Verizon and T-Mobile I Want To Be A Customer But…

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Today I am again writing about business.  This week I wanted to become a customer of T-mobile or expand my Verizon services.  In both cases it is clear to me that these companies are paying large amounts of money to product managers and developers to create molds their customers are expected to fit, molds that may be costing them many customers like myself.

As I wrote last week, I have an HP Elitebook 8440p that I really love.  One aspect I find exceptional about this machine is that even though I bought a well priced pre-configured version without Bluetooth or 3G broadband built in, HP shipped the unit with the cables and antennas installed. This has allowed me to add these later without taking the machine apart.  Kudos to HP for allowing me to expand my machine within my budget and not locking me out because I wanted to spend less to start.

That brings me to last week and my discovery that some large companies are paying product management large amounts of money to lose them customers.  It sounds silly, but it is true.  In my opinion these companies have product management teams that think they are in competition with the customer; that there is a game they can win by making the customer do what they want.  Why not create a system where you win customers to your product by letting them choose the service levels they want.  I am not talking about free products or even discount products, just letting the customer buy and use the product in the quantities that they need it.

Imagine one day you wanted a small snack and walked into your favorite burger place to order some fries.  However, they refuse to sell you the fries unless you buy them with a burger and drink or they might sell you fries if you buy the $10 family pack.  Would you feel respected as a customer? What are the chances you will walk out the door and get a bag of chips at the corner store?  It’s not what you wanted, but it is better then what the burger place was demanding?  This is because product managers assume the hard upsell would create more revenue.  How many people do you tell to avoid that burger place?  This is what I feel I encountered trying to buy small amounts of wireless access from T-Mobile and Verizon.

I started with T-Mobile. They offer well priced nibbles of broadband that customers are allowed to choose to use over a reasonable amount of time.  I wanted to test the HP and set up one week of access for $10 that includes 100MB.  This account is perfect for keeping on email and reading a few web pages while traveling.  The staff at the main store in Lynnwood was wonderful as it took a while to activate just a sim card since I didn’t need to buy a device.  The HP has a SIM card slot so it can support GSM networks all over the world.  For the US GSM, HP pushes you towards AT&T and AT&T prices push you away.

T-Mobile should work.  As a mater of fact, the base GMS technology standard works.  I put the SIM card in and the HP Connection manager recognizes them.  It even shows the T-Mobile logo.  I get an IP address and am taken to a T-Mobile WAP page that offers to sell me data, but I can’t access the Internet and use the 100MB I had paid for.  However, even-though my T-Mobile account showed that I had paid for the $10 pre-paid account, I can’t access it with out a special piece of software from T-Mobile that only works with what I call the “ugly stick.” This is their big cheap looking Jet USB device.  Why would I want the “ugly stick” when I have a sleek notebook that access their network well?  Eventually we gave up and I was refunded the money.  The GSM system worked, how much did T-Mobile pay the development team to lock me out of giving them money several times a year as a customer?

Next stop Verizon.  I have had their cell phone service for years and been pretty happy.  Again the phone support people at Verizon are well trained and always a pleasure to talk to.  For prepaid broadband, Verizon also offers a 100MB plan, but they limit that to one day.  I would even pay the higher $15 if Verizon let me take a week to consume my 100MB.

Actually Verizon has a great contract plan that fits my tight budget and a desire to occasionally consume 3G broadband.  The offer a $20 a month 1GB of data plan with a reasonable charge if I go over.  However Verizon insists you have to own an iPad to use it!  I don’t have an iPad, I have my HP Elitebook.  The odd thing is that I can give Verizon $20 a month and I can then access 5GB of data by using my smartphone tethered to my notebook.  However this runs down my phone battery and on Verizon if I take a call I lose Internet.  So I am willing to give Verizon the same $20 for 1/5th the data on my notebook.  But they will not sell me that service.  For notebooks like mine Verizon insists I spend $50 a month on a long-term contract!  You can see this messed up menu of services here [Verizon Broadband Prices]

Hint to Verizon: If I needed 5gb and would pay $50, I will go to T-Mobile and get their contract service for $40 a month.  It appears the contract service will work without the “ugly stick.”

Its Time to Sell Broadband for the 21st Century

I am surprised that these  product management teams have not seen the change.  Accounts tied to devices are obsolete.  Would anyone buy Internet access for their home if the plan required them to pay the same price over and over for each computer and video game in the home?  Things have been changing for years but most of these wireless companies are missing it.  I can share voice minute between my family, but they want $50 per device to access data?  In a world where people access wireless broadband over phones, tablets and notebooks the idea that each device needs full data plan with a high base rate is outdated.  In-fact, I think there would be more devices creating more customers if these companies stopped trying to control the customer and what devices the customer wants to use.

Today I would be paying Verizon $20 more if the product teams at Verizon understood the world has changed.  Offer me the best service at a reasonable price once! for all my devices and I am on-board.  At the very least don’t tell me what device I need to own, just to buy the service level I want.

The first company that evolves first and offers unified data plans for all the devices a person may own will change the mobile market and I believe will scoop up a lot of customers.  For me, the first company that offers this type of service not only gets my notebook business, but I will take my entire Verizon family plan to that company.

For now Verizon could keep me by just letting my Elitebook access the same 1gb data plan an iPad can.

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