It's snowing today in Boston. This year has actually been rather easy in terms of snowfall in New England this year...certainly unlike what other cities like Washington D.C. have been dealing with in the last 10 days (I understand they now have over 3ft or 1m of snow on the ground!). Taking a quick break from today's busy schedule I came across this rather interesting article at GigaOM talking about why wireless carriers should care about customer care.
It's interesting to see this topic come up again, especially in the context of how T-Mobile has for so long heralded its customer care, while until recently Sprint has suffered much criticism for its "less than optimal" quality of care. The article did however make me think of one thing.
The end of the short article talks about how abdicating customer care to handset manufacturers or application service providers would be even more costly than having carriers invest in better customer service solutions. OK, perhaps, but what if I argued that the continued proliferation of smartphones was actually a blessing for carriers, all the while a greater and increasing curse for IT departments. Hear me out.
More and more people are buying smartphones (duh). More and more people are using their smartphones to connect to their corporate email (another duh). There's a huge push for companies to leverage mobile applications such as CRM, SFA, ERP, etc (I don't need to add commentary here, because you know what I'm going to say).
There's already intense debate and concern in the enterprise mobility community regarding individually liable devices. Should companies allow them? Should everything be employee liable? Should everything be locked down? Doesn't matter actually, because at this point the consumerization of enterprise mobility is an unstoppable force. That's OK....as long as you manage the devices. Ensure policies, configurations, security settings, authentication protocols, etc. Piece of cake, right? Not so much.
Now here's where it gets REALLY interesting. How on earth could a customer care representative at any carrier be able to troubleshoot these unique settings and configurations? At the most basic level, let's talk about email, how would the carrier know if there's anything wrong with your Exchange server? They *may* be able to read some things about how your BlackBerry is talking to your company's BES, but beyond that, what are they *really* going to be able to do. They'll send you to Tier 2, who will then send you to Tier 3, and you've now wasted your time, as well as theirs. Oh and by the way, then your IT guy will hear about this and probably blow a gasket.
S/He will then have to look at your device's settings and make sure that the customer care people at the carrier didn't mess any of the other corporate settings. You just made that person's day.
OK, so instead you're going to see a new policy coming from your company that says you must call IT first for any troubleshooting. See, your IT department IS kind and helpful. They just saved the carrier another customer care incident. Maybe the carriers should be giving money back to companies? No?
So support costs are going to go up - way up - but it's going to be on companies....that is unless they deploy their own mobility management solutions, hire a company to provide managed mobility services (this could be a carrier by the way) or just punt the whole thing and outsource it all.