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New Chapter About to Begin

It will be an interesting couple of years now that that WNP has arrived and customers' contracts come up for renewal.


March 1, 2007  


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It’s been a long time coming, and now — unless something stupid has happened — it is here. Of course, I’m referring to wireless number portability (or WNP), which will be a reality in Canada by the time you read this.

Now that we can move and keep our phone number, have we all switched service providers? I’m guessing a few of us have, but not many.

One service is pretty much like the other in terms of features and pricing. What’s more, the wireless companies have been doing their best to lock people in to contracts, or offer other incentives to stay put.

In addition to the usual incentives such as lower-cost handsets for three-year contracts, wireless service providers are looking at other ways to lock in customers.

For example, Bell Canada launched a home monitoring/security system in January that runs on the Bell Mobility network, and has upped the ante on video to the phone by offering full-length feature films on a pay-per-view basis.

New products and services are always a good thing and if these attempts to bring a unique product to the market are even remotely connected to WNP, then the new regime has already proven beneficial to Canadian consumers.

However, it does beg the question: Where are the high-profile incentives for businesses?

In any case, it’s still early days in the WNP world. It will be an interesting couple of years, as customers — both business and consumer — see their contracts come up for renewal, and use this opportunity to test just how far they can push their service providers now that a key barrier to switching has been removed.

Testing, testing…

Speaking of testing, I’d like to thank the media relations teams at Rogers Wireless and Fido for recently lending me a number of GSM-based handsets to test.

The timing was fortuitous as I was actually looking for a new mobile phone and ended up buying a model that I tested. (Those who decide to take advantage of wireless number portability will also be in the market for a new phone, too.)

Even in the business world, mobiles are very personal. From a functional perspective, they must provide the services, features and accessories that we need in our workday.

But beyond that are some issues that those responsible for ordering mobiles for a corporation may not have considered. We tend to focus on price and functionality, but ignore the user experience.

For example, all phones on the market today can text message, but every manufacturer has a unique way of arranging menus and handling features such as predictive typing.

A user who is comfortable with one method — say, the one programmed on a Nokia phone — may be frustrated by the predictive typing on a Sony Ericsson model. It is not a quality issue since both are superb.

Rather, it is a case of users being familiar with how one vendor’s handsets work, and using that as the benchmark against which they judge others.

What does this mean for the corporate buyer? For starters, before ordering new mobiles, listen to employees to find out how they use their existing phones.

Employee feedback

Find out what they like about their handsets, and what they’d like to see improved. What features do they use while working? Have they had any problems?

Then, try to arrange with your service provider to borrow a number of test models. If you are planning to buy a significant number of phones, you should be able to get some loaners from the salesperson who services your account.

Get these mobiles into employees’ hands and ask for their feedback.

Finally, recognize that different users will have different needs and wants, so do not impose what works for you on others.

Every wireless service provider offers a selection of phones, and manufacturers have created models to compete at every price point. In the end, these devices all talk to each other — and giving people what they want (within reason, of course) can only make them happier, more productive employees.

As for the phone I picked, it is not important because what works for me does not necessarily work for you. But I will say that it is from a manufacturer that I would not have considered if I had not had the opportunity to try some handsets.

Lesson learned: shop around and try before you buy.

Trevor Marshall is a Toronto-based reporter, writer and observer of the Canadian wireless industry. He can be reached (on his mobile) at 416-878-7730 or trevor@words-tm.com.