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Messaging for fun, profit

Tue, 05/01/2012 - 3:00pm
Brian Santo

Front Porch messaging serviceIn its rush to create a vast public Wi-Fi access network, a top 5 MSO forgot something absolutely basic: It forgot to notify its customers whose service they were using. It took months, but the operator finally accomplished the feat with the help of Front Porch.

Mobile users with multiple networks (3G, LTE, Wi-Fi) available to them – often from multiple vendors – can connect or reconnect automatically to whatever network nearby offers the strongest signal.

The operator in question believes its customers get the more reliable service and faster data rates from its Wi-Fi service. But its customers? They were connecting to a data service automatically, and for all they knew, they were getting great service from whoever their cellular company is.

The solution this MSO employed was to use messaging technology from Front Porch. (The MSO is not allowing Front Porch to identify it.)

Front Porch made its reputation by enabling service providers to display messages on their customers’ PC screens – billing information, usage data, emergency alerts, or any notification that might improve customer service or customer relations.

Front Porch and the MSO worked together for months to adapt Front Porch’s system to send messages to the MSO customers’ mobile devices.

The baseline capability was to simply brand the connection. A transparent window rolls up on users’ mobile device screens with the MSO’s logo on it.

The next thing was to make the window active, providing messaging for customer relations and connectivity for customer service. Subscribers who want to contact customer service can initiate an online chat.

Once interactivity is established, an obvious thing to do is also use it for promotions.

This MSO had been using email, print ads and other traditional advertising methods trying to get its customers with Apple phones to download its mobile TV app, all to little avail. When the MSO put the offer directly on its subscribers’ phone screens, however, 20 percent of targeted users downloaded the app.

Branding the service and branding the device, as this MSO is doing, are valuable services, Front Porch CEO Zach Britton told CED, but the technology has additional potential.

There are popular devices that can connect to the Internet but do not support SMS messaging (e.g., Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-reader). Front Porch is developing the capability to reach those devices.

Beyond that, there are use cases for messaging and notification that go well beyond use for corporate messaging. Service providers already have a rich bundle to which they’re adding new products.

“This could be an add-on to home security or landline services,” Britton noted. What if the system were tied in with customers’ landline VoIP services, so that they can be notified that they received calls or have messages waiting for them on their home phone? Customers of home monitoring services could get notified of events (e.g., a garage door being opened).

“The company is pursuing that ability,” Britton said.

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