Yesterday, flying back from Washington DC on US Airways, I read in the in-flight magazine the story by Emily Yellin, Your Call is (Not That) Important to Us. Take the time to read this…great story and a fun read that should remind all of us entrepreneurs that providing great customer service is one of the keys to beating the big guys!
From the story:
Trouble for the nation’s largest cable television and broadband provider started in earnest with the story of LaChania Govan, a mother of two in her mid-twenties who inadvertently became a public symbol of mistreated customers everywhere. Govan lives in suburban Chicago. She goes to work all week and attends church every Sunday. She has a pleasant and welcoming voice. She also has a strong sense of fairness.
In July 2005, Govan’s digital video recorder wouldn’t work. She called Comcast’s customer service line in Chicago but couldn’t get through. During the course of four weeks, she called more than forty times. She was repeatedly disconnected, put on hold, or transferred to inept or inert representatives and technicians. One customer service representative transferred her to the Spanish-speaking line. Govan knows only English. She just wanted someone to resolve her seemingly simple case.
She says she never raised her voice, but she was resolute. “Calling Comcast became my second job,” Govan said. “I had to ensure the cordless phone was fully charged and the kids were content. And I sat and called. I cooked and called. I cleaned and called, and just called.” Almost every day, Govan prodded the big company’s customer service department as best she could. Finally, she found a rep who heard her out and took her case in hand. A technician was sent to replace her cable box at no charge, and she was credited with a free month of service. Govan’s perseverance paid off. Her headaches seemed to be over.
Then Govan’s August cable bill arrived. Her name did not appear on the bill. Instead it was addressed to “Bitch Dog.” Someone at Comcast had changed her account name. Govan said, “I was so mad I couldn’t even cuss.”
Instead of becoming just another unnoticed casualty in the adversarial relationship between many companies and their customers, Govan went public. The Chicago Tribune ran her story. Within days, the mainstream news media, bloggers, and consumer advocates from everywhere were spreading her tale of woe. She appeared as the number-one story on MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann. A Comcast executive left an apology on Govan’s home voice mail. The company claimed it identified and fired two employees responsible for changing the name on Govan’s bill. She was offered all sorts of free service, which she refused. She wanted nothing more to do with Comcast.
Govan, who also happens to be a customer service representative for a major credit card company, is studying criminal justice with plans to go to law school one day. Eventually, she says, she hopes to become a judge. Her inherent sense of justice is what drove her to persevere. So she was speaking with conviction when she told the Washington Post that she believes customer service means “being friendly, helpful, and respectful. I know how it feels to be a customer service rep and a consumer on the other end. You do not have to settle for less, and you do not have to be mistreated.”
In 2006, Comcast was dealing with another public display of customer service missteps. A subscriber in the Washington, D.C., area found the technician that Comcast sent to fix his cable system had fallen asleep on his couch. The worker was kept on hold for so long by his own company when he called for help that he dozed off. The customer shot video of the napping technician and posted it on the Internet, where it went viral. Comcast issued another apology and again said the worker in question had been fired.
Then in August 2007, Comcast suffered what was perhaps its worst embarrassment to date when seventy-six-year-old Mona Shaw took her outrage with its customer service a few steps further than any disgruntled customer had done before. As she has told the story, it started when a technician scheduled to come out to her suburban Washington, D.C., home on a Monday didn’t show up. Comcast was supposed to install what it calls its triple-play service, which included the company’s new telephone service, along with its traditional Internet and cable television connection, all for under $100 per month. Shaw, a retired military nurse and secretary of her local AARP, as well as a square dancer who fosters stray dogs until they can be adopted, waited all day Monday. When Comcast finally arrived two days later, the technician left the job half done and never came back. On Friday, the company cut off what service Mona and her husband, Don, still had.
Without phone service, the Shaws couldn’t call to get help, so they drove over to their local Comcast office in Manassas, Virginia. They asked for a manager and were told to wait outside in the August heat.
They say they sat on a bench for two hours, until the same woman who had asked them to wait leaned out the door, told them the manager had gone home for the day, and thanked them for coming. Shaw told the Washington Post, “They thought just because we’re old enough to get Social Security that we lack both brains and backbone.”
By Monday, after a weekend with no phone, TV, or Internet, Shaw was so angry that she took matters into her own hands, literally. She got her husband’s hammer, and they went back to the local Comcast office. This is how Washington Post reporter Neely Tucker described Shaw’s account of what happened next:Hammer time: Shaw storms into the company’s office. BAM! She whacks the keyboard of the customer service rep. BAM! Down goes the monitor. BAM! She totals the telephone. People scatter, scream, cops show up and what does she do? POW! A parting shot to the phone!