In 2019 it will be. So far telcos have been too busy to act but they must now help face and fix the problem.
Who knows, trust and responsibility might come as standard with 5G.
Sadly, we might have to wait for 6G before common sense comes with anything.