I’m sitting in a comfortable armchair. In my left-hand is a cup of coffee, while my right is navigating the screen in front of me. The computer is asking me about my favourite colours. In the corner of the display I can see the home-screen of my handset customising in real-time as the system suggests a palette to meet my tastes.
I am in the retail outlet of a forward-thinking network operator.
I’ve already determined my preferred hardware after a short conversation with a helpful member of staff: they were able to demonstrate the camera capabilities and music playback to convince me this was the right handset for me needs. This operator has taken the bold step of actually allowing customers to play with real handsets rather than plastic mock-ups before paying several hundred pounds for their device.
There’s no need to explain my usage habits to determine the best tariff – the operator’s back-office systems have already analysed my usage patterns and suggested the most cost-effective plan. The same systems will automatically adjust my tariff in the future to ensure I am receiving the best pricing.
By the time the sales representative sits me down in front of the Product Customiser, all that remains is for them to fetch me a cup of coffee and check back every so often to make sure I’m doing okay.
The systems takes me through a series of questions.
Who do I use for my email? Would I like to see a summary of my messages at the top of my home-screen? No problem…just have to enter my username and password for the service and everything is configured for me. What about TV? Would it be helpful to be reminded when there is footage of my favourite sports team available via the operator’s mobile TV service? Yes, I guess that would be interesting, how about we put that underneath the email list.
What’s my Flickr username? Would I like my camera phone pictures automatically re-sized and uploaded to Flickr when I take them?
Would I like the presence status of my most frequent contacts displayed on my home-screen? Yes, but not all of them – just the top 5 – and they can go down the left-hand side, next to the email and television listings.
At the bottom of the Product Customiser screen, I can see a running tally of how much these services will cost as part of my monthly subscription. At the end of the process, the system will ask me if I’d like to reduce my bill by 10 percent by opting-in to receive a weekly advertisement from a relevant sponsor.
Do I like playing games? There is a top 10 selection available, based on the buying habits of previous customers with preferences similar to mine – if I buy two, I get the third free. Sure, why not? They’re only GBP 5 each – I’m already spending a few hundred pounds on a handset – a little extra to keep me entertained won’t hurt.
By now the home-screen of my handset is looking quite complete. My most frequent contacts are in the left-hand column, my email messages are displayed at the top of the right-hand column and beneath those is a link to previous video downloads for my sports team and list of upcoming games. The colour scheme reflects my personal preference rather than the corporate branding of the operator. The games I bought are listed at the bottom of the screen under the heading ‘Recently purchased…’
I hit the ‘Customise’ button and at the back of the shop my device is automatically configured over the air. My sales representative returns with my handset, fully charged, and takes a few minutes to step through the services with me and ensure I understand how everything works.
When I return home there is an email in my inbox with a link to the web-page that will allow me to update the customisation of my home-screen at any time. When I make changes on the handset itself, they will be automatically synchronised with the operator’s server. It also tells me the name of the sales representative who sold me the device – they will be my point of contact for service and support – and will receive a bonus based on the revenue I generate.