Wednesday, December 15, 2010
I looked at him and said how can that be?
He replied, its quite simple actually and it makes perfect sense. He held up his iPhone and said, "clearly this has changed everything, but not necessarily in the way that you might expect." I asked him what he meant? He replied, "You have demanding customers. They simply expect and demand more than what the other carrier's customers expect and demand." He went on to explain that the kind of person who is attracted to an iPhone is purchasing something quite different than other mobile phones. Different than even users of Blackberrys, 90% of whom only buy them for the phone and email service. An iPhone user has a completely different expectation than users of any other phone with the possible exception of Droid users.
My friend continued, you have "BMW" customers in a moblity world of Nissans, Toyotas and Fords. BMW markets their automobiles as "the Ultimate Driving Machine". A BMW owner expects more, in terms of performance, than any other owner in the industry. You may be surpised to know that owner ratings for the BMW are somewhat middle of the road. Is this because the BMW is an "average" performing vehicle? No, it is because the BMW owner has a much higher benchmarking standard that he/she is grading against than the average car owner.
The Consumer Reports survey relied heavily on iPhone owners. The demographics of this group of customers are younger, significantly more tech savvy, and sophisticated than users of most mobile devices. (It is no wonder that Droid targets these demographics with their advertising. They are looking to blunt the penetration of the iPhone (and AT&T) with this very core group of users).
In addition to being younger, hipper and more tech savvy, they have a much different standards and expectation of network performance than the average mobile device user. It is no surprise that this very demanding, tech savvy group would give us poorer marks than other mobile operators.
"So, what would be the best way for AT&T to communicate?", I asked. My friend suggested AT&T focus on the user rather than the brand. For example, rather than say the network is the fastest network with a dropped call rate equal to the best in the industry, AT&T should say something like, "Our customers are the most tech savvy, demanding users of mobile devices on the planet and we engineer our network for these customers. Our customers rate us tougher than any other carrier because they buy the most sophisticated devices on the planet and demand a network to match!" If someone brings up surveys such as Consumer Reports, my friend suggested the following response, "It is no wonder that surveys, such as Consumer Reports rate us tough, we have the most tech savvy, demanding customers on the planet and they expect nothing less than the very best in network performance."
An interesting perspective indeed. While I am well aware that there are pockets of performance where AT&T has some distance to go, this certainly helped me to understand the apparent disconnect between the very good results of the unbiased testing and customer surveys such as Consumer Reports. I walked away from this discussion with a different perspective and an enhanced respect for the AT&T customer.
Is it possible that instead of #attfail, bloggers should be saying AT&T "the ultimate communication experience"?
What do you think? Could AT&T be the BMW of the mobility world?
PS, I fully expect many to disagree with this whole perspective. I too have read many posts by people who do not have the service they demand and this post does not focus on customer care challenges, still, I think this way of looking at the Consumer Reports (and other) surveys makes a great deal of sense.
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
It is clear that at&t has not fully met the expectations of our customers but with independent, scientific studies showing parity of performance, I am led to conclude that our customers expect more from the user experience. As an iPhone user personally, I can say that the way I use my phone now is very different than when I had a Blackberry. I am on it all day long using it in ways that I NEVER used my Blackberry. So I am wondering if using the iPhone shifts the demands and expectations of the user. (BTW, I have been having an excellent experience, very few dropped calls and excellent download performance, with my iPhone both here in San Diego and my home area near Washington DC.)
So readers, I have a challenge for you. Assume you were me (or at&t) and you accepted as true that the independent studies are accurate, that our network actually performs at least as well as our rivals, what could you tell us that would help to explain the CR results.
PS, insulting us and just repeating "fix the network" is not very helpful. Again, I ask you to assume that independent studies tell us that our dropped call rate is on par with the best and our data performance is actually faster and more reliable is true. Then help us to understand why the CR results are what they are.
Thank you in advance.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Much has been written recently about the implications of the iPhone showing up on the Verizon network. Some have made outrageous predictions of the number of people who will defect from AT&T. I believe, on the other hand, that AT&T will do just fine and may, in fact, do better than fine. I wouldn’t be surprised if they continue to grow faster than Verizon.
A couple of points to bear in mind. AT&T has been working with the iPhone now for three years and has first hand knowledge of what this does to the network. It’s been reported that 2% of iPhone users account for 40% of all (not just iPhone) data traffic. So, Verizon may THINK they know what is coming, but they have yet to truly experience the stress to the network that the iPhone brings. Meanwhile, AT&T continues to build it's network capacity.
The wifi strategy is continuously downplayed. The significance of this reveals a very sophisticated approach to data management that AT&T has embarked. What people, bloggers, writers have missed is the significance of data. We are fast moving to a (wireless) data centric world. THE reason why Verizon appears to perform better is based almost exclusively on their voice performance (lack of dropped calls, etc.) While, aside from San Francisco and New York, it is debatable whether the dropped calls issue is a true one or red herring, when people complain, they complain because of dropped calls. (Take a look at tweets, 90% of the time you see #attfail, it is due to either dropped calls or customer service.)
So what you might ask. Especially since the point of a mobile phone is to make phone calls correct? Ah, but here is what is happening in the real world. The moment that people get their hands on an iPhone (or another smart phone), they begin to use data like crazy. In fact, there have been stories that voice is just another “app” on the iPhone and people are using voice less and less. So data is the new king and this is where AT&T rocks.
AT&T has, hands down, the largest wifi footprint (think every Starbucks, McDonalds, Borders, etc.) With the seamless wifi strategy, where a user can float easily between the 3g and wifi (and soon lte) networks, at&t users have much more capacity to work with. They have the infrastructure to handle the data demands. Finally, consider this. As the lte of both networks gets built out, there will be swaths of the country where 3g will continue to be the primary data conduit. Because at&t has focused on a technology (hsdpa) with its capacity to handle speeds up to 14.4 on 3g, when people move out of lte foot print, the drop off in speed won’t as severe as the 3g drop off from Verizon (3.4).
So, say what you want about Verizon, AT&T has completely rethought “the network” and has built it for a world of data.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Below is my comment posted in association with the article.
Here is the question I am beginning to have. This call quality issue for AT&T has been around for some time now. It is well documented that AT&T is spending like "drunken sailors" to improve the performance of the network, yet the dropped call issue continues. It can not be that it is simply that AT&T is stupid or don't care or are trying to save money. I mean, why would they spend $19 Billion to improve the network performance and yet have dropped call results like these? Further, you have got to be kidding me, do you really think that AT&T specifically targeted New York and San Francisco to have really crummy service. Do you really believe that AT&T would not kill themselves trying to deliver the best network performance in these trend setting areas?
I was born at night, but not last night.
There has to be another factor here. The engineers at Verizon can't be that much better. Something else is going on. Could it be spectrum? Could it be cdma technology vs gsm?
What do you think it is?
Thursday, September 02, 2010
I don't know how many of you will remember this set of commercials from the early 1990's, but if you do, you may come away as amazed as I was at how many of these predictions have come true.
I had forgotten about them but once I saw the commercials and heard the famous voice (Tom Selleck) that narrated them, I quickly remembered seeing them. If you search the term ‘You Will’, you’ll come up with many blog entries about them and even a Wikipedia entry about how they were the early 1990’s marketing slogan for AT&T.
They are interesting because when I see them, I realize that AT&T might change it's slogan from 'We Will" to ‘We Have’ accomplished all those things and so much more. Many of the ideas from those commercials not only stood the test of time but they have surpassed them. The guy faxing from the beach- - ‘We Have’ and can now use an iPad (or iPhone) to email from the beach. The woman calling from a pay phone with video capabilities - -‘We Have’ and can now do that with iPhones or other smart phones all thanks to the AT&T network. The guy that is telecommuting via a computer with video from a beach house - - ‘We Have’ done that for sometime now and can do it wirelessly. The car shooting down a toll way and the guy pays with a credit card in a machine that is in his car - -‘We Have’ surpassed this with EZ-pass or I-Pass or whatever your state has named the idea of using a transponder to pay without stopping or slowing down in some cases.
The point I’m trying to make is- AT&T could easily go from "Rethink Possible" to ‘We Have’…’And More To Come’ - - Wouldn't it be interesting if they were to rerun these commercials except put a different spin on them using ‘We Have’ instead of ‘You Will’. The point of these would be to remind people of these commercials and allow them to realize just like we did that ‘We Have’ and, in many cases, surpassed the look into the future.
What will another 14 years into the future be like? In 2024, what will ‘We’ be able to do? Imagine commercials that would be basically the same as the older ones in which we ask ‘Have you ever……’ and end each with ‘You Will’. It would be a whole new way to Rethink Possible.
I know that at times it looks like AT&T can't do anything right. If you were to believe every tweet and blog out there, you would be convinced that AT&T was the most inept company on the planet. Still, when I reflect on the fact that my company nailed it the first time around and to Rethink Possible once again with AT&T perhaps there is life in old "ma bell" after all. I am told that people are adding devices to the AT&T network faster than any other network. Further, I am told that more people choose to stay with AT&T than any other carrier. Perhaps it is this knack of innovation and execution that leads people here.
For those of you who choose to have AT&T as your access to a world of possibilities, as an employee who is proud to serve you, I thank you.
Just imagine what will be possible in the future.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
In today’s Washington Post Michael J Copps, a member of the Federal Communications Commission, lays out his argument about why the FCC does not but should have jurisdiction with “protecting” the internet.
Below is my respectful response:
In your letter in the post this morning your state, “Now is the time to put broadband back under Title II, where it belongs -- and under which many smaller companies continue to offer Internet access to the public.” You further state that the Verizon-Google plan that the Post endorses, “creates a two-tiered Internet at the expense of the open Internet we now have…”
The internet, as it exists right now, already has in place a number of offerings that provide advantage to some providers that others may find it difficult to replicate. I will only use one example. Google (and others such as Hulu, Netflix, etc.) have begun to deploy massive replicator servers that they are placing throughout the internet in order to provide their content at a closer physical location to the user. This creates an advantage for them as it means that users have fewer routers to flow through in order to deliver their content to the end user.
To many, this is a good thing because it means that the the user experience delivered by those content providers who can afford to replicate their server content on a massive scale will have a better user experience. This means that the little guy you are trying to protect, will have a tougher time competing against those who can afford this type of replication. This has nothing to do with the way that traffic gets delivered, it simply takes advantage of the laws of physics and the fact that the fewer routers a stream of data must flow through to be delivered to the user, the more likely it will be delivered in a manner that is acceptable to the end user.
Google (and others) are doing this because they can afford it. However, smaller content providers may be squeezed out in the process because if they can not afford the same level of replication, their content will have to travel a much longer route and “bang up” against a higher number of routers, any which of them could be a potential “choke” point. What is fair about that?
What if an internet service provider were to offer a service that would allow a content provider to affordably deliver their traffic with a higher priority? This would provide smaller content providers with another means of competing with the big content providers without having to purchase server space all over geographically.
Your present position on so called net neutrality would deny smaller content providers with that option. They would be forced to compete with the only weapon presently available, content replication.
Here is my point. The present system is already unfair and tilted to the existing content providers in a way that has nothing to do with so called net neutrality. Traffic such as video, on the internet is growing at a geometric pace. This traffic is very sensitive to delays and packet loss. Your proposed policy provides only one way to manage this dilemma which the large content providers are already exploiting. Denying internet service providers with a different means of managing the traffic may jeopardize the very thing you are trying to protect. Because providing smaller content providers a way to expedite their traffic across the internet could be a less expensive and more powerful way of leveling the playing field with the large content providers.
Please reconsider your position. As it stands right now, your present stand, protects the content providers already in place and denies smaller, less well financed providers, with a more cost effective mechanism with which they might complete.
Let Freedom Ring
Thursday, August 26, 2010
His bottom line: “Overall, I can only firmly recommend the MircoCell for situations where coverage is virtually nil, you are willing to spend an extra $150, and you can locate it in a way that works. If you just want to improve a spotty signal, or a few weak areas in your house, you might be disappointed.” W. Mossberg
In a review of the comments posted with this article, many users pointed to a mostly positive experience both in setup and use. A few had frustrating experiences, but many reported that this has helped them to obtain good coverage in their homes where little or none had existed before.
There were a few misconceptions. First, it does not need to be located next to a window. This is only for the initial setup so that it can obtain a gps location signal or to triangulate with existing cell towers. Once that has happened, it can be moved to a more convenient location. Secondly, it will work with dsl provided you have more than 384 kb/s downstream and 128 kb/s upstream.
I offered one comment to a business owner who was frustrated with the charges for the AT&T Microcell for his business. My response was: I am empathetic to your challenge. Believe me, as an AT&T employee who has worked in the business enterprise division, I have heard your request on more than one occasion. I had a customer who was desperate for a solution within their data center that could not get a signal from any carrier due to the shielding in the data center. Having a reliable signal in their center was important for security and disaster recovery.
What we would have given for a business grade solution like this. I can tell you that in meetings with our Microcell product managers I have heard them state that having a business grade solution is a priority. However, there are challenges in deploying these solutions due to spectrum license and capacity issues.
Meeting the demands of a business with multiple users and the need for simnplicity in deployment make a Microcell solution challenging.
Still, I am told this is a priority. i suggest you follow up with your AT&T account manager, let them know of your interest. Hopefully, when a solution is finally released, you can take advantage of it.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Headlines from the past year…
- “Cutting the cord: households dropping land lines for cell phones” Entrepreneuer
- “As Profit Falls 21%, Verizon Plans to Slash 8,000 Jobs” New York Times
- “All of Verizon’s job cuts, which will hit employees and contractors, will be made in its landline unit, the part of Verizon’s business that offers traditional communications services over copper or fiber cables to businesses and home users. Verizon lost nearly two million home phone customers in the last year, leaving it with 17.2 million residential voice customers.”
- “Are phone land lines fading?” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
- “Colleges' Land Lines Nearing Silent End:Cells Force Review Of Dorm Options” Washington Post
- “Exodus from Landlines to Cell Phones Continues” PC Magazine
- “Lamenting the Loss of Land Lines” Wawatosa Now
Have you ever wondered why more is not done with a mainstay of the twentieth century the home phone? Why is it, for example that our mobile phones become increasingly powerful and sophisticated but at the same time the traditional phone is little different than it was 25 years ago?
This was brought home to me in a personal way recently when I tried to add something as simple as call forwarding to my Verizon home phone. Currently I subscribe to a Verizon FIOS triple play with phone, internet, and tv in the bundle. When I inquired about adding call forwarding to my service, I was told, that will be $5.99 extra per month. $5.99 extra??????? Isn’t there a bundle that offers that I politely inquired. No was the response. This is not part of the “package”. This got me thinking, why in heavens name doesn’t Verizon offer this as a package?
Welcome to the world of regulation.Let’s compare and contrast what a service provider must do to turn on a feature like “call forwarding” on a mobile device and a traditional land phone.
Traditional Land Line
Because land phones are regulated at both the federal and more completely at the state level, they must prepare and deliver to regulatory boards filings that describe services offered and the list prices that will be charged. If they want to reduce the price, they must file paperwork. If they want to offer a discount, they must set forth the specific circumstances in which those discounts would apply. So a phone company must:
- prepare documents (not a trivial task),
- file them with several different state regulators,
- get approval from each of them
Compare that with what must be done to introduce call forwarding in the mobile world.
- The company builds call forwarding into the network
- Turns on the capability in the devices
- Announces it to its customers.
Our legislators are going regulation crazy! You know, train wrecks may be fascinating to watch, but ultimately destructive and hurt a bunch of people. If we don’t change, a train wreck is where we are headed. We must slow this train down before it goes off the rails or we may end up like Harrison Ford in “the Fugitive” running for our lives to avoid a runaway locomotive.
Not only should we not regulate the internet, we should tear down the regulations that hold the traditional land line phones stuck in the twentieth century while the rest of the world zips by.
Let Freedom Ring
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
particularly nasty storm here in my home town near Alexandria, Virginia. The storm tied up traffic with my wife and daughter taking hours to get home when it usually takes about 45 minutes, even with crazy beltway traffic.
As I was sitting here, I saw the lights flicker and eventually go out. Yes, I had lost power. The problem was, I was getting ready to present a live webinar to managers all across the world. Without power, I would have had to rely on someone else or cancel the presentation. At that moment, the fact that I not only worked for AT&T, but had AT&T service came in very handy.
I popped in my wireless card into my laptop, fired it up, got connected to our fastest in the industry 3G network, fired up my iPhone to connect to the call, and connected to our AT&T Connect web meeting platform. My Dell computer had plenty of juice, so I was good to go.
Connecting to the network was simple and easy. I had good speed and latency. Download was 3.9mb/s Upload was 1.78 mb/s and latency was an acceptable 167 ms. So the connection was fast, reliable and steady. I then uploaded my 2mb file to the AT&T Connect platform and at 4PM welcomed my participants to the webmeeting. All went well, even when the AT&T Connect had a bit of a hiccup. One of the participants became the presenter momentarily and since I had given the presentation before, we kept on rolling without missing a beat. I then reentered, took back control and finished the meeting on-time.
Without this, my group would have been clueless as to what happened to me and we would have had to cancel, then re-schedule the presentation. This kept everyone up, running and productive.
Once again, this incident reaffirmed for me why I am so proud of our terrific network.
I LOVE THIS NETWORK!!!!!!
Monday, August 09, 2010
Over the weekend, I found a blog piece on The App Gap site, written by Celine Roque back in 2008, which talks about results-oriented versus time-oriented workplaces. Time-oriented workplaces have their roots in the Industrial Era, when it was important to put in your 8 hour day at a specific factory location so you could punch out a pre-defined number of widgets. You were a cog in a bigger wheel and everyone had to be present and working on the line in order for the wheel to turn. But managing the work by “time spent” is not as effective for managing knowledge work, which is really better suited to a “results-oriented” approach. Some of her observations on the differences between time-oriented and results-oriented workplaces are:
- Time-Oriented You are seen as diligent if you are the first one in the office and the last one out of the office.
- Results-Oriented: It’s not about when you arrive and when you leave, it’s about what you accomplish during your stay – no matter how long or short it is.
- Time-Oriented: Let’s have long, regular meetings so we know we’re discussing things in depth.
- Results-Oriented: Let’s have meetings only when necessary, and make them as short as possible.
Another dimension to this discussion is whether the work is “place-oriented”, e.g. how important is the location of the work to accomplishing the job? In a “results-oriented” workplace, location can often be irrelevant; it’s about how you work and the results you achieve that are important. Here are some of those differences:
- Place-Oriented: It’s important for the supervisor to “see” the work as its being done in order to effectively manage it.
- Results-Oriented: Managing by results means the supervisor and the employee don’t have to be in the same room, or even in the same city.
- Place-Oriented: The tools and equipment used in the job are only available at the specific company location; therefore, your presence at that location is required.
- Results-Oriented: Since knowledge work is all about the handling and creating of information, the tools and resources required for the job are available through Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), meaning, you can do your job from nearly anywhere.
Thanks to AT&T’s enabling technologies and our results-oriented management practices, I could argue that most of AT&T’s knowledge work is location independent – meaning, work that can be effectively accomplished from a variety of different locations.
So, how would you describe your job? Place-Centric or Location Independent?
My own commentary back was:
Thanks for this thought provoking piece on how we best consider the work environment. I have met and worked for sales managers who were both. Those that were place oriented often insisted that their sales staff be in their cubes at a specified time, then schedule meetings to "kick-off" the day. At times, they would have wrap up meetings at the end of the day, some would insist that the rep come back to check in with the office.
Other managers basically take a 'I don't care how you work your day as long as you deliver results on time'. Each of these extremes have their proponents and detractors.
Personally I have been both over my career and have adopted an "It depends" attitude of which works best. When things are working with a team that is generally delivering results, I tend toward the Results Oriented approach, while when people are not delivering results, I tend to be more prescriptive in my approach with boundaries, face time and timetables.
This is what has worked for me. I would be interested to see what other (sales) managers are doing and what works for them. Any thoughts out there?
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Verizon Smartphone Users Overtake AT&T iPhone Users In Wireless Data Use
In this article ChannelWeb notes that a study, to be released by Validas, a Missouri City, Texas-based provider of technology to help users analyze their wireless bills to find the best plans, shows that the amount of data accessed by the Verizon Wireless user grew the fastest of any smartphone users.
As a result, Verizon smartphone users will likely overtake iPhone users in terms of wireless data access, according to Validas in a blog post earlier this week.
This article could be misleading. I posted a response to it as follows:
There are a couple of items to note about this piece.
First, while the usage per device may be higher with phones and devices from Verizon, this may be a result of the heavier reliance that Verizon has on their network vs AT&T devices which can seamlessly access wifi hotspots. Verizon does not have access to as many wifi hotspots as AT&T users.
In my own circumstance, my iPhone uses between 5 and 6 GB of data monthly, but only uses about 230 mb on the 3G network. The reason for this disparity is that most of the time, my iPhone automatically connects to available wifi networks. So when I am at home or at a Starbucks, McDonald's, many hotels, etc. my phone automatically connects to the wifi network. Since AT&T operates the largest footprint of wifi hotspots, this means that my phone's data does not travel on the 3G network as much.
This benefits me in several ways. First my overall speed is generally faster in wifi hotspots than anyone's 3G or 4G network. Secondly, because I am leveraging the wifi, I can better take advantage of AT&T's lower cost data plans.
As was pointed out, but buried in the story is the fact that AT&T support the largest number of smartphone devices, by far. So even though the usage may be smaller per device, the overwhelming larger number of devices on AT&T means that they carry the largest amount of mobile data, by far.
Finally, I am very satisfied with the performance of the network with my iPhone and would not consider switching, even if Verizon ever gets the iPhone.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
• Posted by: snow53 07/20/10 10:09 pm
One item that continuously gets overlooked and underappreciated is the wifi network that AT&T has put in place. They have, hands down, the largest number of wifi hotspots in the country. This means that at many hotels, starbucks and mcdonalds all over the country, you can use your iPhone or iPad on a better performing network than anybody’s 3G or even 4G network and at no additional cost beyond your AT&T data plan. Verizon and Sprint have nothing comparable.
I live in the nation’s capitol and love my iPhone and am delighted with AT&T’s service. When we experienced a huge power blackout. I fired up my laptop and conducted a web presentation using my AT&T card and my iPhone. As rated by speedtest.net, my download speed was > 5mb/s. Astonishing! I was able to deliver my presentation to my client without missing a beat or experiencing a dropped call.
One final thought, it would be interesting to put a Samsung Captivate on AT&T up against a Droid X on Verizon and see how they perform side by side. Then we might have more of an (non)-apples to (non)-apples comparison.