Recently I posted a blog on the need for mobile operators to adapt their marketing as their customers’ data consumption and usage changes dramatically with the continued increase in the penetration of smart phones as well as the introduction of super-fast 4G networks which make downloading of HD movies and other large data files much quicker.

This past Sunday the New York Times ran an interesting article making much the same point – with a slight twist. The point of the NYT article was that most people understand what they are buying when they buy minutes of talk time per month or so many text messages per month as part of a plan, but they do not know what exactly a gigabyte is, nor is it always clear to them when they exceed their monthly plan allocations. This is a prescription for sticker shock and customer outrage and complaints down the road. The carriers quoted in the article mostly responded by saying that customers can figure out where they are on their plans by logging on to their website. Seriously? Do they know how many of their customers actually do this? I am sure it would be easy for them to find out. My guess would be – not too many.

A more customer friendly experience would be for the carriers to monitor usage (which is easy to do) and communicate proactively on an as needed basis with each customer as appropriate. After all, these are supposed to be communication service providers! How about periodic messages after major downloads or when potential thresholds are reached – for example if you are on a pace to overshoot your monthly plan or when you reach certain user defined thresholds such as 90% of your monthly allowance? Perhaps this can even be combined with offers to upgrade the plan either for that month or for the length of the contract. They could even ask the customer for their notification preference when signing up for a data plan and permit them to alter these preferences online, through the use of preference centers. Anything that gives customer more information and control would serve to enhance the customer experience, both perceived and real. It will also improve customer satisfaction and, probably, long term revenue and customer value.

Or would the carriers just prefer that customers be kept in the dark in the hope that they exceed their plans and run up really big bills? Is it possible that they really are that myopic or have they just not thought through this?

What do you think?