Marketing 101 : Blatantly Anti Customer Technology
Last updated: 8/19/2002; 10:55:21 AM
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Marketing 101 : Blatantly Anti Customer Technology

I just migrated to a new cell phone, the Nextel i80s, a Motorola cell phone that can even run Java apps (the first computer game I have played in years is on this phone) and I generally like it.  Here's the phone:

[ We are unable to process your request at this time due to technical difficulties.
Please try again later or contact us at 1-800-639-6111 for assistance. ]

Well that would have been a picture of the phone but the website was broken.  Sigh.  Things like that I can deal with.  Other things I find harder to accept.  And I'm not referencing the less than stellar battery life.  I bought the phone, I'm in the plan, I'm here for a year.  No, what I am referring to are is blatantly anti-customer technology that I can only thing is designed is to maximize phone and plan usage.  Yes I know they are a business.  Yes I understand that they have a clear goal for this.  Still I'm talking about simple, basic things that other vendors put on their phones.

And, for me, anti-customer technology is basically anti-marketing.  It turns me from being a company advocate to being either just plain neutral or, more likely, an anti advocate.  I mean look at this essay for example – I actually really like the phone a lot and it's probably my favorite phone to date.  But what I feel is anti-customer technology turns me from being an advocate to an anti-advocate.  In an era where people can disseminate their opinions far and wide, this type of behavior just doesn't work anymore.

NOTE: I've been all over the phone looking for ways to configure it to have what I describe as it not having.  If I'm wrong, tell me and I'll revise.

Error the First: No Call Timer When You're On a Call

I'm a consultant.  So are lots and lots of people these days.  So are lawyers and doctors.  All of us need to keep track of time on the phone.  Now Nextel is a business cell phone vendor.  That's their focus, they aren't really trying to compete with Sprint for home users.  So, how come, I can't look down at the phone, when I'm on a call, and see "13:42" or some such counter?  And, don't tell me the phone doesn't have the ability, see "Error the Third".

NOTE: My previous phone, a Qualcomm QCP 2760 from Sprint had this.

Error the Second: No Clock When You're On a Call

And so we come to the second bit of anti customer technology – not showing the clock when you are on a call.  I mean come on!  The display is large enough.  And it's really, really useful. It's also another way of knowing that you need to cut a call short so, of course, they didn't want to have it as an option.

Error the Third: Relying On Users to Manually Reset the Minute Timer Every Month

Here's the third error – the phone nicely keeps track of your minutes per month.  That's cool.  But you have to manually reset it every month or it just adds them up.  Very smart guys.  Very smart.  Any programmer past, oh I'd guess 7th grade, could have given you a stack that you roll the previous month over to and a menu choice to make it available.  And don't tell me you don't have the room for it – this phone has more RAM than the old 8 bit computers.  I'd gladly trade a few k of RAM (and it's not that much) for it.  This is way more important than playing Breakout in Java.

NOTE: To Nextel's defense, they did email me today about this.  Here's a picture of the message:

NOTE 2: A second point in Nextel's defense is their very cool Direct Connect feature, basically a digital, half duplex, walkie talkie built into their phone.  This is much less expensive than a cell phone but a very different user experience.

A Possible Reason For Them Not Wanting to Have These Features

One reason that I could see them justifying these features is "it's dangerous to look at small screens in the car".  Good point.  And it's correct.  But I use my cell phone lots of places besides a car.  And isn't it up to me to determine safe usage?


Anti customer technology is when you so blatantly apply technology to meet your own goals, NOT the goals of the customer.  In the end, the businesses that generally survive are those that always, always, always put their customer's needs before their own.  There are lots and lots of examples of this and people are smart enough today to realize it and complain.

If people want to email me examples of what they think are anti-customer technology then I'll summarize them and post them.  Here's a starter:

  • Why the heck are cell phone companies allowed to round off to full minutes?  Is the FCC just stupid here?  If you know that the call is 1 minute, 6 seconds then you can bill for that.
  • Why can't consumers keep their cell phone numbers across companies?  Europe allows this and every time the FCC has legislation on it, it keeps getting delayed (it was just pushed a few months ago to 2004).




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