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Posted by Doug Williams on August 25, 2009
Today Verizon announced a new customer service channel for its FiOS subscribers. Dubbed "Verizon In-Home Agent," it's a desktop application that gives customers access to the type of back-office functions that typically require a call to a customer service agent. Customers can use the tool to set up email accounts, configure a PC to work on a home network, upgrade TV channel packages, or modify phone or voice mail features, among other things.
When it comes to customer service, Verizon has just upped the ante on convenience. As noted in my recent Convenience Quotient report on customer service, Web self-service is a popular method for consumers to resolve customer service issues, but FAQs/search, email and online chat have their own drawbacks. Here, Verizon gives consumers the control and the content to resolve their own service issues without involving the company at all, if they wish. That's a huge benefit to some consumers -- not to mention Verizon -- although less tech-savvy consumers may be hesitant to use the In-Home Agent no matter how simple Verizon claims it to be.
Moreover, in certain circumstances, the application may actually drive higher revenue. Giving consumers direct control over their accounts will allow them to upgrade channel tiers or broadband speeds without involving customer service. That's nice and all, but wouldn't it be even better to take advantage of consumers' impulsive tendencies? How about enabling short-term "on-demand" access to channels or faster broadband when consumers need or want it? That way they can spend $3 to watch the English Premier League match, or $5 to watch a movie on HBO Family, or $2 to boost upload speeds for 15 minutes when posting vacation photos on Facebook. This will only work, though, if the experience delivers tangible benefits with few barriers to adoption -- the very definition of convenience, in Forrester's view.