T-Mobile’s “Family Allowances” Showcases Online Infusion

T-Mobile recently introduced a new feature called “Family Allowances” that provides online controls to help parents monitor and manage their kids’ phone usage. The features, which customers can control from the T-Mobile Website, include:

  • Setting limits for messages, minutes, and downloads for each phone
  • Defining the times of day when a phone can be used, or not used
  • Establishing “Always Allowed” numbers (like calling home) that work even when the limits are exceeded, and blocking other numbers

My take: This is another great example of a disruptive customer experience strategy that I call online infusion (designing offerings that natively incorporate online capabilities as part of the core product definition). These features go beyond the basic definition of of a wireless service, which usually just focuses on the features of the handset and the network, to address a broader set of needs for a specific customer segment: parents of young kids. The feature incorporates online controls as a core piece of the offering, instead of just using the Web as a channel for researching, buying, and getting customer service.

The “Family Allowances” plan incorporates features similar to a previous service called Disney Mobile that Disney built using the Sprint/Nextel network. I really liked the features of that offering, but the business did not work out in the US (it’s still operating in Japan). It makes more sense for existing carriers like T-Mobile to incorporate those features into their offerings, then to create an entirely new carrier.

Other online infusion examples that I’ve discussed in this blog include the Kindle, NetFlix, and Webkinz. To develop your own disruptive strategies, take a look at this post: Customer Experience Innovation: As Simple As 1-2-3.

The bottom line: As more consumers get more comfortable doing more things online, there will be an abundance of opportunities for online infusion.

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I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

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