Clearwire may lose potential customers, here’s why
Syl and I took a look a few different internet options aside from the usual: cable, DSL, or FIOS. The requirements were that the service would need to be a) temporary, b) able to be shared, c) free of obtrusive installations, and d) convenient – no long-term contract requirements. Two options immediately sprang to mind – EVDO access using a Sprint data card + Kyocera KR1 router or Clearwire.
Due to the fact that Sprint would require an actual long-term contract, we decided to check out Clearwire which offers month-to-month service. Clearwire launched with the intent of providing nationwide Wi-Max broadband access to the masses. Since 2004, Clearwire has added a handful of major metropolitan cities to its service coverage map.
The convenience of online shopping, right?
In todays internet age, I find it more convenient and efficient to utilize online resources to make purchases. Purchasing service through http://clearwire.com should be no different from completing an order through http://sprint.com, http://cingular.com, or http://comcast.com. Unfortunately, a recent scenario proved that shopping online can still feel very alien.
Welcome to clearwire.com
Immediately, we visit http://clearwire.com. We are greeted with a general landing page with a clear-cut navigation, an invitation to "Save up to $100 when you order online today" (Bingo!), three service option summaries, a quick "Get pricing and service availability", and an invitation for "Live chat".
How much and is it available in the neighborhood?
We’re both informed, we know what Clearwire is all about, and we understand that Wi-Max coverage is still being rolled out. Let’s fast forward, check coverage availability, and enter the address where service will be used. Visitors have a convenient form for entering a street address, zip code, and floor. Floor?
I know Clearwire means to convey a message along the lines of "How many floors are in the home or building where the service will be used? This is important because your connection quality relies heavily on the modems ability to acquire a strong signal. Physical structures may prevent the modem from receiving the strongest signal possible.", but how would the average Joe looking to leave Comcast interpret the option?
Let’s assume that everyone understands that the option refers to the number of floors in the building where service will be used. Let’s also assume that service at the address is available but that I live on the 2nd floor of a 4 floor complex. Would I enter option 2 since I live on the second floor? Or, do I enter 4 because I live in a complex with 4 floors? What If I lived on the ground floor of an 8 floor apartment? If this extensive of a preliminary inquiry is required, users might as well be asked to enter whether or not they live in a brick, all steal, concrete, or wood structure. There are no directions or hints explaining why "floor" is so important. [No reference in the FAQ] Sprint or Verizon don’t ask whether I’ll be sitting in a garage, lounging at home, or walking outside during service usage.
Experimenting with a number of different scenarios, the resulting page which expresses whether coverage is available mentions nothing about what affect the floor may have on your service.
Our first few attempts checking coverage availability resulted with the above image. Because of this initial hurdle, we were unable to find out how much the service would be on a month-to-month basis. As potential customers, it would be much easier to see a quick overview of the pricing tiers – for comparison with other services – before having to enter any type of personal information.
I’m having issues ordering, can I talk to a sales rep?
After realizing that little progress was going to be made as far as ordering service online was concerned, we resorted to contacting a sales or support representative. At the time of posting, the Live Chat graphical links redirected to an email form with the prompt that no representatives were available. With that in mind, we located a telephone number at the top right corner of the page next to Store Locater. The number reads 1-888-Clearwire – C-L-E-A-R-W-I-R-E = 9 characters which when added to 1-888 would equal 13. Your standard telephone number is comprised of 10 – this might throw a few people off.
1-888-Clearwire = 1-888-253-2794-73 which does not equal the 1-888-253-2794 shown in FAQ. Regardless, we dial and listen to the available prompts for opening new service. Calling from both a 206 & 425 area code numbers (which area clearly major metropolitan areas in Seattle / Bellevue), we both received the following (20 sec. recording). Not exactly the answer we’re looking for when the coverage map clearly covers our area(s).
It is important to note that this entry was published after initial attempts of checking coverage availability and ordering service online failed. At the time, Clearwire coverage availability was reporting that the address entered was outside of the coverage area. Subsequent inquires later in the day oddly reported that the address was indeed within the service coverage area. The experience shopping online does not reflect the quality of the actual internet service – I am more than happy to and look forward to comparing Clearwire to Sprints solid EVDO network which I use daily with both a Novatel U720 (external USB) & Vaio VGN-TXN15P (bult-in)..