My Mom and Dad recently upgraded their mobile phones from Blackberry devices they’ve had for a few years to the iPhone 4S. They are both customers of one of the largest US wireless operators. (I won’t name which one, but to those who know the US industry it will become obvious.) In the retail store – a corporate store mind you, not an authorized reseller – my father asked the staff member, a young man, whether he needed to upgrade his and my mother’s data plans to accommodate the iPhone. The staff member said “No, you’re fine.” 6 weeks later, my father received a bill with more than $1800 in data overage charges. After several contact center calls that delivered no satisfactory results, my father and I finally reached a regional President within the corporation and she took care of the problem personally.
The root problem was that my father was subscribed to a 10mb data plan – a legacy, Blackberry plan that the carrier doesn’t even offer anymore. Obviously it was not going to be sufficient to support the iPhone, based on the plethora of data that shows people who have made this switch immediately increased their MB consumption by a factor of 5 or more.
So where were analytics in this scenario? Clearly the staffer made a mistake. But was he negligent; was he misinformed; or was this a symptom of the carrier’s failure to apply analytics to a common, simple scenario that plays a prominent role in the customer experience – the handset upgrade.
For all the lip service paid to use of analytics in the industry, there are still too many disconnects. It should be a basic practice to look at the usage delta that happens for all users who go from one device to another and make standard recommendations based on the math. That won’t always be perfect, but it will work the vast majority of the time.
The number of things that went wrong here – no smart recommend; left on an aged-out plan; missed upsale b/c my dad showed a willingness to upgrade; lack of ability for the carrier to recognize and fix the problem on the first contact center call…it can’t be a coincidence or an isolated incident .
How often does this kind of scenario unfold, and to what total cost in follow-on care to resolve, loss of follow-on sales, plain old churn, uncollectables on the legitimate part of the bill, cost to pay collections agencies to deal with those uncollectables and then mar the former customers’ credit? I’d really like to know the answer… Sounds like a BillingViews study could be useful here.
I suspect this simple yet ugly problem persists for several reasons. A) Many people just give up and pay; B) Many people get ticked off, leave, and ignore the threatening calls and letters from the collections agencies; and c) some mobile operators are already so profitable that there’s basically no pressure from the street, shareholders, or the board to fix this.
But thanks to that regional President for doing the right thing. Even if the institution is flawed, it is a good sign when an executive takes it on herself to reach out and care for a customer. Faustian redemption remains a possibility…