Since most of the operators are now being forced in the corner due to competition, requiring to offer bigger and cheaper bundles of voice and data they are now fighting back with clever strategies. I have listed some strategies that has been my experience and of some of the people I know. Please feel free to add yours via the comments section.
- Apparently, operators lose quite a lot of money when people call customer services. As one of my colleagues put it, operators profit for a month is wiped out when someone makes a call to their customer services and asks to speak to a representative. So this option of speaking to a representative is now buried three or four levels deep and you are offered an option of posting your query via the website and also you are asked to make sure you have seen the FAQ before doing this.
- Some operators used to have 24/7 customer services for personal users which have now gone and has been replaced by 12/6.5 or 14/6 services.
- The option to call free to customer services has in some cases been replaced by a flat fee of 10p or 25p to discourage the callers.
- Once upon a time, people used to get bundles that allowed inclusive minutes to landlines and same network mobiles. That was changed to ‘any network any time’. Now the calls to the same network (which costs really nothing to the operators) are coming back in disguise. You get a bundle of free minutes ‘any network any time’ plus ‘extra’ N hundred minutes to people on the same network. This encourages closed group of people to move to the same network.
- Another one is that if you have a contract phone for over six months then you can get another one for half the price as long as you have one contract on your name. What this does is that you have one for six months in an 18 months contract then you get another one which costs you half and that is for 18 months contract as well. After another 12 months, if you don’t renew the first contract then you have to pay full amount for the second contract which would defeat the purpose of getting half price contract. So you renew the first one and the cycle goes on and on.
- The same as in above case but with Mobile broadband. Some operators offering you free or cheap mobile broadband are generally using you as guinea pig; check their review before buying into them.
- Earlier the inclusive minutes on the bundle were billed by seconds. So if you had 500 minutes, it effectively meant 500 x 60 seconds. You could use them the way you want in any small amounts you want. The new bundles are in minutes (read the fine print ;) so they are effectively just 500 minutes. Even if you call someone for 5 seconds, you have spent 1 minute. Vodafone and ‘3’ in UK have also been forcing their existing contract customers who were on the old style bundles to move them into partial new style bundles. What they are saying is that for the first 60 seconds you will be billed for a minute but then after 60 seconds, they are billed by seconds. So to get the best out of your existing contract you will have to make sure that your call lasts for long time.
- It used to be free to pickup voicemails by some operators but that is no longer the case and you are billed for atleast 1 minute.
- More and more bundles are coming with extra SMS’s which generally costs nothing to the operators.
- Some new packages have extra video call minutes and MMS’s thrown in which makes it look great but how many people actually use them?
- Every operator has now started abusing the term ‘unlimited’. Never trust anyone offering anything ‘unlimited’. They all have a fair usage policy stuck in the terms and conditions. For unlimited broadband the fair usage policy is around 1-5GB depending on the operator and for unlimited SMS’s the fair usage policy is generally upto 100 texts a day.
- Always preserve your original ‘terms and conditions’ copy. The operator can suddenly change them on their website but for your contract the originals would be valid unless the operator sends you a specific mail informing about the change. Sometimes a sudden change in terms and conditions by operators will allow you to walk out of your contract free of any commitments.
- Finally there is Femtocells strategy. I agree they haven’t really been launched but this is the strategy marketers been working on to sell them. Get a Femtocell and get cheap calls and SMS. When on Femtocell your bundle increases by 5 times. So if you spend 5 minutes calling someone when camped on Femtocell then you will only be charged for a minute. What more, upto 4 people can use a Femtocell at any time for calls or data services. If you get 2 mobiles on a 24 month contract then the Femtocell is free of charge.
Remember the operators hire very clever billing strategy consultants to keep ahead of the game so always doubt a deal which seems too good to be true. There is no such thing as free lunch :)