Its like he’s TRYING to bait me! Is it really JUST about price?
Chris Kranky (great blog name, btw Chris!) writes in his post today that he feels consumer broadband VoIP adoption is done; on the downward spiral as it were. Chris seems to feel that since Skype has more web traffic than Vonage then Vonage must have reached all 3 million tech savvy consumers in its market. Huh? This doesn’t make sense. Is he saying that only 3 million North Americans are tech savvy enough to use consumer VoIP? So the other 283 million are too dumb to use it? Or just don’t have broadband? Either way I think you’re out by…oh I don’t know, 100 million people or so.
Chris further goes on to cite some unrelated webtraffic numbers as part of his argument that consumer voip is possibly a dying breed. Again, I’m not sure where this argument comes from or how web traffic numbers from Alexa (worldwide) actually relate to North American consumer VoIP usage. It seems like a bit of a reach for an argument to me.
The very end of Chris’s post is a the statement (partially in bold font yet!) that ” none of these VoBB providers seem to have any product offer that would entice the next slice of the consumer pizza to jump into VoIP. I repeat — it has to be cheaper & better.” I think this misses something a bit. If we really decide that VoIP has to be cheaper then we drop the starting flag on the race to zero. Trust me on this, the iLec’s and MSO’s will win that race when they decide to play (and they will); they have much deeper pockets and better marketing groups. No, the answer is not to be cheaper and better, the answer is to offer more value.
There is a substantial difference between cheaper and better value. If product A and product B are the same price, the one that has the widget I need will win my business. Add the bonus of strong customer service and they will win my loyalty also. I shop at Harry Rosen’s for dress clothes instead of Men’s Warehouse because although they are pricier, the quality is much higher and the customer service is unbeatable. Also, I must say that it’s been my experience in 30-some years as a consumer that cheaper very rarely means better. No, the answer to expanding consumer VoIP adoption has not so much to do with price as it has to do with compelling value. The typical consumer out there has no reason to switch from their landline phone right now. Vonage or Sunrocket or 8×8 may save them a few bucks, but there is plenty of bad propaganda and press about VoIP and 911, dropped calls, computer failure causing phone failure etc etc. What consumer VoIP needs is to start selling the values and stop selling the price. IP communications offers sooooo many tools that the typical consumer wants yet no one markets it.
Let me ask the 2 people who read my blog…do you know anyone (i mean anyone) between the ages of 12 and 25 who doesn’t use their PC to communicate on a regular basis? How about how many people do you know with an iPod or other MP3 player? Have you ever met anyone under 30 who hasn’t been to UTube at least once? Know anyone without a cell phone (I actually know one guy, but he “hippied out” after 10 years in the cell phone industry and said he didn’t want one ever more)? The truth is, consumers ARE somewhat tech savvy and DO have the knowlege to know features. And they’re willing to pay for them. How many people do you suppose would use text messaging from their home phone if they could? Call display on the TV? Presence on the home phone? Video call to grandma Christmas morning with the kids opening presents?
Now, sure, some of these features wouldnt pass the grandma test yet, but the reality is that the grandma factor is fast becoming a nonplayer. I know my parents who are not especially tech savvy but are in their late 60s own a cell phone AND a TV. And over the years they have gotten use to the fact that no matter where in the world I am when they call my Vancouver number, I answer the phone. Heck I even caught my mom forwarding calls to her mobile!!! Sure there are lots of people who don’t have need or want for advanced features, but for them the legacy networks are still in place. For the rest of the population (and it is probably close to a majority of north americans) VoIP can offer a LOT of useful features.
What I believe the consumer VNO’s of the world need to do is stop trying to sell cheap telephoning, and start selling high value communicating. The consumer VoIP market does not consist of ONLY the lowest common denominator.