For years I have written about how service providers have been charging the public for a non-service. What I mean is charging for the unlisted or non-published service. I think I have been writing about the topic for eight years or so but rather than find my first writing on the topic, I was satisfied locating a reference to the subject in my Internet Telephony Magazine Publisher’s Outlook of August 2002.
In my earlier writings I complained about the service and frankly I was never fond of paying to have a non-published number. Later in life I realized that if people will pay $40 a month to keep their number unlisted, they might pay a service provider for anything.
Here is an excerpt from the above article making this point:
ONE WAY OUT
Domestic service providers are in a different situation. The fact is that at this point, selling services customers want is the only way out of this mess. And while many if not most people agree, there are the usual cynics who love to rain on the nearest parade. I concede to them only that building a new business model based on services in the middle of a devastated economy is tough to pull off.
And yet, we are all accustomed to paying for enhanced services such as Caller ID, call waiting, and even the mysterious-sounding non-published service, which essentially grants you an unlisted number a service, which can cost a few dollars a month. For example, in
Now, wouldn’t you agree that if phone companies can successfully charge for a non-service, people will pay for anything?
BOILING IT DOWN
So, once again it boils down to services. There are a great many corporate desires that need to be met more inexpensively and more easily than they are today. Companies will pay if you give them something they need!
Wi-Fi & Bluetooth Telephony
For example, many of us who spend lots of time in meetings don’t want to miss phone calls, but there is no universally adopted, automated, and easy way to assure your phone calls can follow you around your office. Perhaps service providers should help corporations install Wi-Fi telephony networks (802.11A or B with managed QoS). This service should be delivered after the caller comes into a central auto attendant so that corporate greetings can be leveraged. Furthermore, selling software as a service to manage Wi-Fi telephony is a great idea.
Wi-Fi networks and even Bluetooth networks that are powered by Bluetooth access points are beginning to emerge in organizations. Coupling a PDA as a GUI with a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi phone or headset all but replaces the need for a PBX with extensions. Perhaps tying systems like this into IP Centrex will yield some revenues for those service providers intelligent enough to pull it off. To get a taste of what companies are already doing in this space, check out the online article in our sister publication, Planet PDA.
The merger of SIP devices and wireless endpoints will undoubtedly open up tremendous opportunities as well. SIP makes IP telephony easier to use than traditional telephony, and in this age of widespread instant messaging adoption, allowing endpoints that chat to offload to voice is a big plus. Again, people will pay for this sort of service if sold properly.
What got me thinking about this topic is an e-mail I received from one of the VoIP service providers I use telling me that my number will soon be listed in Directory Assistance.
Here is an excerpt from the letter:
Great news! We are pleased to announce that you now have a choice to list your telephone number or, keep it unlisted or unpublished as it is today. The new Directory Listing options are as follows:
Listed – One listing per telephone number will be included in printed directories and available through Directory Assistance.
Non-Listed* – Ensures that your telephone number is not listed in printed directories. It will, however, be available through Directory Assistance.
Non-Published* – Ensures that your phone number is neither listed in printed directories nor available through Directory Assistance. This is what you have today.
Beginning in late March, your Name, Phone Number, and Address will automatically be available through Directory Assistance service and in printed directories unless you would like to change this by registering your telephone number as Non-Listed or Non-Published.
At the bottom of the letter was this:
*Charges may apply in the future for Non-Listed and Non-Published options. If you select one of these options, we will notify you prior to institution of charges pursuant to the terms and conditions of your Subscriber Agreement.
The irony is that one of the reasons I love my VoIP service is that it saves me from having a non-published number fee. I have saved over a hundred dollars over the years because VoIP numbers aren’t listed. Now it seems that VoIP service providers are looking to get customers to ante up for such services as well.
Of course it isn’t all VoIP providers who are doing this and I am sure there are people who want to be listed in Directory Assistance. I guess you just can’t make everyone happy all the time. With this in mind, starting such a letter with "Great news!" is obviously not well received by all customers.
My take on all this is that VoIP providers are getting smarter and are looking for ways to make money from adding services. I have been telling them to do this for years. They are listening.
Of course directory assistance is not really a service but perhaps it is low hanging fruit and we will see more real services in the future.
In my opinion all service providers will have no choice but to start providing valuable services soon just to stay competitive. The first step is to make money the easy way and as time goes on we will see more services that customers don’t feel like they have to pay for but want to pay for.
When these services start to roll out, it really will be "Great news!"