Selling Smartphones Doesn't Just Mean Having Smartphones For Sale
By Mike Masnick, Tue Feb 08 03:00:00 GMT 2005

Cingular finally started offering the Treo 650 smartphone last week after a few delays. However, it looks like the company was barely prepared to actually sell the device. Operators have to stop pretending that these things sell themselves.

While it's wonderful to see that some operators are finally learning that they really need to sell mobile data services, rather than simply hoping people will figure them out, it's clear that not all operators are so enlightened. While most of the controversy over the (delayed) launch of the GSM/EDGE Treo 650 from PalmOne and Cingular came over PalmOne's bungling of the unlocked version's pricing (which some suggested came about after Cingular got worried that the unlocked version was too cheap), the real story might be that Cingular appears to have been completely unprepared for the launch of the device.

Having the device to sell and actually selling the device are two totally separate things. There's clearly been some pent up demand for a GSM/EDGE version of the device, so it's likely that initial sales will be just fine. However, stories are coming out from those who have bought the device and signed up for service that suggest that the front-line people at Cingular, including sales staff, customer service and the web marketing team were completely caught off-guard by the launch. First off, a single user was given very different information from almost everyone he spoke to concerning the plans that were available to him. This resulted in him having to make multiple trips to a Cingular store and multiple phone calls to Cingular staff -- and each time the information seemed to change, sometimes contradicting what he was told before, and sometimes leading him to make changes that took away benefits he'd been promised by others.

Even worse, when that same user later went to Cingular's website to find out the real information concerning the various mobile data plans he was being told about, it turns out that even Cingular's website had different and totally contradictory information showing two different charts describing the two major service offerings, but describing them in completely different ways with different limits and pricing.

For customers who are already confused by the wide array of choices and prices out there, how are they supposed to feel when the operator selling them the service can't keep it straight on its own website?