The Continuing Crisis in Customer Service

Editors note: Yes, I did promise in my last blog to write a post about why so many IT initiatives fail. However, I was inspired to address a different subject near and dear to me this time around. Be patient, the IT initiative blog will be touched upon down the road.

One of the things I like about InFocus is that it allows me to rant about a continuing crisis in customer service by leading service providers. For example, I can actually point out to faithful readers that an electric utility has better customer care than many telecom and cable companies – an astonishing fact to many!

How did I come to this conclusion? My admittedly unscientific survey resulted from an unfortunate and very personal event – the recent passing of my mother. She lived in a Senior Independent Living apartment, with services provided by an electric company, a legacy wireline telco and a cable company. In concluding her affairs and vacating her apartment, I had one outstanding customer service experience and two painful experiences. Can you guess which of the three provided outstanding customer service? It was the electric company. Amazing? Read on for the details.

Some of you may be wondering how this could happen? Haven’t telecom and cable companies spent billions on improving customer service? Historically, haven’t electric utility companies been the perennial laggards in customer service, particularly related to residential customers?

In my survey, the transaction for each company was simply a disconnect of service. There was no change of address (since I had already arranged for mail forwarding) and no new services required. I requested an estimated amount for any credit (check to be mailed) from each company or an estimated final bill. Simple, right?

Here are the actual outcomes:

Even though the last experience from the wireline company described above is statistically unscientific, the latest JD Power’s survey for Telecom in the East confirms my findings. Legacy wireline carriers rank “About Average” in Overall Satisfaction, while more newer telephone carriers ranking “Among the Best.” In the Customer Service subcategory, legacy wireline carriers rank the lowest possible score (“The Rest,” i.e., below average).

Ratings on Satisfaction with Television Providers for the same region also bear out my findings. Cable companies rank merely “Average” in Overall Satisfaction and Customer Service.

Residential Customer Satisfaction for Electric Utilities is also measured by JD Power. However, there is no easy comparison of electric companies and communications or cable companies. Utility companies seem to have invested heavily in improving customer service. Many electric companies have websites with capabilities such as realtime outage status with geographic mapping to a street level and proactive callbacks to verify service is working after an outage. Both coupled with sincere, helpful customer service agents backed by systems to fulfill all transactions on the first call.

Legacy wireline and cable TV providers take note:  In my opinion, electric utilities have overtaken your customer service and now provide a highly satisfying, simple and straightforward customer experience.


Next Up:  Why do so many IT initiatives Fail?  This blog explores 5 common reasons.

I hope you will join me and will pass on the link to my blog to friends and networks.  Please subscribe, send me feedback, and check back soon for the next installment. If nothing else, I promise the International Travel Tips will be useful!


Today’s International Travel Tip:   Find the Best Seat before you fly

Seat Guru is an invaluable guide to understanding your options, regardless of your ticketed cabin. Check out the detailed seat maps and recommendations: Good Seat, Seats with Drawbacks, Poor Seats. A PDA/Blackberry app is also available. A couple guidelines for using the website:

  1. Verify the plane type and configuration with the airline. For example, One airline that I frequently fly is (finally) reconfiguring its US flights to/from Brazil. Until the conversion is 100% complete, you may get an old 777 configuration or a new one with lie-flat seats in Business Class, with a reduced number of new First Class seats. This can dramatically affect your possibilities for upgrades. Know before you go, and be sure to verify configuration at check-in.
  2. Exit Row seats, bulkhead seats, or seats with massive leg room are the first to go. Don’t rely on your travel agent to select your seat. Call your airline’s access line for frequent fliers and request these seats. Repeat calls may be needed since airline seat assignments can change frequently.

About the Author: Laddie Suk

Laddie leads a cross-functional Dell Technologies Consulting team focused on digital transformation and industry solutions. He is a seasoned industry veteran with deep experience across multiple industries, solutions, and technologies. As a former Verizon Network CIO and Network Executive at AT&T and Bell Labs, he has extensive hands-on experience in leading strategic network and IT development projects and managing communication service provider environments. He has also led strategic and tactical engagements in network transformation, IT transformation, and business process and performance improvement for clients throughout the Americas.