If you watched the American Idol Finale last night you may have caught Catherine Zeta Jones offering to help a wireless customer find the best cell phone plan using BillShrink, after Ivy League-educated economists fail. With an estimated 8 out of 10 cell phone users overpaying for service, the mobile phone makeovers are well worth the few minutes it takes to check the cost of your monthly bill. While this is a T-Mobile promotion, anyone, on any carrier, can get a Mobile Makeover with BillShrink.
This is a pretty bold move by T-Mobile, given the varied pricing and nature of an industry that has given birth to the mocking commercials of Alltel and the braggadocio of Verizon's "It's the Network" pitches. To my recollection, this is the first time a carrier has told customers to go to an independent third party and find out who can offer you the best deal. There will even be kiosks available in T-Mobile stores to assist customers in checking their price.
After exploring BillShrink, I can confidently say that even with this promotion, it doesn't recommend T-Mobile or any other carrier ahead of the one that suits you best. It keeps the comparisons clean and makes it easy to see what you would save on by switching plans or carriers; or in my case, congratulating me for choosing the best plan for my usage and location.
There are two ways to get your estimate checked; you can link BillShrink to your wireless account like I did (Bill at-a-glance), or you can estimate your usage by giving BillShrink small bits of information about your usage (Wireless usage profile). Either way is quick and simple, but I highly recommend importing your bill, since it provides a great deal of analytical information about who you call the most, which carriers you call the most, top five numbers, what percent of your calls are free, and much much more. All of this data makes it easier for BillShrink to provide you with an accurate savings breakdown.
I love the fact that part of BillShrink's deal process is the coverage in your area; the selection process even lets you select a work and home location to make sure you are covered for your commute. Any deals that are shown are rated with a "ShrinkScore" that is made up of your Savings Score and your Signal Score, which means you won't be seeing deals for carriers that don't offer coverage in your area, and the value of deals from those with poor signal strength will be lower even with higher savings.
When it comes time to show you the deals, BillShrink helpfully tallies up the cost to switch carriers if you are under contract, as well as other costs associated with switching. It combines that with your monthly savings to provide the amount you'll save over the next two years by switching, which illustrates just how quickly an extra $25 a month in savings adds up.
The only real downside I observed with the BillShrink system was the inability to select a data and texting package for just one phone rather than for my entire family share. Given the many other positives and my ability to do math in my head, I can overlook this for the time being, but hopefully BillShrink will expand the options in this growing segment of cell phone usage.
Kudo's to T-Mobile for pushing customers to re-evaluate their cell phone plans, even if it means another carrier is a better fit. As a consumer, I can only hope that marketing like this and services like BillShrink will push other carriers to offer easier to understand pricing and increase competition. Who knows? Someday maybe I'll even be able to use whatever phone I want on whatever carrier I decide to use.