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PhoneMiser's Reply to Cagey Consumer
PhoneMiser's Reply to the Cagey Consumer
November 4, 1997
Thank you for interest in PhoneMiser.
It's clear from your careful assessment of Long Distance rate comparisons
that you've put a lot of time into your consideration of the product.
Of course, we'd be happier if you came to a different conclusion - but more
about that later.
In the meantime, I'd like to offer some clarification to several of the
excellent points you raised, based on our fledgling experience in the retail
As you probably know, PhoneMiser is very new to the consumer LD marketplace,
and as such is really a work in progress.
Much of our ability to offer choice and real discounts in Long Distance is
intimately bound up with our relationships - both in place and
prospective - with our partner LD carriers.
This allows us the ability to continually introduce new rates, lower rates,
and different options to several categories of consumers.
But not necessarily all at once, and unfortunately not as quickly as we
would otherwise like.
Great ideas take time to find their own operational level, and while we're
very proud of how far we've come, we are also aware of how far there is to go.
And as I'm sure you can appreciate, it's harder to go far when you're being
shot at from the sidelines.
Here are several points that I feel merit your attention:
As you say, PhoneMiser is not for everyone.
Users who call exclusively within the continental US during night hours and
who have an aggressive discount plan probably will not see savings with
PhoneMiser to justify purchasing the product.
However, users like me who call domestically and internationally at all
hours can save a huge amount.
Our current customers report to us that their average phone bills were $200
Savings are extremely hard to predict because people's calling habits vary
Most discount long distance companies as well as the "big three" base their
savings claims on AT&T's "basic" (i.e. highest) rates.
We chose not to do this.
Our payback calculation assumes $60 of long distance charges with a 50/50 mix
of day and evening calling at $0.25/min and $0.10/min respectively,
netting about $30/month savings.
The savings are actually understated because neither the minimum call
duration nor one minute increments are factored in.
Be that as it may, we realize that users have widely varying calling
patterns and that actual savings will also vary greatly from individual to
That's why we offer the service free for the initial period and why we have
posted the Interactive Rate Finder on our web site.
PhoneMiser requires a Windows95 PC with Pentium and 16MB of memory.
The owners of such PCs are more likely than the average consumer to have
higher long distance bills and more various calling patterns.
According to IDC, consumers with PCs in the home spend in excess of $60/month
on long distance service.
My mother, who definitely does not fit the PhoneMiser target customer profile,
doesn't own a PC.
PhoneMiser will not route calls over "dial around" carriers
with "casual caller" surcharges.
PhoneMiser places calls using the CICs of our partner LD carriers which
are available for a given subscriber based on location.
The rates charged have been negotiated by MediaCom with the carriers on
behalf of our subscribers and are not available except to PhoneMiser customers.
We have redesigned our
Interactive Rate Finder
to let prospective customers
determine PhoneMiser's savings based on their actual calling habits.
Take the long distance portion of an actual phone bill and see if PhoneMiser
would save you money.
If it does, you will know that based on your actual calling habits PhoneMiser
is good for you.
If not, don't buy it.
You are welcome to send all the visitors to your site to our Interactive
Rate Finder where they can check out the savings for themselves.
Your rate comparisons don't take into consideration international
calling - an area where PhoneMiser customers are seeing truly significant
Nor do they consider short duration domestic calls.
In general, phone companies offering "dime plans" have poor international
With PhoneMiser I find I am consistently using three phone companies depending
on where I am calling.
No other service I am aware of offers this kind of benefit.
Short calls are another big factor.
I used to use VARTEC at $0.10/minute, $5/month fee.
On my last pre-Phonemiser bill, 10 out of 21 domestic long distance calls
were listed as 3 minutes, meaning they were less, probably much less, than that.
The incidence of reaching answering machines or voice mail is very high
for many people.
Services which have a charge per call (Quest in your comparison, for instance)
really sock it to users who get a machine.
Your Cost Calculator does not take either of these factors into consideration.
Again, our Interactive Rate Finder will let anyone enter items from their
actual phone bill and get a comparison of what they would have paid with
We have recently introduced a software version of PhoneMiser that is available
by free download from our web site.
This software will allow users to originate calls from their PC (using the modem
to dial) with PhoneMiser LCR rates.
This will also be available on CD-ROM with a small fee to cover
CD-ROM production, shipping and handling.
We have lowered the price of the hardware adapter to $49.95.
The adapter's purpose is to let people dial from their phones in the normal way.
The initial period of use is free.
For purchasers of our PhoneMiser Personal Edition (sold at Egghead and other
retail chains) this period is three months.
For the free software version the period is one month.
Any user who does not see sufficient savings may cancel the service at no
cost within this period.
Eli, we're on the same side as you are.
We want to save customers money on their phone bills and believe that only
by doing so can we justify the purchase and use of our service.
You would do a service to those who check with you for advice about
telecommunications if you were to clarify your assessment of PhoneMiser
to say that users with small long distance bills and no international content are not likely to benefit, while those with higher bills and a mix of domestic and international calls may benefit greatly.
In any event, any prospective PhoneMiser user should check our Interactive
Rate Finder to see if PhoneMiser fits their calling habits before they buy.
We believe that's fair and we are happy to stand to that test.
If we save a user money we are a good service for that user, otherwise not.
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