Meet the new F-Word: why there's no valid reason for VoIP activation fees

I've been doing a lot of hooking up lately. Hooking up routers to my USB ports, in order to test various VoIP products for this magazine article I've been writing.

I've been doing a lot of hooking up lately.

Hooking up routers to my USB ports, in order to test various VoIP products for this magazine article I've been writing. Ya know, one of those "VoIP for the masses" type jobbies.

I've been cruising through sign-up pages from some of the major players. Some charge "activation fees," others do not.

What some companies realize is that in today's economy, "fees" are another "F-word."

If everyone charged an "activation fee" - usually $29.99 - then that could be considered a somewhat excusable cost of doing business.

But then, why do some VoIP service providers not find it necessary to impose this feature? Of course, you could say that Verizon VoiceWing'stemporary abandonment of activation fees is something that the deep-pocketed company can easily absorb.

Yes, but we have far smaller companies such as deltathree, which does not think it necessary to charge an activation levy for its iconnectHere VoIP service.

The problem to me, stems from short-sightedness, mixed in with maybe a little bit of ego and hubris. VoIP is finally emerging from the early-adopter stage. When any technology, product or service does this, then the next step is to convince the masses to buy.

If you add to the sticker price up front, you may be getting some incremental revenue that will please your institutional investors and VCs. Yetthat $29.99 up-front activation feemay putting up roadblocks forsomeprospective subscribers.

Talk all you want aboutcheap flat-rate or per-minute callingall over the continent, and the world, but if you nickel-and-dime yourprospective customersin the very act of becoming a customer, you'llbe sending mixed messages.

What's the mixed message you will be sending? "Yea, VoIP sounds cool and (insert the name of your company here) offers great rates, but they are already nickel and diming me."

If they walk, don't blame me. Or to put it another way, and as I like to say, "El Paso ain't just another city in Texas."

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