This morning I heard the news that Eastman Kodak filed for bankruptcy. Yes, you heard it right. Eastman Kodak, the Goliath of the photo industry has failed. Eastman Kodak, the company that discovered digital cameras wasn't smart enough to figure out that the future was digital photography. Basically put, the high salaried executives couldn't get their heads out of their asses and let their company fail.
I'm reading Steve Job's biography now. It is a very insightful book, not only about Steve Jobs personality (he was an asshole) but about his frustration with dealing with companies like Eastman Kodak who couldn't or wouldn't get their heads out of their asses because of arrogance, inertia and incompetence.
I am typing this blog on a Steve Jobs product, an iMac computer. I use an iPhone. I also use an iPad. These are almost perfect consumer products in that they are very user friendly and ahead of the curve in anticipating the consumer's need in the 21st century. Whatever Steve Jobs personal failings as a Feel Good manager of people (he was terrible), at least he had a vision of where and how consumer products and customer service should be in this day and age.
This morning I experienced another example of corporate arrogance, hubris, and incompetence. Last January I signed up with Comcast for my Internet service. Previously I had Verizon (yet another example of corporate arrogance, hubris, and incompetence) but I discontinued their DSL service because it was so unreliable and slow. My only other choice was Comcast, the local monopoly.
|Me with my Comcast paperwork, ready to sink into the Labyrinth of Frustration with phone calls this morning|
I did not want to use Comcast because of my previous dealings with them when I moved into my new home in November of 2006. I won't bore you the reader of my nightmare experience of just trying to get service set up on my new house but suffice it to say I was glad to be done with them. I signed up with Verizon, and while they didn't have the arrogance of a monopoly company their customer service wasn't much better (too automated) and it was SLOW. Rarely a week went by that I didn't lost my Internet service at least once. After several years of constantly rebooting my modem and going through the Menu Hell of calling Verizon, I finally relented and signed up with Comcast in January of 2011.
Last March I got my first bill in the mail. Of course it was wrong. They charged me too much. I called them (another Menu Hell by the way) and they said I wouldn't be receiving a bill because I had a credit. Okay.
The months roll by. Then I got to thinking last November "That credit must have been fulfilled by now." I still haven't received a bill. I checked my credit card billing.Yep, there it is. They're charging my credit card. Funny, I don't remember giving authorization for that.
I meant to call them but with my Prostate Drama and the holidays rushing upon me I didn't get around to it until just this morning. I call to find out why I'm not receiving a paper bill. Yep, I was in Telephone Menu Hell again.
I heard that Comcast is losing about half a million customers a year. I heard that they were "doing" customer service now. Hey, BIG WHOOP! So I call expecting to get an immediate answer to my phone call like I do when I call Apple support. HA! Foolish boy Ron! I go through the menu options. You know how it works. "1 for something, 2 for something else, etc." I finally choose "4 for other." Then I"m on hold. No surprise here. So I stay on hold for about ten minutes and finally I get someone. I tell her my problem. "Why am I not getting a paper bill?" She tells me that I'm getting "e-bills." Funny thing about that, I don't remember authorizing "e-bills." I asked her where the e-bills are going. She tells me to my e-mail account. I tell her that I don't get any Comcast e-bills to my e-mail account (which is AOL). She tells me they go to my Comcast e-mail account. Oh, and what account might that be? I didn't know I had one.
She tells me I have to talk to Internet support. Okay. She transfers me. Yep, you guessed it. I got a long silence then a message from the telephone operation "If you would like to make a call...." OH I'M NOT SURPRISED. Comcast hung up on me. And not for the first time either.
So I hang up and go through all the menu options until I get someone in the Internet department. After another fifteen minutes I get someone. I explain my problem and she tells me that she can't help me because she is in billing. Yep, I'm back to Square One again folks!
|Me patiently waiting on hold - at least I wouldn't be talking to someone from India|
I patiently explain to her (barely surpressing my anger and frustration because I KNEW this would happen) and tell her I want to find out what my Comast e-mail account is so I CAN SEE MY BILLS! I told her I've already been through the Phone Transfer thingy this morning so DON'T TRANSFER me to a dial tone.
She transfers me to another number and I wait another 10 minutes then I finally get someone. We're going on 45 minutes now folks just to find out where my bills are. This is why I didn't call last November. I knew this would be an ORDEAL.
I talk to the new person. I explain to her that I don't know what my Comcast e-mail account is but I would like to check my bills but I don't want Comcast to be my default e-mail account on my computer. You know how that works with these companies, you check into them and the next thing you know Bing is your default search engine and not Google.
She assures me that Comcast won't be my default e-mail account unless I choose it. She walks me through how to get to my Comcast e-mail account, providing me with a password which I didn't know I had.
I get to the Comcast e-mail and yep, it is not a user friendly e-mail site. No surprise here. Except for Apple and Discovercard, most Internet sites are notoriously non-user friendly.
With the Comcast representative on the phone (and she didn't sound happy probably because I didn't sound happy), we go into my e-mail account. Only last month's bill is there. Uh, how about LAST YEAR'S bills. Oh, for that I have to do to Comcast's website under "ACCOUNTS". We're up to an hour on the phone now folks. Just to find out my bills.
After some more laborious searching around their Internet site I finally found my bills from last year. Yep, they were e-billed. I asked her why I was e-billed without my permission. She said that the (excuse me, I just got an automated call from Comcast to answer a Customer Satisfaction Survey)...I'm back.
She told me that the customer service technician who installed my Comcast equipment last January should she explained to me that I would be e-billed through my Comcast e-mail account. You know what? He might have explained that to me and maybe I missed it. I don't think so. But I could be wrong. One thing he did do, he installed the equipment in a timely manner and my Internet provider service is MUCH BETTER than it was with Verizon. Since last January I only had to reboot my modem once which was a VAST IMPROVEMENT over Verizon's service.
But still, sloppy customer service by not informing my of the way I would be billed. And then I still had to jump through all these hoops this morning just to get it straightened out.
Comcast may be on a new path to improving their customer service but quite frankly, after this experience I don't see it. I get a better Internet connection with them (faster than Verizon but still not as fast as FIOS that I had at my home in Pennsylvania) but there is no excuse for this laborious procedure that I had to go through this morning just to get a paper bill in the mail.
I think big companies fail because sometimes they get too big. They're like a huge ship, they can't turn around without sinking the whole ship. They're especially prone to failure when they become a virtual monopoly without competition because the first thing that goes is customer service and the first thing that appears is the arrogance and the "take it or leave it attitude."
I hope Apple never gets like that. Steve, I miss you already.