Telecom, cable and wireless companies are all hungry for consumers’ wallet share.
Will recent efforts be a boon for subscribers or merely
make operators all seem desperate?
On the very day that AT&T and T-Mobile responded to Verizon Wireless’ all-you-can-talk bucket plan, an AT&T representative was knocking at my front door.
Wearing an AT&T ball cap and bright yellow jacket, Douglas, my door-to-door solicitor was trying to fast-talk me into switching all of my services – wireless, wireline, high-speed Internet and cable – to a lower priced, all-in-one bucket plan from AT&T.
I confess to getting easily riled by these tactics. These solicitors interrupt my peace at home and generally demand my immediate attention when I would prefer not to be bothered. Invariably, these solicitors want me to make a split-second decision and commitment while standing at my front door.
For all door-to-door solicitors (school-age children and Girl Scouts aside), I generally adopt a get-to-the-point stance because my free time is valuable. Plus, I expect the solicitor to speed it up if it is extremely hot or cold outside. I explain I don’t have time for a long, drawn-out pitch. Get to the bottom line. Unfortunately, in this instance, his pitch didn’t change an iota. Strike 1.
After asking and hearing how much I pay for local phone service, Internet and cable, Douglas told me I could save $8 a month by switching to AT&T’s service. OK, I figure in a year, that adds up to almost $100, or almost one-third of my anticipated national tax rebate.
So I asked Douglas for paperwork that specifies the offer so at my leisure I can compare to my other service providers. Not possible, he said. He insisted that if I try to get this same offer from AT&T via the telephone, it will involve probably three separate calls, long waits and more than likely an initiation fee, which he is cheerfully waiving on this cold, winter day. I suppose he was trying to convince me of the good deal he was offering. In fact, it actually cast AT&T’s sales and customer service departments in a bad light. Strike 2.
Here’s the final capper for me. I am fortunate to live in an area with plenty of local police which means they patrol my neighborhood regularly. Upon seeing a passing patrol vehicle during his pitch, Doug said, “Uh-oh, I’ll bet he’s looking for me.” Not exactly what you want to hear from the AT&T representative at your front door. Three minutes later, another patrol car passed by my house. This time, further unnerved, Doug said, “Uh-oh, that must be the same cop who got my partner and he’s looking for me.”
I’m not aware of any solicitor regulations in my neighborhood – they obviously aren’t working anyway – I don’t want to be rushed into any decisions by a complete stranger who won’t leave behind paperwork and who I likely will never see again in my life. Strike 3.
So this attempt to swing me to AT&T’s bucket failed. Had the company provided the real costs as a leave-behind and offered me the chance to call in, I might have switched providers. But this attempt to sway me was bungled from the start and left a bad taste in my mouth.
This brings me to the latest unlimited pricing plans unleashed by three of the four top-tier wireless carriers. Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile all introduced unlimited price plans for under $100.
Granted, this plan will only apply to 10% to 15% of any of the carriers’ customers, it is indicative of the way of the wireless world.
The moves by these operators fueled speculation that the U.S. wireless industry is headed for an ugly price war. Accentuating this, wireless operator company stocks shot lower on the news. Indeed, experts estimate that operators could lose from one-quarter to almost one-half of the revenue from some of their most lucrative customers. And be assured that as these plans become more attractive, customers will be further encouraged to disconnect their traditional wired phone services.
nitially, it seems that wireless operators are luring customers away from landlines. But if you think about it, they also are luring customers away from the cable companies. In the last year, the cable companies have been aggressively bundling local phone service with their other offerings. So if customers dump residential service in favor of the wireless operators’ bucket plans, cable companies lose an important component of their triple-plays.
No, this wireless bucket plan provides a one-two punch for customers to disconnect their landlines as well as resist the temptation to switch to a cable bucket plan. For $99 a month, wireless subscribers can have all they can talk wherever they go, something the cable companies can’t match.
If you add the TV component of most major telephone companies, you can almost see how this competitive offering will take shape as we move forward.
However, these companies must be very careful not to lure all of these hungry telecom users and not be able to support them on their networks. Otherwise, they risk getting a reputation as irritating as the cable companies. And no legion of door-to-door solicitors can change that.