Daily Archives:April 2nd, 2006

Yet Another Way Paul Allen Isn’t Like You or Me

Robert Cringely on Paul Allen. It’s easy for people to find fault with some of Allen’s escapades, but this article raised him somewhat in my estimation.

Customer Disservice


I’m generally quite a satisfied customer of my broadband service provider, NTL, not because they have gone out of the way to provide good service or anything, but because the service they do provide generally just works. I really do get 10Mb/s download speeds and there is very little downtime – partly a result, I think, of my getting a cable modem shortly before most of the UK signed up for ADSL in an area where there’s not too much cable TV consumption – the system probably isn’t too heavily loaded. They don’t interfere with my traffic too much, either.

The latest envelope to come through my door from them, however, is a bit annoying. In cheery terms it tells you about the new phone numbers for Customer Service and for Broadband technical support. In smaller text at the bottom it mentions that these are premium rate numbers. Not hugely expensive ones, I’ll admit, but the only thing that has made the current customer service bearable has been the fact that it was a toll-free number, so you could just put the speakerphone on and do other things for 15 minutes while they told you they were “experiencing an unusually high volume of calls at present” – it’s always unusual.

Now, I’m sorry, NTL, but when I’m paying you a few hundred pounds a year already, I don’t expect to be billed for the privilege of sitting in a queue trying to tell you when your service isn’t working. This is probably a misguided attempt to be able to quote better customer support statistics to senior management, but it isn’t the way to win friends and influence people.

When will businesses learn that having a queue of any size is an indication of inefficiency in your system? That it’s perhaps the most simple way to annoy your customers? That they are actively thinking bad things about you while looking at your logo or listening to messages about your other exciting services?

This is something the airlines in particular need to understand. It’s not acceptable to require your customers to turn up three hours ahead of their flight on the pretext of security, simply so that they can stand in a queue for the first hour. You need to employ more staff, or you need to make arrangements with the other airlines that you’ll check in each other’s customers. Trust me, it’ll pay you back! Next time you’re in an airport, imagine how customers would flock to the first company that advertised itself as the No-Queueing Airline…

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser