How my Swindon Inchcape Audi meeting destroyed my faith in the brand, or at least that specific dealership. - Friday 17th January 2020
To set the scene, I'm 3 years into a 4-year PCP. this is the first Personal Contract Purchase vehicle I've owned, so its all a new experience, and as it's a premium brand, I'm was expecting an actual 'Experience' rather than a basic journey through facts and figures. With that in mind I booked an afternoon appointment to go through figures and options for a 3-year-old PCP, Audi A4, and look at booking in a set of test drives for replacement vehicles.
Our appointment was with a salesperson that we didn't have a previous relationship with, as ours, Richard, left a few months after selling us the car. Let's call the new chap Lee, that was his name, so let's use it. We sat down and had a brief intro, I asked him if he was having a good Friday, as typically people find Fridays to be a happy day of the week, to which he replied, 'it's another day, at least its not the weekend'. So not a glowing start, and a slightly weird beginning to the conversation.
MIT University recently released a video of their Cheetah project jumping over obstacles. The Cheetah project started a few years ago, the aim was to develop an autonomous robot that could perform under difficult conditions. Every now and then MIT release a video showing their progress with this.
The most recent video shows the Cheetah detecting the distance and height of an obstacle and adjusting its step length to accommodate jumping over it. You can view the Youtube video here.
This is pretty amazing stuff when you consider that this is entirely automated, it's a self-evaluating robotic Cheetah. This really shows that with a dedication of focus, thinking in the same direction, for a dedicated period of time, people can really bring something exciting and innovative into being. What will happen next to the Cheetah? Where will the MIT team take it? Well I'm excited to find out, and so should you be, as I think this could develop into many different industries and technologies, and bring about real, significant change to robotics and logical thought processing.
Read more about the MIT Cheetah here: http://biomimetics.mit.edu/
The mobile operator Everything Everywhere has recently caused a bit of controversy by introducing a 50 pence call fee for customers who want to jump the call waiting queue. This is available for Pay monthly (Contract) and sim only customers.
This raises some interesting questions and issues, specifically about the split in the customer base because of this. EE have effectively created a tiered customer service system with this move. Intentional or not they now have priority customers and second class customers.
Why not allow this for all your customers?This is likely due to the spending profile, when you look at the different spending profile for Contract and pay-as-you-go customers the latter are far less likely to spend money on a premium service. Their PAYG habits mean that they are less likely to require support, and far less likely to pay for it, it typically has a more independent nature.
The dangers of a two tiered customer experienceAllowing some customers to jump the queue raises difficult questions around customer priority, and service levels. If I already have a contract that I am paying reasonable money for, why should I pay more for a support service?
Also is this queue jumping pushing other customers back? Probably. At the same time, if this is viewed as a revenue stream to EE, doesn't that encourage them to present the outward view to the customer that they are very busy, and that you should be paying for a premium service? Chances are the call centre staff are being measured on how many 'paid customers' they service rather than 'free' this will be a new KPI. By creating a bigger gap between the paid and non-paid service they can outwardly justify the fee. You can call them and receive free service, but you might be waiting a REALLY long time.... Or you could pay 50p to skip the REALLY long queue and talk to an agent sooner.
Whether this is real or not is debatable, but it does show that by creating two customer experiences ('we a care a lot because you paid' and 'we don't care because you're free') you are creating a dangerous class divide.
I'm really hoping that this isn't a trend and that other call centre providers don't follow suit. News article here: http://www.mobiletoday.co.uk/news/industry/30471/ee-introduces-50p-call-queue-jumping-charge.aspx
OFCOM recently published this year's communications market report detailing digital trends and usage amongst different age groups. [Link]
There report starts off with a particularly punch quote:
"As a result of growing up in the digital age, 12-15 year olds are developing fundamentally different communication habits than older generations, even compared to the advanced 16-24 age group."
It goes on to explain how its children leading the digital revolution with mass adoption of online applications and channels.
The following graph shows the 'weekly exposure to devices':
One thing that this report does highlight is that over the generations surveyed landline telephone usage is on the decline. This raises some interesting questions, and a few intriguing possibilities.
I put a an example case to you:
When I was a child the Landline was the ONLY telephone in the house. Now it's pretty much an ornament as modern mobile contracts tend to come with so many inclusive minutes that I only ever use the landline for premium numbers that are free on that over the mobile. All of the adults in the house have thousands of inclusive minutes. Why would they ever use the landline? Despite that I still pay a month fixed line fee though, but the actual usage bill is regularly in the pence cost bracket.
The OFCOM report is showing exactly this behaviour in children. Mobile usage is massively up, for a number of reasons, such as barriers to entry lowering, i.e. handset costs and contract allowances, and increased stability and speed in mobile networks means that the quality of service is always improving. Just search for 4G coverage in the UK.
What are the reasons for having a landline?
So why do people still have landlines?
- 1. The first reason is to make calls.
- 2. The second reason is because of other over-the-top services such as broadband and TV services
- 3. The third is as a bundled product. Often service providers will cut you a discount for taking many products instead of just one. For example if I remove my landline from my Virgin Media bundle I'll actually pay MORE for not having it.
So what is the Landline used for now?
So realistically that leaves the second reason as the most valid. Some providers are still using the landline for TV broadcasting or device communications rather than their satellite network (I'm looking at you Sky). But doesn't that seem counter intuitive? Having to have a landline to support increasingly bandwidth hungry Hi-definition TV channels? What the OFCOM report shows is that the newest generations of our society don't use a landline at all. When they come of age as to be moving into their own homes and having the conversations with service providers about 'requiring a landline because you have TV' there is going to be a serious customer backlash.
Death of the landline
So I'm predicting that he landline has to find another purpose. Or its Dead. It's not good enough to be in a bundle of service, or to merely be a cost differentiator. It has to do something. Otherwise 'digital natural selection' will occur and Broadband and satellite comms will consume it.
It will follow the usual pattern of decline in as much as customer uptake will drop, meaning that the cost will rise. Suddenly all the cost and effort in dropping new lines into new housing estates and renewing old lines will start to look like a bad expenditure to the big telecoms companies. The landline will price itself out of the market, and investment in it will shrink.
You just watch. Next years annual OFCOM report will show even less landline usage in the youth generation.