Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Kind of Advertising You Don't Want....Don't Piss an Old Man Off

In an Earlier post I talked about getting free advertising by having people become evangelists for your product or service. This can work against you too, if your service is bad. I experienced this first hand during a conversation I had with my father yesterday.

Here’s the story and the background on the conversation. My parents live in Chicago, we live in Arizona. We were on vacation last weekend and I took a lot of pictures of the kids. I loaded them up to my Flickr account and wanted to share them with my parents. All they had to do was log on to the internet and view them. The problem is that they only have a dial-up account and it takes forever to load the pictures.

I suggested to my father that he get a high speed internet connection and he told me that he was waiting for AT&T to have service in their neighborhood. I suggested that he call Comcast, his cable provider and bundle all his services together. I told him he probably would pay the same or less as he does now and get the high speed internet allowing him to see the pictures, look at his stocks and read the news effortlessly on his computer. Not the slow way that he does now.

His exact words to me were..... “I don’t want to give Comcast another dime. As a matter of fact, if it wasn’t for your mother, I’d cancel their service.” I guess my mother likes watching the movies.

Being married to someone who is in the cable business and prides herself on the customer service that she and her company provides, this disturbed me. I asked him why he felt that the way. He went on to tell me that there have been many service outages, the picture does not come in clear (I can attest to this, I’ve seen it when I visit) and whenever he calls them and asks for assistance and a credit, they always give him a hard time.

It occurred to me that everyone loses in this deal. My parents lose because they can’t enjoy the benefits of a fast internet connection; Comcast loses because they are losing out on the long term value of a customer, a very vocal customer at that, who is an evangelist for how bad their service is. Not that the collateral damage from my father is going to make a big difference, but if this is happening to a lot of customers it could have a huge adverse impact on their business and make them vulnerable to new competition. Finally, I am losing out because I wanted to put a webcam and microphone on their computer in Chicago so the kids and I can teleconference with them. This is very difficult and not practical with a dial-up service.

The moral of the story is, bad customer service is bad for business. You just don’t know how and who it is going to hurt!

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