Vonage and the Customer Experience
With spring VON upon us, now seems like a good time to revisit the question, why VoIP? Why is it that consumers aren't satisfied with POTS -- after all, most of the time they just want a phone line in their homes which can connect to a variety of cheap handsets and ring when someone calls them. Is it just about cost? Do consumers adopt Vonage and others just to get cheaper phone service?
I submit for your consideration that it is NOT all about price (although this will always be important). Consider the consumer experience of dealing with the Telephone Company. Start with ordering phone service. The old way was to call, wait on hold (forever?), and then speak with an inbound telemarketing professional (but only during business hours). This stranger would ask all sorts of questions about your personal background in order to establish credit worthiness before telling you that it would be between a few days or a week before your phone service could be activated.
Instead, consider the experience of phone service activation the Vonage way: a friendly, easy to use web site which gathers a few details – principally a credit card number for billing – and then instantly an active phone number is issued. The very next minute you call the number and set up your voice mailbox. A web-based form even lets you forward calls so that people can call you using the new number -- answering the call on your cell phone, office phone, or a friend’s phone. Once you purchase the VoIP router at a local electronics retailer (or wait a few days for it to come in the mail) you plug it in, anywhere there is an Internet connection, and you immediately have dial tone.
Immediately have dial tone. It is worth repeating, because this is a customer experience for which people are willing to pay. And for which they will switch phone service providers.
And if you move you can just take the VoIP router with you! Even if you have to wait a few days for the cable guy to plug in your new Internet connection you can plug this VoIP router in at work and have dial tone. Or forward your phone and continue to take calls on your cell phone. Or just take messages since your voice mail box remains active. Your home phone number follows you wherever you go. The Telephone Company still forces you to change phone numbers if you move across town. Now you can keep the same phone number whether you move across town or across the country!
The technology of VoIP makes all of this possible, but this isn’t what the consumer cares about. The consumer cares about the experience of telephony. The future of telephony, despite all of the press, is not about VoIP. The future of telephony is about the customer experience. And in this, the Telephone Company has a few things to learn from Vonage.
Now despite all of the good things about Vonage, I have been disappointed with a few items. For example, why is it that when I get an email notifying me of a new voice mail message, there is no link in the email directly to the web site where I can play back the message? And why can’t I choose to have the voice mail recording sent as an attachment to the email? So there is still room for improvement.
But as we all rush to attend VON in the next few days, let's try to remember that the consumer doesn't care at all about technology, but about a great telephony experience. See you at VON.