Theresa Lanowitz | June 27, 2006
I thought of this Tommy Tutone 1982 one hit wonder as I wrestled with the latest machinations of my mobile carrier. And, quite honestly, no blog is complete without some overt reference to 1980’s nonsensical music!

Let me get to my problem. I spend quite a bit of time on my bicycle. These rides are not just around the block to visit friends, rather they are Lance Armstrong inspired long distance events of 100 miles or more. One minor problem, I don’t have the luxury of having Johan Bruynell and the Disco team trailing me to provide food and support. Without the resources of the Team Discovery, I have to take my own food as well as communication device. This means a light weight, durable, and reliable cell phone. Easy problem to solve, right? Wrong!!!! I recently had to expand my Cingular calling plan to a family plan – even though I am the only person on the plan. So why does a family of one need a multi-number plan? Good question – here’s the problem and the solution…

When you are 50 miles or so from home and night is falling and the wind picks up and you just had your third flat tire of the day, the most important possession in the world is a working cell phone. But, in order for the cell phone to have enough importance to bring along on the ride, it has to be light weight, durable, and offer some ability to provide a connection. Nobody wants to take their Smart Phone on an athletic event and risk damage or loss. Given this scenario I thought of the perfect solution to my cell phone / cycling woes. I would buy a small, light weight, reliable practically disposable cell phone to take with me on my bicycle and leave my bulky yet feature rich Smart Phone at home. After some amount of investigation, I decided upon the 2 ounce Firefly. This meant I could leave my 5.8 ounce HP iPAQ at home.

This seemed to make perfect sense – two phones or an extension, if you will, and one number, right? Wrong!!! It seems in their infinite wisdom, the mobile carriers have deemed that only one number can be assigned per smart chip. If I wanted to have the same number on both phones, I would have to fumble around with the smart chip each time I wanted to use the less important but more durable Firefly. This did not seem logical or even remotely sensible. Again, after some amount of investigation I found it to be true. Why was I not surprised that the inflexible, rigid, and outdated business model of the mobile carriers again rendered a logical and simple problem complex and cumbersome.

In the long run, my safety on a bicycle is far more important than the illogical business model of the mobile carriers. I took the only solution I could – create a “family” plan for my Firefly and my HP iPAQ. Yes, this solution works, but I have another phone number to manage. I remember the promise of a single universal phone number for each person. That vision went by the wayside as soon as new area codes were granted.

It would be refreshing if the mobile carriers were to spend one day in the real world and modify their plans to reflect what people really do. We are in an unfortunate situation where the carriers have customers locked in to contracts and provide at best, pathetic to mediocre service. These problems all come back to not understanding the usage requirements of the customer. And, the lackluster service offered by the mobile carriers points to a massive failure of the much ballyhooed customer relationship management (CRM) systems. If the CRM systems really worked, we as a collective population would not have to be held hostage to the mobile carriers.

The huge lesson learned here is…understand use requirements before you begin anything lest you end up like the mobile carriers – that is a warning that will frighten anyone! And, realize the majority of the world does not have the resources of the Disco boys for their SAG needs!

Go Team Discovery!!! Vive le Tour de France!!!

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