I don’t know about you, but I feel that the red tape and confusion put into place by many mobile phone companies borders on criminal negligence. While I will give props to some mobile carriers who are working at getting better at this whole customer service thing, I still feel like a lot of people are being short changed.
Let’s take the buyout of AT&T Wireless by Cingular. In many ways, this has done great things in regards to better coverage and basic benefits that AT&T customers were lacking at the time. But for those people who bought AT&T phones not knowing that Cingular would one day make said phones little more than a relic of the past, some might argue that these customers were screwed. See, what the geek-set does not understand is that for a lot of people, the mobile phones that non-geeks (often older people, but not always) own and operate now is just the perfect fit for them. Much like a favorite pair of jeans, the user is accustomed to all of the quirks and features that their current phone provides.
Yet when these folks have their old AT&T contracts expire, they will not be allowed to retain their old phone as they move into the Cingular mobile arena. Now, I want to be clear on something. I realize that neither Cingular nor AT&T decided to make it unpleasant for customers when the buyout took place. To be honest, I doubt that this ever crossed their minds at all. Still, this does not help those who are not tech savvy and will now have to fumble with poor button design on what I consider to be token-class mobile phones being offered as a transitional option for those who do not want to drop hundreds on a brand new phone. I mean, can you blame these people? The phone they lost in the first place might be barely a year old as it is…
I would also like to point out something about both the calling plans and the phones being offered by these mobility companies: The brochures on each might as well be in Greek since most folks that are not tech savvy and thus,have no idea what the heck those pamphlets are talking about.
Now I realize that many of these folks described above are considered to be ‘older’. Sure, we do have many, many geeks who are 55 plus. But the reality is that most of them are from an era that quite simply missed out on the ‘new technology bus’ altogether. Contrary to popular delusion however, I do believe the idea of older people being cheap is definitely overstated. While they are not as spendy as their younger counterparts, if the mobile industry would pull their heads out of the Gen-X sand and take a look around, they might just discover a completely untapped market. See, with older mobile users, you can still sell mobile products for the same rates as you do with the younger set, but offer value in place of gadgets and kid-friendly features. As for the calling plans, loose all of the verbage and offer something straight forward. While free evenings and free weekends should still be a part of this package, they might work at putting things into clear English rather than the colorful pamphlets aimed strictly at the younger folks. Heck, leave the plans as they are even. But try telling it straight without the marketing lingo.
Folks, the other day I was actually standing in line at a Cingular store waiting to be helped. There you had two twenty-somethings helping out two clients. Both of them were in their 40′s and neither of them had a CLUE what was being described to them. They looked through the pamphlets, asked questions, and then finally just had to assume that they understood what they were being told. I found it interesting that people as young as 40-something found mobile phones to be so confusing. While this is certainly not a reflection of intelligence, it does show me that the mobile industry has a lot of education to do in regards to their customers. After all, not everybody is in their 20′s.