Time to start offering solutions, not products

Time to start offering solutions, not products

Summary: I was in the U.S. couple of weeks back when an AT&T ad popped up on TV featuring a dog, which is pretty much all advertisers need to exploit if they want my undivided attention.

TOPICS: Telcos

I was in the U.S. couple of weeks back when an AT&T ad popped up on TV featuring a dog, which is pretty much all advertisers need to exploit if they want my undivided attention.

The ad shows the dog's owner hugging her furry little friend, having just found it after it had gone missing--only to have the sneaky little canine squirming away from its owner's grasp and running off again. But, instead of scurrying after the dog, the owner stays put, smiles, pulls out her smartphone and taps on a map showing a moving red dot. Her pet's whereabouts is being tracked real-time via a GPS collar.

In the second segment of the same ad, a mother is seen chatting with her child--who is home studying--on her mobile via a videocall. When she notices the teenager is sitting in the kitchen without the lights on, she toggles to another screen on her smartphone, taps on a button and the lights in her kitchen come on. The mother is customer of AT&T's remote home monitoring service.

It was a simple ad but instead of simply touting its range of basic access services and mobile data packages, the U.S. telco was offering customer solutions with common use cases.

No doubt these two services come at a premium.

The home monitoring service includes a starter equipment bundle at a one-time cost of US$199, which includes an IP camera, wireless door/window sensor and any required software, and thereafter a monthly fee of US$9.95. Additional equipment such as wireless power controls for lights and other appliances are also available--all of which can be controlled via a Web-based portal.

The dog tracker device, the Garmin GTU 10, is available via AT&T for US$199.99 and the service includes one year of standard tracking, which can be renewed at US$49.99 per year thereafter or at US$4.99 per month for a deluxe service that features more detailed tracking history.

So the services aren't really for the price-conscious, but they target what many customers would very likely be: parents, including those of the canine kind, who are constantly concerned about the security and safety of their kids, and pets. Customers who might very well be willing to pay for packaged services, and not "dumb pipe" products, even if they had to fork out a premium for them.

And such premium services could be the thing telcos need to plug their falling ARPU (average revenue per user), and step out of their ordinary role of simply providing telephony and data access--as Mozat CEO Michael Yin puts it. "Operators need to...recognize they can do more than [play second fiddle] to popular Web services and give people what they want," he said.

And that's what I would want from my own service provider, and it's not just about offering value-added services anymore.

I want a service provider that's able to seek out various partnerships, including those outside its own industry, to offer complete packages that encompass all the necessary equipment, software and access services I'll need, at a flat monthly service fee, to have the solutions that cater to my lifestyle.

It's time for all service providers to start offering services that cater to the needs of the various customer demographics and deliver real solutions, and not simply run-of-the-mill products.

Topic: Telcos


Eileen Yu began covering the IT industry when Asynchronous Transfer Mode was still hip and e-commerce was the new buzzword. Currently a freelance blogger and content specialist based in Singapore, she has over 16 years of industry experience with various publications including ZDNet, IDG, and Singapore Press Holdings.

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  • That's a good point.

    We don't want nicely wrapped products as much as we need useful, meaningful, relevant real-world solutions.

    Those AT&T examples are good and catch our attention - "Hey, I'd find that useful!"

    It's always a chicken-and-egg problem, do consumers demand these things or do providers dream them up and make an offering?

    I thought it was classic when Steve Jobs was asked if Apple conducts research before creating new and successful products.

    His answer: "It's not the consumer's job to know what she wants."
  • Perhaps, rather than using her mobile phone to check the dog's whereabouts, the hapless owner might want to ask herself why the animal chooses to run away....

  • Timing is applicable to all facets of life as we continue to make momentary decisions on personal and business affairs. In the food industry for example, though it takes hard work to produce fruits and vegetables, a wise farmer has the knowledge and understanding on the importance of timing relative to planting and harvesting seasons. Similarly in the world of personal relationships, timing had been applied in the dating scene where many have tried the popular "3-second rule", a success slogan that means: when you see a girl you like, you have 3 seconds to decide whether to approach her and say anything that comes in your mind. Simply put, both successful schemes are, in some ways applicable in a business environment. Further applications in business describes time as a vital factor in negotiations and can dictate concession behavior because 'when' is just as important as 'how' to make the concession. But remember that there is a crucial moment when final decisions had to be made when all arguments have subsided in the final stages.
  • Excellent article Eileen! I totally agree! Looks like At&T is wearing their thinking cap!