Telcos need to stop patronising and start understanding their older customers

As with so many business categories, telcos seem youth-obsessed and are adopting an out-dated and sometimes ageist approach to their valuable and loyal, older customers. Telcos the world over are under threat so they should be doing all in their marketing power to hold on to their customers.


Back in 2012, I wrote about Sprint’s Active Senior ID package and commented at the time that I didn’t understand why companies insisted on defining customers this way i.e Active Senior. A recent search on Sprints’ website returns ‘no results’ suggesting this product has has gone the way of so many misguided attempts to reach the older consumer.

AT&T continues this horrible trend with its Senior Nation plan for account holders 65+. It offers 200 ~ 500 minutes of phone time but revealingly, no data. Because older people don’t need data!?

A few months ago, T-Mobile One came out swinging at its competitors with a pretty damning criticism of the way telcos patronise and discriminate their older customers – in an effort to promote T-Mobile’s more age-friendly alternative, of course. The video below is definitely worth a watch (5 minutes). It is delivered by the passionate and un-CEO, CEO John Legere.

Here’s a summary of his most compelling points:

  • Boomers are the most loyal, long-term wireless customers. 81% of customers 55+ are still with AT&T and Verizon while only 8% of them use T-Mobile.
  • Phones with big buttons are marketed as though they’re the answer for an entire generation, they’re not!
  • The smartphone is the # 1 way boomers connect with family and friends

  • Telcos gouge pricing out of boomers once kids leave the home (up to 60% more expensive)
  • The majority of the 93 million people over 55 in the USA have a smartphone and they are among the fastest growing group of smartphone ownership
  • In the past year, the time boomers spent on their smartphone has nearly doubled (from 80 to 100 minutes per day) – almost the same as Millennials.

Our Lifetime Customer Experience concept extolls that brands need to consider the entire customer experience if they are to successfully appeal to the older consumer. With this in mind I was delighted to see that the web page for T-Mobile One Unlimited 55+ is designed in an age-neutral, unpatronising style.

Well done T-Mobile. If I lived in the USA, you’d have my business.

Our free AF Brands iPad app can guide you how to achieve this for your brand’s customer experience.