Here's another one of my mobile biz ideas that I had written down in my outliner but hadn't blogged yet. I always have to fight that weird paranoia that comes over me when I get a neat idea like this in order to blog. I get an idea and I think it's genius and I want to keep it to myself so people don't "steal" it. But the fact is that implementation is 99.9% of any product or service, not just an idea. Look at the Redmond Borg, for example, they are all about implementation, not inspiration. Anyways, many times I write about the brilliant idea I had and then get a bunch of comments or emails telling me that it's been done already or is being done or is just plain dumb, so I've learned to not over-value my "brilliant" ideas. :-) Anyways, I was just writing a bit about this to Alan Reiter, who gave me a metric ton of link love yesterday, in response to an email he sent me and decided I better blog it before I got back to other things.
The idea is for a Knowledge Base and outsourced technical support for advanced mobile phones. Let's call it "MobKnowledge" (it's taking every ounce of will power I have not to rush right out and register the domain). The idea is that Telecoms are getting way over their head and I don't know if they know it. Each generation of cellphones are getting more complicated, services are getting harder to set up and problems are going to be more difficult to track down. If I called my carrier, Movistar, with a problem like "I just bought Opera for my Nokia 3650, but it won't run because it says I don't have enough memory" I would get absolutely ZERO support on that. I haven't tried, but I'm guessing that I'm right. I bet you would probably get the same response from T-Mobile, Orange, Sprint, Verizon or any other carrier as well.
And maybe you're thinking, "So what?" Well, if you can't use your phone's advanced features, you can't rack up the kbs. As the systems out there move towards 3G, data services are going to be more and more vital to the bottom line of the carriers. ARPUs (average revenue per user) are going to rule the day. If you can't figure your phone out, you won't use it, and if you don't use it, carriers won't be able to charge you for services. It's as simple as that. If MMS bewilders a client, they won't send them, or they won't send them as often. It's in the carriers best interest to make sure that users get the best support that's available to them.
Now, I'm not even necessarily talking about just "smart phones" like Symbian based models. Even the new SonyEricsson consumer models like the T610 and Z600 are chocked full of ways to download, send, play, etc. Each phone is going to have more and more accessories and packs and cards and games. And the carriers are going to sell all this to you gladly, but after that they can't just wash their hands and walk away. 1) The customers would freak out about the new product they bought not being supported and 2) they wouldn't use the services and that's where the cash is.
So MobKnowledge would have several features that I can envision right now.
Public Knowledge Base and FAQ that people can come to find answers to common problems with their phones. Links to online manuals, forums, and the opportunity to post questions to build up the database. It would be categorized by phone so that people could come and quickly find info for their phone, with full text searching etc. This would be available both by the web and by phone-based browsers.
Branded Knowledge Base - this would be for the operators to license. The Knowledge Base would provide answers only to the phones that the carrier sells, and also provide solutions to common setup problems, links to online support, etc.
Support Center Knowledge Base - this would be a customized and private web application that carriers could utilize for its internal support. Sales people and customer care could use the knowledge base, exchange notes, etc.
Full-On Outsourced Customer Care - this is beyond my vision at the moment, but I could imagine a turnkey solution where the carrier could say which phones it used, provide information about services it offers (GPRS, etc.) and all the online requests and phone calls go to a centralized support center where people trained to have thick Indian accents were available to answer mobile phone questions.
Right now the mobile phone world is complete chaos from a consumer point of view. Manufacturers (Nokia, Motorola, etc.), carriers (T-Mobile, Vodafone, Verizon, etc.), Operating System vendors (PalmSource, Symbian), and app vendors (Handspring) all might be points where a consumer might have to go to find a solution to their problem.
This service, in reality, is sort of a consumer version of the developer services that Diego has been pushing for Symbian. A centralized repository of solutions and answers. In fact, MobKnowledge could benefit from a developer's Knowledge Base as well, which contained similarly organized information but from a programmers perspective.
I see a real need for this, and a real demand from carriers... what do you think?