Happy Callers

There's a dirty secret that some wireless companies are just discovering: Businesspeople are consumers, too.

Theres a dirty secret that some wireless companies are just discovering: Businesspeople are consumers, too.

The word "consumer" has been banished from the wireless vernacular. Industry leaders preached that business services were the only way to earn revenue. The consumer marketplace isnt worth a dime, they said.

But just as there are two sides to every coin, wireless customers can be both business and consumer users. Typically, wireless operators treat customers as dumb and cheap before 7 a.m. and after 7 p.m., notes Iain Gillott, founder of consultancy iGillottResearch. Between those hours, when most people work, wireless companies regard customers as smart and attractive. Operators would do better to appeal to customers all day, whether the user is wearing a professional hat or a baseball cap.

My recent experience using the Sanyo SCP-5000 handset from Sprint PCS proves the point. Its a small phone with a decent-size color screen that can display photos. Ive downloaded a picture of Mount Rainier as wallpaper. Ive also attached a picture of my boyfriend to his phone-book entry. When he calls, his photo pops up.

Im embarrassed to admit how cool I think the photograph feature is. Thats probably because I use the phone as a business customer, primarily to keep in touch with the office while Im traveling.

What Ive done by downloading photos is given my phone personality, says Robbie Blinkoff, managing partner and principal anthropologist at Context-Based Research Group, a firm that studies the behavior of mobile phone users.

The very consumer-oriented photo capability ties me to this phone, even though Im a business user. Blinkoff believes that appealing to the social side of people is better for encouraging long-term adoption than just touting productive business tools. I doubt Im alone in my attraction to such features. At the last conference I attended, two people — businesspeople — stopped me to check out the phone and ask about the screen and the photos.