AT&T expands 'video bill' service

The AT&T logo is seen atop a paper phone bill. A new video service aims to explain to customers where their money is going.

It sometimes seems there is nothing as complicated as a cell phone bill. AT&T says it's come up with a solution. The company is going to make monthly statements available as videos, customized for every customer.

“Even I don’t understand some of the things on my bill,” admits Joan Engebretson, executive editor of Telecompetitor, a website that focuses on the telecom industry.

AT&T didn’t get back to us, but Weston Henderek, with Current Analysis, says the company is finally acknowledging wireless statements are too complicated. Which brings us to the video bill...

“If a customer can hear it explained via voice, it’s going to be easier for them to understand,” Hendrek says. “Or at least the perception will be it is easier to understand.”

According to Henderek, smart phones have made wireless statements even harder to figure out.

“Customers know they’re using data, but it’s difficult to understand exactly how that’s billed for,” he explains.

That’s especially true if you have more than one phone line. James Breen, a senior analyst with William Blair and Company, notes a video bill could come in handy if Mom, Dad and the kids are all on one statement.

“And you do get that occasional, you know, $400 bill, it’ll make it easier to figure out who the culprit is, on the family side,” he says.

According to Breen, the video bill is part of a trend. Consumers don’t want to have to figure something out. Why follow a recipe when there’s a YouTube of someone baking?

“Instead of having to read how to cook the cake, they actually show you how to do it,” he says.

If this technology works for cell phone bills, it may have other applications… The only thing more inscrutable than a wireless statement is a doctor’s bill.

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

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