Free, unsolicited product management advice for Verizon Wireless

As I mentioned yesterday, I am using EV-DO to connect to the internet here in Vegas for CTIA. It’s more economical and reliable than the hotels’ and convention center’s WiFi hotspots. What I didn’t say is that the way I contract for this service is convoluted and actually, on my analysis, loses money for Verizon. Details to follow.

It’s got me feeling a bit guilty, so I would like to offer them some free advice. If they implement my ideas and wish to share perhaps 10% of their incremental profits on the change, I’d be happy to accept. [VZW, you can email me at inquiry (at) caddellinsightgroup (dot) com for my PayPal info.]

Here’s the situation with EV-DO. I have a Blackberry, using a 10MB per month plan costing $24.95 per month on top of my voice subscription. This is fine for emailing and web browsing through the Blackberry, but not enough to support what I’m doing this week–blogging, video uploading, etc.

For that application, VZW requires I buy unlimited data access for $49.95 per month, and on top of that buy tethered modem service (that allows me to use the Bberry as a modem for my computer) for an additional $15 per month.

As a result, it would cost me $39.95 extra per month to subscribe to this EV-DO service. Except for the fact that I need it for perhaps 15 days per year. The rest of the time, cheap or free WiFi hotspots do the job. So I can’t justify an ongoing subscription for this service.

But here’s the thing: VZW allows me to sign up for the service, then, when I don’t need it anymore, I call them back to cancel. The billing is ugly and almost incomprehensible, but at the end of the day I only get billed for the days I use EV-DO, at the rate of about $1.33 per day. A bargain for me.

But not for VZW. Here’s a litany of costs they incur, each time I set up the service:

Calls to tech support: 2 @ $10 (one call to activate, one call to deactivate)
Letters informing me of a change in service: 2 @ $2.50
Incremental billing costs for changes, prorates, etc.: unknown

Total: at least $25

For this trip, I will use the service for four days. Meaning VZW will get incremental revenue of $5.33, but spend $25, for a marginal contribution margin of ($19.67). Ugh.

Here’s my idea. VZW should offer a daily plan. [Virtually every other wireless ISP offers such a plan.] I would pay $5 per day for that plan. Have the signup be online rather than through tech support, meaning the incremental cost should be near zero. Have me sign up for exactly the number of days I need, and have deactivation be done automatically by the ordering system.

Related post: “Worst Practices in Product Management

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