One of the more interesting pieces of news to come out of the Broadband World Forum in Paris this week was the statement from Telefonica de Argentina that it aims to turn customer care into a revenue-generating, value-added service by offering its customers in-depth advice at a premium.

As reported in Total Telecom, the operator already provides a premium customer support service to its broadband customers called ‘Dr Speedy’. However, Telefonica de Argentina wants to go further.

Jose Luis Caresani, head of management and provision of broadband services at Telefonica de Argentina, said during a panel session that as well as troubleshooting problems, a customer service representative could, for instance, offer advice on connecting new devices such as a printer to a home network.

“We want to change the relationship we have with our customers,” said Jose Luis Caresani, head of management and provision of broadband services at Telefonica de Argentina, “we want to become a bigger part of our customers’ digital lives.”

Apparently, Alcatel-Lucent agrees with the sentiment that customers are willing to pay because Ben Geller, senior director of product marketing at Alcatel-Lucent, said so during the same panel session. I’m not sure how Alcatel-Lucent came to this conclusion. Perhaps Ben’s company is hoping to do more business with Telefonica de Argentina? However, in the rest of the world this would be a very hard sell, indeed.

The concept of paying for customer care from a CSP would probably be a driver for churn for most consumers. I understand that the comments were made with regard to ‘enhanced’ customer service for help with devices and connection issues, etc. but the majority of calls to customer care centers are still around billing, service failure and poor connectivity – and no-one is going to pay for that help. It’s a romantic concept that CSP CSRs will have the depth of knowledge to help with technical issues, and it will more likely be a hand-off to another person if this help is needed during a call, with more waiting on the call to boot.

The conversation would go something like this: “No sir, there was no mistake with your bill, you did actually use 56Gb of data on your iPhone last month exceeding your cap by $2,000 worth of usage. Would you like me to pass you over to our technical CSR to explain how to make the settings on your phone to prevent this happening again? No problem, that help will cost you $1 per minute, would you like to proceed?”

I know that some people do pay for technical assistance when buying software or hardware, but they have been trained to expect FREE customer care from CSPs for the last hundred years. We are just coming to grips with online customer care, and if CSPs would like to be part of their customers “digital lives,” getting that right would be a good cost-saving start. The benefits of avoiding the dreaded phone call to support centers would also help the bottom line considerably.

It’s going to take operators with guts to start the ball rolling and it will take a long time to gain acceptance. Who will be the first, Telefonica de Argentina? I doubt it.