Videos tell the story behind U-verse bills

A service that breaks down complex AT&T (NYSE: T) U-verse bill details and turns them into personalized videos is so popular among subscribers that the carrier will next introduce it for its wireless subscribers.

The service, put together by SundaySky and delivered to new customers and those who have changed their service, has been in operation since April. That's all the time it took for the carrier to decide "wireless is obviously the very next play that we're looking at establishing with smart video," Deno Harrison, director of digital experience marketing at AT&T, told FierceIPTV.

"It's definitely working and it's definitely driving the behavior that we wanted. They're calling in less and that's definitely one of the major objectives we wanted to achieve," he said.

Smart videos take complex steps to simplify the details of bundled or standalone service monthly U-verse. They aren't for; just to those subscribers AT&T has decided would appreciate the extra help in their first months with the service or after a service change.

"We did a pretty detailed and in-depth analysis of our different customer types … and then we analyzed the types of calls we would get in relation to the bills for those customers. We were able to take those specific questions and move them accordingly and then cross-reference them to different answers that we would have … to address those questions succinctly and efficiently within video," Hairston said.

The process of gathering the data is as complex as it sounds--and the end video is as simple with a goal to "address each of the primary things that result in people calling: payment status, when the bill is due, how much is owed and why the price is different (from what the subscriber thinks it should be)," said Jim Dicso, president and chief revenue officer at SundaySky.

The video is pushed to the customer during the first two monthly billing cycles--or when there's been a service change--or is available on the AT&T Web site at log in.

"At the moment the visitor selects the video it makes a call to their billing system, pulls a stream of data about the customer and their bill and selects which scenes to include in their video," Dicso said. "The system will automatically customize the scene based on the unique characteristics of the person who's watching the video."

It starts with access to the AT&T database then moves to the elements that personalize and make the video interesting to the end user, including speaking on a first-name basis and the music.

"You have a tree structure that says every scene has to reflect the actual data about the customer and every scene that came before so that the flow makes sense," Dicso said.

Scripted senses, names and phrases are pre-recorded, tagged and stored in the database along with individual visual elements and the music that overlays the video.

"All of those things are stored as building blocks and when a data feed comes in the system chooses which scenes to include (and) determines how to customize each scene and pulls the data and merges it together and streams it based on the device that's chosen—a computer, iPad or iPhone," he continued.

Soon, Hairston said, those choices for viewing the video will expand to the logical U-verse-connected TV.

On an altruistic side, this whole process is good for consumers.

"Those who watch the video and complete the survey at the end of the video … 90 percent are telling us that it's meeting their needs and is helping them to understand and address questions and they like getting the bill via video," Hairston said.

On the pragmatic side, the videos reduce the volumes of easy-to-answer calls made to AT&T call centers and that means saving big bucks. Hairston wouldn't put any dollar figures on how many bucks are saved, but the fact that AT&T is taking the play to its wireless service indicates it's not a money loser.

For more:
 - watch this sample video

Related articles:
AT&T and Amdocs unveil Israeli-based innovation facility
Hosted IP struggles to gain traction; cable gains friends in small-business market