5 things AT&T should do to save its iPhone business

The Apple iPhone
Apple's iPhone + AT&T

Over the past month AT&T has struggled to maintain its reputation with current iPhone users. First, we heard that the company might start charging users based on their data usage in an attempt to minimize the massive amounts of data that iPhone users are prone to sharing. Then Verizon went to battle with AT&T by revealing the massive holes in the company’s 3G coverage. And in the last couple days, we saw AT&T suddenly stop selling iPhones to New York customers only to turn around and start selling them again the next day. Clearly, the company is on the defensive and it should take measures to solve these issues as soon as possible.

AT&T wanted the iPhone and it got it. Now, the company is scrambling to figure out how do actually accommodate its users. Here are five meaningful things the company can do to solve this issue:

  1. Sincerely apologize and promise to treat your iPhone users well. This isn’t rocket science. You wanted the iPhone and all the business that was going to come with it. Apple gave you a gift, one that has allowed you to dominate the smart phone service provider business. It was a great move; however, since you got the business you’ve been slow to innovate and have done little to treat this precious market in a way they deserve to be treated.

    It is time to make amends and you had better do it before someone else does. Instead of making another television ad that brags about your less-than great 3G coverage, make an ad with where your CEO or iPhone team goes on air and apologizes for their past performance and then layout your plans to take you iPhone service to an all new level.

  2. Expand your 3G coverage and upgrade to 4G: Verizon’s got you beat when it comes to 3G coverage. I have experienced your lackluster coverage first hand. If I leave Salt Lake City, you coverage becomes spotty and downright unreliable. It’s time to invest and add the towers you need to make sure your coverage is up to par with your competitors. While in the process, why not set a goal to offer 4G coverage as soon as possible?
  3. Take a lesson from Zappos. Of all the cellular service providers, you rate the lowest in consumer satisfaction. Now’s the time to look outside the cell phone industry and learn how to provide the world’s best cell service. Take a look at every point of contact with your consumers, from the kiosks in the malls to your website, and identify ways to “wow” your customers every step of the way. Find ways to make your service easy to sign up for (not the easiest thing in the world if you are switching from another provider) and even easier to use after they have signed up. Make “solving customer problems” your number one priority. No one is better than Zappos when it comes to customer service. Take a look at them for starters.
  4. Offer something for free. A while back, you launched your first app, a turn-by-turn GPS service. Instead of trying to find ways to milk your iPhone customers for every cent they are worth, why not build loyalty by offering them several key and useful apps they they really need. Free GPS would be a great way to start. But don’t stop there. Look at what apps are the most useful and needed by your customers and then figure out a way to create and offer them free of charge.

    Remember tethering? You have held up this service for some time now. It’s time to allow this to happen and it would be an excellent time to offer this free of charge to your loyal iPhone users.

  5. Let your customers leave for free. Gone are the days when you can punish customers who don’t like your service. Put your business, service and technology to the test by allowing your customers to leave if they are unhappy and do it free of charge. Sure, you might argue that you have made an investment in your customers by subsidizing the cost of their phones. That is completely true; however, that is the business model you built. It’s not too late to change course.

    What do you have to worry about? A lot in the initial stages; however, if you are able to offer the world’s best service on the world’s best smartphone, you should not have much trouble with this one.

You have been given a gift. Apple selected you as the provider of choice for the iPhone. Luckily for you, Apple has held up their end of the bargain by continuing to push the envelope on the technology side. It’s time to match the world’s best phone with the world’s best service. The game is yours to win or lose.

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