The Reputation Challenge of Telecom: Shielding the Intangible


The Telecom Industry has gone through a profound transformation in the last 30 years, evolving from basic communications to an ever-present companion operating across a multitude of channels. Developments such as the introduction of fiber-optics, the advancement of mobile telephony and the arrival of the Internet have allowed telecommunications companies (telcos) to play a functional role in our daily lives while building enormous wealth, a fact made evident by the current market capitalization of the 10 largest telcos in the world.


Top 10 telecommunication companies in order of value (2016): AT&T, Verizon Communications Inc., China Mobile Ltd., Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp., Deutsche Telekom AG, SoftBank Group Corp., Vodafone Group plc, America Movil SAB de CV, China Telecom Corporation Limited, Telefónica SA

Source: Statistia, Reputation Institute 2017

The growing value of intangibles

Telcos transitioned long ago from the time when their value (and identity) was determined by the cables, wires and other tangible assets they owned. Today, these firms possess full-fledged brands that convey a wide array of meanings to the public. “Who you are” is becoming more important than “what you have.”


The most reputable telcos in the world

The Telecom Industry has been challenged in recent years by the public’s critical view of it. Reputation Institute’s syndicated research shows that the industry has a weak standing among the public across 19 countries.


Only two telcos have a strong reputation in their home markets: Swisscom (Switzerland) and United Internet (Germany). Thirty-nine of the 59 telcos evaluated suffered from weak reputations last year, indicating the industry’s current state of trust.

The factors contributing to this lack of trust include the following:

  • Doubts regarding openness and transparency in how telcos conduct business
  • Lack of knowledge about how telcos positively affect the environment and support good causes
  • Uncertainty about how telcos treat their employees

Reputation Institute’s tracking of telcos over the last seven years shows that, for the industry to improve its reputation, it should concentrate on accomplishing the following:

  • Building and maintaining a strong product portfolio that focuses on customer needs and satisfaction
  • Conveying an image of fairness and openness in operations and ensuring that customers know their personal information is being protected and used ethically
  • Demonstrating the positive influence telco companies have on society by supporting efforts to protect the environment and, in doing so, their employees


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