10 Things We Hate About ISPs and Cable and Phone Companies

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Stop Patting Yourself on the Back (and Get Real)

What is it with you guys and your surveys? Seems like I can't have a conversation with you on any medium (phone, chat, e-mail, whatever) without your asking me for a little survey love at the end.

Of course, service providers use these surveys to develop positive-sounding customer satisfaction statistics, which they crow about endlessly over every medium they can think of. Often the provider begins asking for positive affirmation when the problem hasn't even been handled yet, as this telco customer relates:

"We'll subscribe to a new service and, after taking only the first step to completion, they'll call us with a customer service survey," complains Cassandra McSparin, an executive assistant from Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. "Sure, they've done a good job of completing the preparations necessary for what we require so we can't give them a bad review, but once they've confirmed their magnificence, we won't hear from them for a few weeks and have to push them to finish the job."

According to customer relationship management (CRM) consultant Jim Gardner, service providers often measure the wrong things to create the rosy numbers, which don't really reflect the way customers feel. Gardner explains that the cable industry claims to have achieved a satisfaction rating of better than 90 percent because its technicians arrive within a promised 4-hour window 94 percent of the time, and because these technicians address the issue on the first visit 97 percent of the time. "Trouble is, customers do not see waiting for half a day as good service, even when that time window is observed. After a 4-hour wait, resolution on the first call is a considered a baseline standard for customers, not an indication of superior service."

An independent report from Forrester Research may provide a truer look at customer satisfaction: "Looking at customer satisfaction for all subscribers to TV, home phone, Internet, and bundle services, they feel lukewarm about their providers' customer care. In fact, satisfaction levels for customer care--in any channel--fail to break 60 percent for TV, home phone, and Internet customers."

I Don't Want My Sí TV

Cable and Satellite Providers: Let me buy channels à la carte--you know, just the channels I want, not the channels you want to sell--or else I'm going to cancel the service and just download all my shows from the Internet.

And I'm not the only one. "I have to buy every package under the sun to get one [French channel]; but the package I have has five Spanish channels on it and I don't want ANY Spanish channels," says the aptly surnamed Dana Hostage, a Web entrepreneur from Boston. "Talk about being taken for a ride--I support the Spanish channels, don't want them, and can't get rid of them without getting rid of Discovery and Nickelodeon and the rest of the channels worth supporting. That bugs me no end. I want to pay for the channels I want to watch, not support the ones I don't want."

The National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) says that if people like Ms. Hostage and me got our wish, lots of small, niche networks would go out of business, and the diversity of available channels would be diminished. I say so be it.

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