Back at CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment in San Francisco a few weeks ago I got the chance to chat with some folks from SNAPin and get a demo of what they're doing behind the scenes to make cellular customer service better. I can't think of anyone I know who owns a mobile phone and hasn't had a bad experience calling 611 to get help with billing, service choices, or equipment problems. That's not to say there aren't good customer service departments out there, but let's face it: unknowledgeable service reps and long hold times are all too common in the cellular world.
SNAPin is trying to change all of that with their SelfService product suite. SNAPin works in conjunction with mobile operators who deploy the software on handsets used by end consumers like you and me. The software is designed to do everything from repairing broken features on handsets - for example, fixing faulty email settings - to providing automated customer service - such as over the air billing and payment services - via a graphical user interface.
SNAPin's software may also be used by carriers to promote features and services based on customer use habits - for instance, a trigger can be set to alert a user to advanced messaging features on his handset once the user has sent a certain number of SMS messages. As such, SNAPin divides their services into three categories: Campaign, Care, and Configure.
Company reps told me the "Campaign" triggering service is designed to help end users get the most out of equipment and service options that they might not know about, like the "fourth and fifth" features on a phone that often lay unused because they're buried beneath a few layers of menus. While the triggers can be used by operators to up-sell pay-per-use services, the intent is to sell consumers on services that they'd likely be interested in anyway, based on recent usage patterns.
I saw a demo of the service running on a T-Mobile Dash, and it was pretty cool. Alerts were passed to the Dash via discrete text bubbles, sent based either on behind-the-scenes work done by the carrier (when an OTA update is sent, or a faulty setting repaired), or triggered by user input (as in an automated 611 scenario). The Configure part of SNAPin's service sent "tips and tricks" alerts to the handset based on questions and issues raised by other Dash users as well as pre-selected topics related to the specific handset and platform (in this case, Windows Mobile 6). The demo was pretty cool, and featured an opt-out option for folks either already comfortable with their phones or those who'd rather not be bothered with learning something new.
The service appeared to work well, and SNAPin aims to save carriers an arm and a leg by automating service tasks that would ordinarily require costly service center calls. They also want to save consumers headaches brought on by those same service calls. I'm all for that.
SNAPin is already working with European operators like British Telecom and Orange, and has conducted 10 commercial trials with operators around the globe. They've also signed on with a "Tier 1 US Carrier" to commercially deploy a solution sometime in the coming months. You can't download SNAPin to run on your phone yourself, but if you notice advanced on-screen tips and tricks or customer service options over the next year or so, odds are you'll have SNAPin to thank.
Learn more about SNAPin from here.