Customer service and the phone company

Diogenes's picture
YourCallIsImportant (12K)

This blog is about customer service and the telephone company. When I say the telephone company I mean that former monopoly that once provided everyone with Plain Old Telephone Service, also known as POTS.

Almost every POTS company was a monopoly at one time. Most were owned by the state Their motto could have been: "Telephone service, NOT customer service". As a business model, this worked for almost 70 years.

Not long ago, getting a phone connection was just slightly less complicated than obtaining a drivers license. Getting a a phone involved having some kind of fixed address. A rather large cash deposit was required if you had no previous credit history. POTS was a privilege, a rite of passage, a coming of age, an important part of self-identity and existence.

And once a POTS line had been granted, everything was great, at least until you had to move.

Like surgery, plenty of advance notice was required for a change in your POTS line. One had to set aside the whole day on the calendar because the POTS line installers never committed to a particular time.

Then along came mobile phone technology and deregulation. To POTS, this was the equivalent of the Big Bang; an explosion that unleashed a previously unknown force - competition.

New technologies spawned an explosion of new choices. The POTS monopolies, with their huge infrastructures, were paralyzed and privatized. The telephone universe had changed forever.

Psst, hey buddy, need a phone?

Now the price of entry is as low as €15 (phone included) at the local supermarket. No credit history is necessary, and persons of no-fixed-address are not a problem. There are cellphone stores everywhere, with pleasant people willing to chat about all kinds of phones, plans and features.

Almost everybody has a cellphone now. More and more have just a cell phone. To these people POTS has become an anachronism.

CompanyComplaints (7K)

Now, I am old enough to know better than to expect good service from the phone company. Having lived in 3 countries and experienced customer service in all of them, I have to say the North American experience is among the best.

In sharing stories about customer service with others, it has become clear to me that POTS companies worldwide set the the standard for bad customer service. No matter what customer service story from hell I tell, almost everyone has a better story than mine, and it almost always involves the POTS company.

So the switch to a new business model that allowed for customer service has not gone well. Everyone it seems, around the world, hates their local POTS company.

Nonetheless, I did expect that customer service to have improved slightly, otherwise why would anybody bother?

- 2 -

Back to the future…

dick-tracy (41K)

Forty five years ago a popular syndicated comic strip called Dick Tracy featured a futuristic wrist watch communicator. It even had a color TV, but only in the Saturday edition of the newspaper.

rim_blackberry_6200 (15K)

A few years ago, a start-up called Research in Motion (RIM) offered a new smartphone called the Blackberry that was a runaway success. People loved them.

They are now jokingly called crackberries by those who watch their users become addicted to them.

. blackBerry (12K)

Now RIM have announced a wrist watch accessory. It's not a phone, but it will works with a Blackberry using a bluetooth connection. Gotta love that technology.

This wrist watch accessory lets the user discreetly get a hit from his crackberry with a simple glance at the watch. It isn't necessary to to pull out the full crackberry smartphone kit, which, in some social situations, is considered rude behavior. To the casual observer, the crackberry wrist watch user simply looks like someone harmlessly obsessed with his watch, or perhaps really bored.

iphone-4g (30K)

Of course, all of this pales in comparison to the new Apple iPhone which has taken on so many features and applications that in now it rivals the legendary Star Trek tricorder in functionality.

In the near future sources tell me that the iPhone will be able to scan life forms and determine what planet they are from and how much of their brain is composed of molecular cabbage.

Not all of us embrace this new technology with glee, and so it was with me. We had this VOIP phone service from our cable TV provider, but we had problems and finally decided to switch to a good old fashion POTS line.

Tricorder (13K)

Forward to the past…

So I set out to become a new customer of KPN, the Dutch POTS company. Since the world has changed so much, and since the Dutch seem to be pretty good at most things they do, I assumed dealing with KPN would be a reasonable experience.

ourPriority (14K)

I was wrong. So amazing was my experience with KPN that I had to document it all it in a series of blogs I collectively call the KPN Chronicles. We have a POTS phone service now and I think it works well, but there are still a few kinks to work out. We soldier on.

Though much has changed, some things remain the same. Here is where is all began: We got the Telephone Technology Blues