Every time the topic of cell phones comes up in casual conversation with my friends and family (as if that ever happens), it seems like one of them is upset for one reason or another. There is constant banter about how "Verizon's customer service sucks!" or "I'm eligible for upgrade but AT&T doesn't have any phones I like."
If there is a will, people will find any and all reasons to complain, especially about their carrier. And in my experience, they all have been about the same when it comes to customer service, pricing (excluding data) and plan offerings. But that doesn't stop people from constantly thinking about jumping ship and learning the hard way that they're likely going to have similar issues on the next wireless provider they sign a contract with.
To be fair, there are some legitimate reasons to leave a carrier – like poor service, crazy and outlandish billing errors that take months to fix and so on and so forth. But what I'm talking about here are the customers that have few reasons to stay and feel like they should switch for the sake of switching.
And that's the point. Other than simply being content, having a grandfathered plan and your carrier having a better selection of devices than the next, there is little reason for anyone to stick with their carrier. This only makes me question why carriers aren't doing more to give people a reason to stay, to make them want to stay.
All of the promotions and discounts seem to be aimed towards new customers with new accounts. For instance, when you purchase a phone from a carrier as a new subscriber, the device may be further subsidized than it would be for a customer who is upgrading. Or new customers will be offered bundles, like Verizon's notorious BOGO deals. Currently, a customer upgrading on Verizon will pay $99.98 (plus applicable taxes) for two Pantech Breakouts. However, if you're signing up with Verizon as a new customer and want two Pantech Breakouts, the second device is free and you will only pay $49.99 plus taxes for the agreement. Similar deals and bonus promotions for first-time buyers can be found on every carrier.
But why? It doesn't even make sense. Loyal, paying customers who have been on board for five, ten even 15 years are not usually (officially) eligible for promotions. Yet someone who may not even keep service for two weeks does?
I understand it's all a ploy to bring new customers in to add new subscribers. But what about the ones who have been around since the dawn of time? Why not allow them to enjoy the promotions and give them a good reason to stick around for even longer?
The only effort I've seen in this area as of late comes from an upcoming promotion that was leaked by our friends over at SprintFeed. Beginning Sunday and running through the second week in April, Sprint will be running a trial promotion, which allows existing customers to "Upgrade Now."
Essentially, if you have been in your current contract for more than eight months, you can pay a relatively small fee and upgrade to a new device by signing another two-year agreement. Obviously, this will not save customers money, but it will give them exactly what they want, the ability to, within reason, upgrade at any time. Well, almost any time. (It sure beats the idea of leasing a phone.) The respective fees (picture above) will be correlated to how far into your contract you are when you want to upgrade – the newer your contract, the more you will pay. Still, it beats buying a phone sans contract.
The exemptions are:
- Customers that have upgraded less than 8 months ago
- Corporate accounts
- Customers in collections
- Airave and tablet accounts
- iDEN devices
Of course, a provider can't go willy nilly with promotions, else they risk losing money over time. If old promotions never die, a long-time customer could be racking up some sweet deals – like a no-longer-existent, cheaper calling plan, unlimited data and some oddball text messaging plan from yesteryear – and paying little for them. And early upgrades (with additional fees at that) will only appeal to so many people.
There are many other possible promotions that providers could extend to existing customers to show their appreciation. For example, since tiered data is the future, and grandfathered plans may eventually be throw to the wayside, carriers could offer additional bytes to long-time customers. For every year you're with the carrier, they could tag a few hundred extra megabytes (or gigabytes, even) onto your plan. (i.e.: every two years, you get an extra gigabyte added to your allotment). They could offer plans that are only eligible to customers who have been with the company for two or more years – scaled seniority plans, if you will.
All we, the long-time loyals, ask is for a little more appreciation in the form of exclusive promotions and deals that are only available to long-time customers. The ones that were around have slowly and quietly disappeared over the years.
What say you, folks? Have you felt somewhat unappreciated by your carrier? Do you think promotions, like Sprint's Upgrade Now trial, are in order? What about BOGO offerings to existing families?
Image via BGR