Wireless carriers consistently rank low in customer satisfaction rankings. One only need troll the pages of sites like Consumerist to understand why. Expensive, spotty service couples with poor customer service makes for quite a set of disgruntled customers.
One of my big beefs with carriers (or even phone makers-I’m looking at you Apple) are carriers that cripple their phones because they’re worried that missing income could erode their bottom lines. Early on, Verizon crippled the RAZR so that uploaded mp3’s couldn’t be used as ringtones, forcing people to purchase expensive twenty second clips of songs that they already purchased for $0.99 from iTunes. Even still, most Verizon phones do not allow personalized mp3 ringtones, and customers must purchase them. On the flip side, Cingular customers, who have access to many of the same phones, are free to use their phones as they see fit.
Of course, this lead the grassroots efforts that lead to consumers hacking their phones. Apple routinely blocks apps from the App store that they find threatening. Such was the case with Podcaster which Apple blocked for “duplicating functionality.” Nevermind the clock apps, and calculator apps, and stock watching apps, and … Need I really continue? On a similar vein, AT&T forced Apple to remove NetShare because tethering your iPhone as a modem violated their contract. Of course, solutions to both of these missing apps are available to users who jailbreak their phones, leaving AT&T and Apple without any income.
While AT&T has allowed VoIP apps to run on iPhones, they have to restrict data to Wi-Fi networks only, eliminating the possibility of using data networks for free minutes. However, not all carriers are so generous. Nokia wants to bundle Skype on their upcoming flagship device, the N97 in Europe. Clearly, this would make the phone quite attractive to consumers already strapped for cash. However, O2 and Orange have refused to even stock the device unless Nokia strips the software out.
Businesses need to stop treating their customers like shoddy criminals and realize that it’s our nature to try and save money any way we can. If the technology exists, why can’t we use it? Carriers should realize that by allowing the software with a small surchange would sell more phones, bringing in more customers and more money. What about that situation isn’t attractive? Could this be why the US and Europe have some of the most underdeveloped wireless networks when compared to Asian countries?
Change may be scary, but it’s time for carriers to embrace new technologies and move forward. People are paying good money for devices-they’re going to want to use them to their fullest extent.