Monday, June 06, 2005

The top priority for every telco marketing

Martin Geddes - Telepocalypse


The top priority for every telco marketing department is to obfuscate the real price of the product. In this case, if all you’ve got is a lookalike GSM network with the usual indifferent customer service, the last thing you want is the punters shopping around based on price.
Hence wheezes like this one.
One of the great marketing innovations while I was at Sprint was the “Fair and Flexible” plans (PR regurgitation here). The perfect foil for comparison shopping — a differently-structured plan that doesn’t use the normal bucket break-points.
Incidentally, these pay-as-you-go plans are a bit of a pain for operators. People are increasingly expecting all-you-can-eat pricing for other media and communications. I’d expect PAYG to go the same way, where instead of the payment period being monthly, it becomes daily. First call of the day costs you — but the rest are “free”.
There’s a little hint of this with Vodafone’s price plans in the UK. Their old PAYG plans came in vanilla and “smartstep”:
Calls to standard UK landlines and Vodafone mobiles: 30p per minute for first 3 minutes each day and 5p per minute after that.
So not quite “free”, but getting there.
Their new option is called “Stop the Clock”:
If you talk for more than an hour, you’ll just pay for the first three minutes plus any extra time. [Even if you call for less than 3 minutes — Telepocalypse.] This will be taken from your monthly inclusive minutes if you pay monthly, or if you’re on pay as you talk, you’ll need at least three minutes of credit.
Once your hour is up you’ll go back to your inclusive minutes or standard rate charges. So you can make as many calls as you like, chat for up to 60 minutes and only be charged for the first three minutes of each call.
(Vodafone’s web site is utterly beyond crap with all sorts of content management errors, timeouts, loops, and un-linkable URLs that embed your session ID. I’ll rant about it in full another day.)
Stop the Clock is rather sneaky; Vodafone knows that the average call length is a minute or so. (How often do you terminate immediately when you get through to voicemail or an answerphone?) So when their copy says “Where’s the catch: There isn’t one.”, you have to mentally append “(except you’ll pay three times the usual price)”.
Summary: Expect more of this price plan complexity to emerge. And don’t let your mum change price plans without asking your advice first.

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