Notes from a pilot's kid

True Cell Phones in Thailand

True is a big telecommunications company in Thailand similar to AT&T. They offer 4G cell phone service, satellite TV/Internet, and probably other things, and their name is everywhere. What’s most interesting about them at the personal retail level is how they specialize. Right next to each other, they sometimes open three locations:

  • A place to talk to a representative about prices for different cell phone contracts, available phone numbers, and broadband connections at home:

Customer Service True Thailand

  • A service center for people who are already customers and need to pay their bill, make adjustments, or do other things with their account:

Bill Pay Service Center True Thailand

  • And a coffee shop branded “True Coffee” that offers a full selection of coffee and other drinks, a seating area for people to drink their coffee or relax before/after visiting the two other nearby locations, an additional few tables of phones and tablets set up with free wifi for people to play with, electrical outlets (I think) for people to charge their devices, and free wifi for True customers:

True Coffee

Separating the “get a new phone and contract” customer from the “pay my bill or update my plan” customer seems like a good idea because they are approaching the company in completely different contexts. I’ve definitely gone to AT&T in the US to check out a new phone and got stuck with a 30-45 minute wait because the customer before me was sorting out a complication with their phone plan. If I were a new customer in that situation, it would be a huge deterrent not only from the wait time but also from seeing how much of a headache it could be to resolve an issue if I do end up signing a contract with the company. Separating the two contexts by which someone would approach a cell service provider’s retail location would prevent this from happening. And if I’m an existing customer, I probably want to be as efficient as possible in paying my bill or making a change to my contract, so an entire retail location dedicated to that purpose (without display cases of new phones getting in the way) could signal to me that my needs are being met directly.

A cell service provider opening coffee shops is an interesting concept. I think it recognizes a natural behavior: people in Thailand (who can afford it) are already going to coffee shops to relax and play around (or work) on their phone or tablet either by themselves or with friends. The two components – coffee and technology – are equally important. For some, I’d say that the beverage purchased at the coffee shop is not really the focus of the outing and merely the price of entry to hang out with friends and use WiFi on a comfy couch out in the city. True may have recognized this when deciding to be a technology company that makes coffee in a world of coffee companies that permit technology use.