Wireless Wonders

No news, just comment about mobile phones and services, from a veteran practitioner...3G, GPRS, WAP, Bluetooth, WiFi, etc...

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

100 Mobile Product Ideas...#9...

What a great article by Peggy Anne Salz on The Feature website. She writes about the importance of training mobile users on devices and services.

Wow! Simple, yet wow! Hardly anyone does it and it's so obvious and so useful, as some operators are now discovering.

What a contrast from my recent purchase of a phone from Three. I had to endure the pain of having my questions answered by the assistant reading from the same feature card that I could see, or from a slightly more detailed crib sheet. That's not training on a product, for her, or me!

My father used to sell amazingly complex medical equipment that makes 3G phones look like toy bricks. He would know how every button worked in every single modality of operation for every single application context. In other words, there wasn't a better person on the planet who could get better out of the machine than he could - and this is what he demonstrated to the user, not a brochure. That's what got sales.

Thanks Peggy for drawing our attention to the ever so important issue of customer awareness and customer training. I have been in mobile technology for 15 years and have never stopped being amazed at how useless the mobile community is at promoting its own wares. I barely meet anyone in the operator world who can use their own products, nevermind sell them.

I vividly recall launching a web-based text messaging service in a Fortune500 company back in 97. We insisted on end-user training and this made sure that everyone actually used the service.

If mobile data has not taken off, it's our fault, not the customers. I recently attended a seminar in the UK about updates to the Blackberry. The O2 sales guy was puzzled about why so few (comparatively) people are actually using Blackberries. "They're great" he said, and I agree.

However, one reason is that very few people who don't own one have ever tried one. I'm guessing that this applies to so many services. I've many times been in a major high-street shop who offer digital printing booths for camera-phones and only once seen them in use. My guess is that no one knows how to use them. I took a brief look and couldn't figure it out - and I'm a techie by most standards.

Aside from all of the vitally important issues Peggy mentions, like usability, it is critical that users get their hands on some of the better devices, be trained on them and then let loose.

My very simple and obvious idea is to use a very old sales technique - the user trial. Simply select customers who clearly already demonstrate a propensity towards using non-voice services and simply give them free upgrades to the best devices next time they walk in the shop. They get training there and then and get to use the new services for at least 3 months for free.

The potential viral effect of word-of-mouth from these users will far outstrip money spent giving phones and services away for free. One thing that a mobile operator should be able to do, with all of their vast amounts of data on user habits, is find those users who will stand the best chance of spreading the word - "sneezers" as Seth Godin calls them.

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