In May, I was delighted to acquire a Samsung Galaxy S4—love the phone, by the way!—and that resulted in, of course, a change in my plan with AT&T.  Imagine my surprise when I received my June bill—no, not the amount, although of course it was higher … do they ever actually go down?  The surprise came from the offer from AT&T for me to view a personalized video explaining my bill.

Personalized video is relatively new, but it can be done.  Most recently, I have seen tools from Adobe and XMPie that allow personalization of video.  I may be wrong, but I don’t believe either could do personalized video on the scale that must be required by AT&T.

Although AT&T would not provide me with an interview (!!), Emily Edmonds, their Director of Corporate Communications, did provide answers to some questions I sent, as well as links to more information. According to Edmonds, new AT&T customers as well as existing customers who change or upgrade their wireless plan receive video bills for the first and second month.  One motivation for this, of course, is to reduce the number of calls received by their call center when customers have questions about their bill.  With respect to that, Edmonds responded, “We don’t share statistics, but we are seeing fewer calls.”

Personalized video bills were actually introduced in 2012 for the company’s new customers for the company’s U-verse services, as well as existing customers who changed or upgraded their service.  According to an AT&T blog posting, “This is an automatically-generated, customized video with computer animation and voice narration that explains the elements of your bill.”

The concept came from—where else?—Israel. The company has its AT&T Foundry innovation center in Ra’anana, Israel. A presentation to the team there by SundaySky, the creator of SmartVideo, kicked off the idea, and within a year the U-verse personalized video statement program was kicked off. SundaySky is headquartered in New York City with a technology center in Tel-Aviv. Founded in 2007, SundaySky claims it has generated more than 100 million SmartVideos for customers such as AT&T, Office Depot and Lenovo.

In late 2012, AT&T launched first-of-its-kind personalized videos for wireless bills for customers in the Mountain Time Zone with a stated plan to expand to a nationwide deployment by early 2013. The company reports that almost 80% of wireless customers open and watch the three-minute video bill to completion. Both the U-verse and mobile blogs about personalized video have demo videos which I highly recommend you take the time to view.

This is surely a sign of things to come.  Not only will bill issuers be pushing to move more bills to electronic delivery, now they can add personalized video bills to their portfolio of services as well.  Although it is highly unlikely that AT&T will be sharing ROI data anytime soon—if ever—for this program, I would bet that the savings in call center activity as well as the potential impact on customer loyalty will have it paying for itself relatively quickly.

If you are a print service provider looking for new revenue streams, the AT&T story demonstrates that personalized video is a concept whose time has come.  While you likely won’t be doing them on an AT&T scale, the fact that it can be done on that scale is pretty impressive.  Just another avenue to explore … for transaction as well as promotional purposes.

If you have personalized video stories to share, we would love to hear them.