The Case for Wireless Carriers to Track Your Every Move

In 2011, several wireless carriers were caught using CarrierIQ software to track all interactions on mobile devices.  It was found that the software could track even the most sensitive user information, including user keystrokes.  Senator Al Franken, among others, lobbied against the carriers and CarrierIQ, on the basis of violating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.  From the perspective of privacy advocates, tracking user keystrokes was going too far, particularly when wireless carriers could not provide good reason for using this data beyond its sale to third parties for commercial benefit.  As a result, wireless carriers previously using CarrierIQ immediately removed the software and distanced themselves from the company.

I am by no means advocating the tracking of user behavior for monetary gain.  But, what if the wireless carriers had the right idea to store keystroke information, just the wrong end game?  What if the end game was customer experience?  Google, Amazon, Apple and others use customer experience to guide product support design.  Google’s predictive text is based largely on the same keystroke analytics that generated negative buzz about wireless carriers.  When Amazon Prime Instant Video launched, I streamed a movie with my wife.  In the middle of the stream, we experienced about 20 seconds of a jittery screen and digital bleeding.  The next day, without prompting, I received an email from Amazon stating they noticed that my streaming experience wasn’t as smooth as it could have been.  They both credited me for the movie, and gave me a credit towards a movie for future use.  Why too, can’t wireless carriers have a similar use for analytics? Analytics provide several key opportunities to improve customer experience in the wireless space.

Predictive Customer Support

What if the wireless carriers enabled CarrierIQ-like software for your cell phone, to help solely with customer support and technical issues?  Imagine calling in to technical support about your phone resetting three times in the past four days.  Technical support could use this information to determine what apps were being used and which apps were still running in the background, in addition to the specific processes that were running, how much memory the device had, and was any other processes occurring on the phone at the exact time of the reset.  If you took it one step further, this information could automatically be sent to back-end support with automatic issue resolution on the back end-- no customer outreach required.  Wireless carriers could then send a tip guide as an added touch point that closes the loop on the issue and helps ensure that the device is working properly.

Full Transparency with the Customer

By opening up a trusted two-way communication between customer and wireless carrier, all sorts of possibilities arise.  Imagine self-healing networks that can tell when cell coverage is weak based on factors such as proximity to cell tower, device interactions, and proximity to home or work. Wireless carriers could use this information to determine if cell boosters or other services are needed to improve the service without involving the customer.  This transparency also creates exciting opportunities in the area of self-service, as information made available to consumers would empower them to troubleshoot without carrier involvement.

Or, think about data usage.  Remember the old line-item detail of cell phone calls?  What if customers had similar access to data usage, grouped by application, website, and by device– e.g. cell phone, tablet, child’s device, etc. Wireless carriers could easily measure pings to the network, apps that are running erroneously, and reverse pings to your device by known or potential malicious locations and sites.  By committing to use customer data for the sole purpose of creating a better experience, wireless carriers break free from the widely-held perception that they’re always trying to pull one over on the customer.  Transparency becomes the hallmark.

For years, wireless carriers have built practices on confusing terms, conditions, and fees.  T-Mobile took one small step in the right direction when they introduced a one-price fits all concept.  While this partially improves the customer experience from a billing standpoint, it still doesn’t hit at the heart of full transparency.  Full transparency creates quicker issue resolution, as well as empowered customers who are smarter about what is occurring on devices and who understand the factors impacting their overall wireless experience.

It’s time for wireless carriers to turn over a new leaf. Companies have an opportunity to use customer data, one of their most abundant assets, to improve customer experience and fuel competitive advantage.  As a first step, they must commit to using data for the right reasons: that which streamlines customer support and creates the transparency that enables both support staff and customers to get the most out of the wireless experience.