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Decision Management and the idiocy of “video bills”


Listening to Marketplace yesterday I heard a piece on AT&T’s new “video bills.” Now I am sure this sounds cute to the folks in the AT&T marketing department and you can just hear the conversation can’t you? Someone points out that people hate their bills, that the customer service people are deluged with people calling who don’t understand their bill, that misunderstandings in billing cause lots of retention and other issues. It’s clearly way too hard to actually improve the bills – and I am not being sarcastic, it probably IS way too hard – so someone comes up with the idea of explaining the bills in a YouTube video and voila! Video bills.


Already suspicious of what I would find I watched the video. I full expected it to be completely generic and I was at least a little surprise that it did seem to use your actual bill numbers. But as I listed to it I realize it is full or imprecise words and phrases like “usually”, “employer or organization”, “activating or changing.” It shows you where a one time fee is on the bill and explains what “one time” means but it never says what the fee was for. At the end of the day the video is more or less completely generic. Yet when I have issues with my bill it is normally about specific charges, specific calls, specific issues with a specific bill. A video like this is not going to reduce the likelihood that I am going to call customer support or be unhappy with my bill.

A decision management approach would take a different tack – in fact we actually worked with a different mobile telco to address this exact topic. At the end of the day what is needed is a decision service that can look at a customer and a specific bill and answer the question “why might this customer not understand this bill.” In classic decision management style it is specific to both the customer and the bill. It applied a bunch of rules (derived from experienced customer service personnel as well from the billing system) to the specific items on the bill looking for things like discounts that had expired, roll over minutes from previous months, changes in plans and more. The result of the decision service would be a set of potential issues with explanations that could be presented to the customer service representative, through a web interface or even added to the bill!

It might not be a video but it would, in fact, answer the questions a customer had about their bill. Personalized, specific, decision-centric.


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