The other day I found myself in a terrible situation. My broadband internet connection was still not working (it had been down for the last 48 hours) and I knew it was not an equipment problem since others in my building were experiencing the same malfunction. So I did what I had to do and called Time Warner to find out what was going on and how I could fix it. I dialed the number at 10am, not realizing at the time that I would be on the phone for the next hour and a half, transferred from one useless representative to another in between what seemed to be interminable hours of muzak. I was verbally abused, brought to the edge of tears, and ultimately NOT SERVED in any way.
After the traumatic ordeal, I still had no internet connection, no explanation (not even acknowledgment) of the outtage, and nowhere left to turn. To add insult to injury, Time Warner refused to credit me for the days of no internet connection as they claimed they didn’t see problems in my area. They were essentially telling me I was making this up and so were the people in my building. It was like that “Computer Says No” sketch from Little Britain, only not funny because it’s actually happening to you.
Within minutes of me posting a status update on Facebook (via iPhone since I had no internet!) about how I was trying not to cry over the bad service at Time Warner, I had multiple comments from both friends and distant acquaintances about how they felt my pain and how the Time Warners and Comcasts of the world existed solely to make our lives miserable. Sure we all know that cable companies are notorious for their lack of customer service despite the fact that we throw them $120 a month for it–but in the torrent of anger that my little status update inspired, I could feel the rumblings of a modern-day Boston Tea Party. “Taxation without representation is tyranny!” and all that — well, at least “monthly payments without customer service and no alternative options is tyranny!” Even last night on the Eyewitness News, there was a feature on how a congresswoman was put on hold for 40 minutes by her bank in an attempt to get some customer service! (She eventually received no such thing.)
I’m not asking for a “wow moment” here. I acknowledge that Time Warner is not the Ritz Carlton! But these dinosaur companies really need to shape up and think about what their customers are paying for, especially in this economy, because the second a customer service-driven alternative shows up, believe me we will all be jumping ship. The Amazon, Nordstrom, and Zappos of the world have given us a taste of how much better life can be without the expectation that the people we give our money to will do nothing but try to make us want to hurtle ourselves out a window. The era of no accountability is over. If you have a service job, if you’re running a business, it’s high time you start feeling appreciative about the paying customers who make your livelihoods possible instead of acting like you’re doing them a favor by even giving them the time of day. You don’t have to be a genius to recognize that in today’s socially connected Tivo-enabled world, quality customer service is infinitely more effective than any 30 second spot could ever be.