Selecting a Mobile Phone Family Plan for a Family in Transition

Moments of Truth in Consumer Telecommunications

July 5, 2007

With his 18-year-old twins off to college, one in Canada, M.T. Nestor needs a new family mobile phone plan to keep the family connected. In this Test-drive report, we apply the Product Select and Buy Customer Scenario pattern and its “I want to find the product or service that best addresses my requirements” Moment of Truth for a customer’s research, comparison, and selection activities for a mobile phone family plan.


M.T. Nestor’s twins are off to college, one in Michigan and one in Canada. To keep the family in touch, he needs to find a new family plan for mobile voice and text communication. In this Test-drive report, we apply the Product Select and Buy Customer Scenario pattern and its “I want to find the product or service that best addresses my requirements” Moment of Truth for a customer’s research, comparison, and selection activities for a new mobile phone family plan.

In our scenario, M.T.’s Moment of Truth is to easily identify a calling plan that meets all of his family’s voice and texting needs.

The customer metrics for this moment of truth include the ability to find all the information he needs without making even one phone call, finding this information on each potential provider’s Web site within 15 minutes, being able to find an affordable plan with a minimum of 1000 shared minutes for under $120 per month, and that family plan includes calls to and from Canada for the $120 price.

To gather the information he needs to make a decision, M.T. visits the Web sites of

  • AT&T/Cingular
  • T-Mobile
  • Verizon Wireless

RESULTS. The requirement for having full capabilities to and from Canada are obviously not common. All the providers offer pricing and plans for making it cheaper to communicate with someone based in Canada, but none really have a plan offering that allows the Canadian-based family member to take full advantage of a plan’s capabilities with only a monthly fee—additional per minute prices were universally charged, although this cost varied based on the provider and plan. Other that that, T-Mobile came out on top.


In the Product Select and Buy Customer Scenario pattern, customers want to acquire products or services that meet their requirements. Most typically, customers follow a sequence of activities that:

  • Perform research for the product/service
  • Compare similar products/services along criteria that are meaningful to their usage of the product or service
  • Select the product or service that they feel best addresses their selection criteria.

A customer’s key Moment of Truth in this Customer Scenario pattern is “I want to find the product or service that best addresses my requirements.” The Metrics for this Moment of Truth qualify or quantify the time to perform the research and comparison, the ease with which they can be performed, the channel on which they can be performed, and, ultimately, that a selection that meets the customer’s specific parameters can be made within the customers’ desired time frame.

Select a Mobile Phone Family Plan

In this Moment of Truth Test-drive report, we’ll role play the customer persona who uses online, self-service facilities to research, compare, and select a family plan for mobile phone calling and text messaging to suit his family’s needs. We’ll name this customer persona M.T. Nestor.

M.T. is looking for a new plan because his 18-year-old twins, Martin and Theresa, are going off to college, and his wife, Marie, wants to make sure that it is very easy for the family to stay in touch. Not only is she concerned about the twins calling her and her husband, but the kids are going to different colleges—one in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the other in Montreal, Canada—and they have never been apart for any length of time. Therefore, text messaging between the countries is very important. The Nestors are a bit concerned about the Canada requirement, suspecting that U.S.-based plans aren’t set up to provide this type of border-crossing flexibility in standard plans.

Because M.T. is better at this sort of research and decision making, he is charged with finding the right plan at the right price. However, as the owner/manager of a restaurant, he has very limited time to investigate options, and he wants to do his research online in his few spare minutes during the day… and night.

M.T.’s Moment of Truth is, “I can easily find a family plan that meets all my needs.” His metrics for this Moment of Truth are:

1. I can find all the information I need on the Web site without making a single telephone call.

2. I can find an affordable plan (under $120 per month) with sufficient minutes (over 1000 per month).

3. The plan supports calls to and from Canada within the plan cost of $120 per month; M.T. does understand that there will most likely be incremental costs for calling and messaging to and from Canada, but he hopes to find a plan that minimizes these costs.

4. I can find the answers to all my questions on each Web site within 15 minutes of research.

His conditions of satisfaction (criteria) include:

  • Able to keep current cell phone numbers for the phone lines
  • Reasonable costs for calls/text messages to/from Canada
  • Competitive pricing
  • Minimal commitment (1 year) to get best pricing
  • Excellent coverage in key areas: Boston, Montreal, and Ann Arbor
  • Rollover minutes (ability to keep unused minutes for the next month)

The mobile phone service providers that we’ve selected for this Test-drive are (alphabetically):

  • AT&T/Cingular
  • T-Mobile
  • Verizon

In Table A, we list and describe the relevant Customer Scenario components for the Moment of Truth Test-drive.

I Want to Acquire a Credit Card
(Please download PDF to see the table.)
Table A. In this table, we provide a context for M.T.’s Customer Scenario. We also note his Moment of Truth and the metrics which will indicate whether the mobile communications provider being researched meets or exceeds M.T.’s expectations and tolerance vis à vis his customer experience. Finally, we capture the criteria upon which M.T. will base his choices, which helps specify what information he will be looking for.

Test-Drive Approach

We will play the roles of M.T. as he visits the sites of the three mobile communications providers. As M.T., we’ll take the following approach to navigating the sites and using their facilities:

  • Go to the mobile providers’ home pages.
  • Navigate to information on family plans.
  • Use plan comparison tools if they’re available.
  • Determine costs for basic telephone service and contractual commitment.
  • Determine costs for text messaging package.
  • Determine costs for calls/texting to/from Canada.
  • Determine if I can transfer existing phone numbers to new provider.

This is M.T.’s plan. However, he might well deviate from this sequence if the opportunity presents itself to answer questions during his research.

M.T. (and we) will visit the Web sites in alphabetical order...


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