Transparency is a good thing, though not a panacea when suppliers deal with customers or politicians deal with the public trust. Being “transparent” about what should not be done is better than behaving irresponsibly and dishonorably.
But transparency--being open and honest about policies, behavior and practices--is not better than being “proper.”
In the mobile business, the recent furor over “Carrier IQ” illustrates the issue. Transparency and customer experience
The issue there is secret “tracking” of mobile users.
Carrier IQ makes software that operators including AT&T and Sprint (News - Alert) Nextel install in mobile devices. The software transmits data that Carrier IQ says allows mobile operators to better understand their devices and networks.
But it has come under fire following reports that its software collects and transmits potentially sensitive data about phone users. The company says it is just a diagnostic tool. But many are not completely convinced.
Google (News - Alert) does not work with nor does it support Carrier IQ, the software maker which has been accused of violating millions of mobile phone users' privacy rights, Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt (News - Alert) says. Google and Carrier IQ
On the other hand, transparency sometimes is a necessary and useful policy when end users actually might benefit from some amount of anonymous aggregation of behavior.
With more subscribers comes more traffic, and this means customers can sometimes experience inconsistent service availability and performance due to network bottlenecks, say Yankee Group (News - Alert) researchers Sheryl Kingstone and Brian Partridge.
Many times these quality of service (QoS) issues are not mapped to individual subscribers, making it impossible to identify device performance issues such as battery drainage, application-specific challenges and/or connection issues such as dropped calls that must be corrected through traditional network management tools.
For example, one study of more than 19,000 support calls for a major pan-European retailer found that in over 63 percent of attempted device returns, there was no physical fault with the device hardware or software.
The cause was instead traced to poor user education or a problem in setup and configuration. In both cases, a competent support infrastructure would have been able to resolve many of these issues quickly and efficiently.
Carrier IQ was formed to solve that very issue and allow operators to understand the true QoE subscribers are having on their networks, say Sandstone and Partridge.
In Yankee Group surveys, 85 percent of respondents say they want contact centers to have immediate access to network information. Remote diagnosis is among the top-three values contact center personnel people want when they run into issues and call a support center.
That is just behind the desire for empowered agents with the authority to fix their problem.
Carrier IQ’s software provides critical insights to a customer care operation by providing a detailed device profile, giving care agents proactive suggestions about how to improve experience, the Yankee Group researchers argue.
When a customer calls in with a battery issue, an agent can trace the problem to a recently downloaded power-hogging application and fix the issue on the spot. So at least some of the furor over Carrier IQ has to do with miscommunication about the value of monitoring, but also privacy protections.
At the very least, service providers haven’t understood that need, in this case. Tracking and monitoring of devices can be a very valuable way of troubleshooting problems and fixing network issues that degrade user experience. But those steps seem always to raise privacy concerns that are best handled not only "transparently," but ethically.
Gary Kim (News - Alert) is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Gary’s articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Rich Steeves