Do I look like a personal shopper? I guess its just that because Ive been writing about wireless for years, people constantly ask my advice about which cell phone they should buy.
People I dont even know — who have some sort of vague friend-of-a-friend-of-a-brother-in-laws-cousin connection to me — want to know what I think is the cheapest service they can sign up for if they want to use the phone for about five minutes per month and an additional five minutes every other month while roaming.
Ive got former co-workers calling me up because their in-laws are traveling across North America in Winnebagos and they want to know which phone will offer them the best, cheapest service.
Im not saying that I mind the questions or making recommendations. I cant say that I know the minute details of every service plan offered by every carrier in North America, but I can usually narrow down the options. The hardest part about responding to these queries is that I feel personally responsible for recommending the perfect service.
And therein lies the problem: Theres no such thing as a perfect service. If I suggest one operator, I know the person wont be happy with the service. There will be dropped calls, fuzzy reception, rude customer service people and expensive bills. Then Ill get blamed.
People dont seem to realize that every service provider has the same problems. Coverage always stinks, customer service people usually dont know anything and service always costs too much.
Knowing what I do about building out cellular networks, I can sympathize with operators and their daunting task of extending their networks. However, I cant sympathize with their marketing tactics. Come on, I dont care what technology the operator uses, no cell phone Ive ever used has sounded as good as a landline phone.
Instead of all this "crystal clear" reception advertising were inundated with, operators should focus on making and receiving calls while on the go. Its great to have lofty goals, like offering superb-sounding service, but operators would do better to recognize the limitations of wireless. Instead of inflating the expectations of potential users, providers should manage their expectations by focusing on the truthful advantages of wireless.
As for meeting customer expectations for decent customer service and reasonable prices, those may be topics for a different column. . . .