What should a company do when its competitor comes up with an amazing product that everyone wants?
Sprint just issued a list of anti-iPhone talking points (pdf), while Verizon Wireless apparently decided to take the high road with a confidential internal memo telling employees specific ways to trash the iPhone's capabilities.
At this point, there is absolutely nothing Verizon or Sprint can do to stop the iPhone's arrival. On Friday, no matter what, the iPhone is hitting the stores and certain customers will jump to get their hands on it.
So, Verizon Wireless and other providers have only a few options...
- Spend a lot of energy personally telling customers everything that is wrong about the iPhone and why it will make their life miserable.
Of course, this could backfire by making Verizon and Sprint look like sore losers. Plus, with all the hype the iPhone is getting, customers probably won't believe the negative points. Each conversation will take up a lot of time, tying up service reps and dragging down customer service for other customers.
- Make it incredibly difficult for existing customers to get out of their phone contracts.
This will keep their customer numbers up in the short term, but make their existing customers hate them. Once those subscriptions are up... goodbye!
- Tell customers about all the great options available at their current provider and get customers to upgrade their accounts.
A positive, proactive option that might retain customers. Done wrong though, this could backfire by making customers feel manipulated (remember the AOL unsubscribe phone call?) and sucked into a more expensive phone plan that still doesn't give them what they really want.
- Offer irresistable bonuses to customers to lure them back to Verizon/Sprint/etc.
Tempting and proactive, but could be very expensive for the company to lure back customers, and could upset the current customers who aren't getting the same deal.
- Cut their losses, congratulate AT&T, carefully take note of the
successes and failures of the iPhone and then come out with anew phone next year that completely blows the iPhone out of the water!
Verizon and Sprint already know that the iPhone isn't perfect. Which means that they also know what can be improved. Instead of pointing fingers at all the iPhone's faults, they should be figuring out how to take advantage of them by coming out with a better phone.
Verizon and Sprint are facing a big choice this summer as the iPhone enters the market and changes customer expectations. But it's also a big opportunity for them. As Seth Godin wisely wrote today on his blog:
The iPhone is a gift for every cell phone marketer in the world. Why? Because it creates a problem where there was none before. Now, a cell phone is not just a phone. Now, a phone is worth spending money on. So, since Apple created that 'problem' in my mind, how are you going to solve it?
He has it exactly right. The iPhone has just completely redefined the cell phone market.
It showed that people want phones that are better, do more, look good and are easy to use. It is also showing that people will happily pay a lot of money for a new, innovative phone that blows the others out of the water.
It's a great moment for innovation in phones.
So, now the question is, who can come up with the next phone that everyone has to have?
"Verizon is Evil" photo thanks to www.gizmodo.com