in Considerations, Mobile Phones, Operators, Services

You Need To Educate Your Customers If You Want To Be Successful

When I look at how people use their mobile phone I always end up with the very same conclusion.20080401education.jpg

We tend to look at things with our eyes and not really with the eyes of your customers. Having a quick look at who is sitting near to me I find a bunch of tech savvy, marketing minded, well educated people. This is not the typical environment we will find out there.

Going back to customers I can see that when they use their mobile phone they feel very confident about some typical usage.

They know how to make a voice call. They know how it works on their handset, they know how much it costs and they know what to expect. At little bit less degree of confidence comes the video call. The same happens with text messaging and, again, with picture messaging and e-mail.

Most of them know how to buy a ringtone.

A smaller number of them know how to browse the web using their mobile.

Operators on the other side are trying to push new and innovative services, most of them on the data side. We see Skype coming to handsets, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Go!, just to say some of the most common applications. Every operators on the other side is launching proprietary services to increase revenues.

At the end of the market chain we have the mobile phone manufacturer pre-installing applications on their devices.

I think this is the place where the industry is not doing very well.

Just a quick example.

Today I am using a phone which is still not in the market. I am diving deep in the menu structure of the device and I stop to the RSS Reader application.

The first consideration is: how many customers do really know what is an RSS feed? How many of them can tell how much they will spend using the application?

The second consideration is: how do we expect the customers to find the RSS Reader application when it’d hidden deep in the menu structure of the mobile phone?

Let’s see what Wikipedia says about RSS:

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a family of Web feed formats used to publish frequently updated content including, but not limited to, blog entries, news headlines, and podcast. An RSS document (which is called a “feed” or “web feed” or “channel”) contains either a summary of content from an associated web site or the full text. RSS makes it possible for people to keep up with web sites in an automated manner that can be piped into special programs or filtered displays.

RSS content can be read using software called an “RSS reader”, “feed reader” or an “aggregator“. The user subscribes to a feed by entering the feed’s link into the reader or by clicking an RSS icon in a browser that initiates the subscription process. The reader checks the user’s subscribed feeds regularly for new content, downloading any updates that it finds.

Well, it does not help to spread the word to non tech savvy customers.

Why don’t we try a different approach?

Let’s say that we want to offer a service which delivers news to our customers.

What happens in real life for the average customer? He will stop by his preferred newsstand, he will hand over a coin to the vendor and he will pick up his preferred newspaper. At a later stage he will start reading his newspaper. The day after the very same thing will happen.

If we look at this from an operator point of view we should think something like this:

  • We want to deliver news to the customer on a timely basis charging him for the service just like it happens in real life.
  • From a technical point of view there is no better way to implement this as a list of RSS feeds from the main newspapers and news site and install an RSS Reader on the mobile phone to let the customer access the service.
  • On the mobile phone do not use the words “RSS Reader” for the application but something like “News!” and change the icon from the standard RSS icon to a more friendly newspaper icon.
  • Put the application at the very first level of the User Interface or even in the idle screen.
  • Ask the user how often he wants to stop at the newsstand. (Hourly, daily, etc. etc.)
  • Charge the user as you prefer.

We have used the very same technology I can find in the phone I am using but we have delivered it to the customer in a way he can easily understand, and, hopefully, use.

The very same approach can be used for other informations coming from RSS Feed. For each bunch of information simply user a different metaphor. Change the icon and the wording for the title of the application. It will still be the same application but it will be much more usable from the customer and, at least, he will understand.

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  1. I do my day job in the insurance industry and that is all we seem to do by educating our customers. Trouble is the education is always what they can do and what they can’t, spose abit like technology 🙂

  2. What is your opinion of Microsoft’s initiative of Surface technology that is a touch-based display being implemented in selected AT&T Mobility stores in the USA. The touch-screen table enables the customer to interact with live demonstrations and customize handsets by “dropping” in features. AT&T has a product line of handsets covering five operating systems besides Windows Mobile. AT&T is attempting to increase feature sales and reduce service costs. The question is whether the customer acquires any educational value and enhances their mobile lifestyle. AT&T is competing with Verizon Wireless for demonstration stores with AT&T calling their design as Experience Stores and Verizon as Evolution Stores. The issue for the US market is that almost 80% of wireless distribution is agent-managed stores instead of operator-owned locations. For example, AT&T has only 1,800 operator-owned stores but over 20,000 points of distribution. The agent stores are operator-branded, but tend to be sales-focused rather than support and service the customer. The iPhone was a distribution test in that it was only launched in the 1,800 AT&T operator-owned stores and 120 Apple stores in the US market. Because of the revenue sharing with Apple, AT&T did not want to reduce the margin by paying agent stores to sell the iPhone. Apple’s brand had the power to create demand for the iPhone that eanbled the limited distribution to be highly successful. And the large volume of online ordering reduced the need for physical store sites, but created the unlocking problem and over 20% lost activations to AT&T. And an additional question is about Microsoft’s interest in opening retail stores. Does Microsoft gain traction for its Windows Mobile with the presence of Surface technology in mobile stores?

  3. Hi Gregg,

    Thankyou for your comment!

    I personally think that the Surface technology may definitely help customers to get their phone fully customized according to their taste. One of the major issues we face as operators is making people happy with their mobile phone. Unfortunately the limited size of the screen and the limited interaction you can design on a mobile device makes customization a real pain for customers.

    Moreover they are much more confident with a PC like device like Microsoft Surface than with a mobile device. It is, again, a matter of education. Maybe they already use a computer at home and they feel confident with it. A mobile phone is a different story. Every single vendor has its own paradigm regarding User Interface and User Interaction and sometimes it is really hard to figure out how things works on a mobile device.

    On the other hand I think that Microsoft Surface may help operators to lower costs on their stores even if they may find that a human interaction is always preferred by people. I do not know if this happens in the US but here in Italy people wants to be reassured about what they buy and I think this can be done only by a human being.

    AT&T go to market strategy is a little bit too conservative, according to my opinion. The iPhone has proven to be a product that sells by itself. So they may want to loosen the conservative strategy a little bit in the future letting their distribution channel sell the product as well. They will probably loose some margin but they will have a capillarity on the territory that they do not have today. (Even if it is true that people is keen to drive 150 miles to get an iPhone)

    I think that it is a good idea for Microsoft to open retail stores and use their own technology to power the stores. I happened to be in San Francisco a while ago and I visited the Apple Store where I bought my MacBook Pro. I had a great customer experience and I found the store to be one the most beautiful place where a customer can shop.

    This is the approach the Microsoft should take when thinking about opening retail stores. If you think about what Apple does with his customer it is nothing else that education. Their Genius Bar is there to help customers with problems while they run training classes on their products on a regular basis and for free.

    That is the way to go.

    We should learn something there.

  4. Educating the customer can be approached as friendly advices to make them appreciate what they have and what your business offer. Obviously, this all goes back to “whats in it for me”. If you’re upfront about it, then there shouldn’t be any misunderstanding of what the outcome is. That is to gain their business!