When you can afford not to care about your customer

Time Warner Cable

A couple of days ago I went online to Time Warner Cable and added the SportsPass package to my service level. It was remarkably easy and I thought that Time Warner Cable had finally figured it out. I checked channel 529 to see if my NESN channel was showing up, it wasn’t. Then I noticed an email from Time Warner that said they had received my order and that it should be available shortly.

I checked it the next day, still no access. Today I checked again, still no access.

I log on to the Time Warner Cable website to get their support number and I see they offer online chat. Cool, I fire it up and start typing with Anna. Anna has trouble writing English but I do get that she is going to send a signal to update my cable box. What that really meant was she was rebooting it. While we’re waiting, she tells me I can also call a toll-free phone number for support. A minute or two later it’s up and running again, still no service on my NESN channel.

I ask her to double-check my account to be sure the SportPass is showing up. She tells me that it isn’t. She then asks if there is anything else she can help me with… um, yes. I ask her to add it to my account for me. She can’t do that and tells me to call the toll-free support number.

I dial the Time Warner Cable support number and use a phone tree that asks for my phone number to route the call correctly. After being on hold a few minutes I talk to a pleasant young woman who asks me for my phone number. She then asks for my address which I give her, then she asks for the last four digits of the account holders social security number. I don’t know my wife’s last 4 digits of her social security so I tell her I can’t provide that. She sits silently for about 10 seconds. I ask if I can substitute the account number, which she accepts.

I tell her that I ordered additional service a few days ago online and that it still isn’t working. She informs me that ordering things online doesn’t usually work and that you need to call in to actually add service. Oh, okay.

Before she adds the service I called her about, she asks me if I’m interested in signing up for their digital phone service. I say, “no thank you.” She asks why I’m not interested and I explain that we have 2 cell phones and haven’t used a home phone in over 10 years. She makes a final plea by explaining that it’s only $19.99/month. Ok, but the answer is still no.

A minute later she says that she has worked her magic and it should now be working. I check quickly and it is indeed working.

How many businesses could even think of running that way? Having a monopoly position makes you stop caring about your customers. Cable companies control roughly 60% of the household television access and I have yet to see the cable company that is trying to make their customers the priority.

The story above is why Apple getting into the television market is so damn appealing to so many regular people.

Why You’re Not Dominating

1992 US Olympic Basketball Dream Team Cornflakes box cover

Dream Team Cornflakes box cover

In 1992 the U.S. Olympic basketball team was a true dream team. Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan were just 3 of the superstars on the team. The closest game they were in was the gold medal game, which they won by 31 points. Every professional player on that team is now in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

What would your dream team look like? What if you could have exactly the right people around you to make things happen. Would you be able to stop saying things like “move the needle” and start saying things like “change the world”?

What is it that stops us from bringing together our dream team? Often times it’s the idea that a dream team will blow out the budget. I’m not sure that’s anywhere close to the truth, in fact, I think it’s the exact opposite.

A dream team shares a unified purpose, a unified ethos and a unified desire for excellence. If you hit your snooze alarm 7 times each morning it’s safe to say you are not part of a dream team, you have a job.

When I think of people I would bring together for my own personal dream team, they are expensive. They are also so ridiculously talented that they are still under paid what they are truly worth! If a dream team member has a salary of $100K and a level 2 player has a salary of $65K it appears like you are saving $35K by hiring the level 2 player right? Usually the top performers are producing twice as much good work as an average employee – so you’re probably actually saving $30K by hiring the dream team member.

Then there’s the multiplier effect. What happens when you assemble an entire team of superstars? You dominate. What is total domination worth?

Who would be the first person you would pull on your dream team?

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

A few months ago my friend Cord Silverstein had an opportunity to work through what his dream job would look like. It’s an exercise everyone should do at least once a year, but somehow we never find the time. I have the time today.

Charles Babbage

Charles Babbage

About 15 or so years ago there was a software store called Babbage’s. I remember looking up the name and finding out about Charles Babbage. Babbage is considered the father of the computer, but that wasn’t what I really found interesting. I loved that he would throw himself into things that he found fascinating. He was wealthy enough that he could follow his passion even if it took him away from the field he had specialized in for the past few years. That type of lifestyle is almost unheard of now. The only modern person that I can think of even close to that is Sir Richard Branson.

Just 10 years ago, my passion was website design and development, 5 years ago it was search engine optimization, 2 years ago it was social media. Today it is all of them as one.

There is no longer much space between the web, search and social media. They have all become one giant blob to be managed, optimized and leveraged. I love being at that intersection.

I am a people person. Yes, I really just said that, and actually take pride in the fact that it’s true. My greatest strength is in my ability to connect with people. I can speak English fairly well, but am also fluent in corporate mumbo-jumbo, developer be-boop, social media unicorn and rainbow dialect and my natural language of “Wouldn’t it be great if…?”

I am a better than average idea guy. I tend to brainstorm even when everyone else has moved on to the real life scenarios of “let’s build a website”. The truth is, that’s not always the answer.

I know I work best as part of a group. I never bought in to the idea of the lone genius. I need to work someplace where there is time to think. There have been times in the past where I’ve been to busy to think about anything. That means too busy to think about how to do my job better, too busy to think about how to streamline the process, too busy to sit and talk to my co-workers about just a better way of doing the work that keeps us so damn busy!

I have realized that if I don’t have time to write, I’m too busy. I like writing for this blog. I have about 5 ideas for each one that finally gets published here, that’s a good thing. That’s when my brain is firing on all 8 cylinders.

I’ve learned to despise talk of tactics, because it usually means the strategy page has been completely skipped over. I am bound and determined to change that with any client I ever work with from this day on. All crazy ideas will then be followed by, “How does that fit into the strategy?”.

Finally is the team. I hate working in CYA mode. I work best when I’m surrounded by people so talented and dependable that they don’t require hand holding. Working with people like Les James, Jeremy Jordan, Laura Bryant, Lucas Myers, Robbie McAlister and Morgan Siem has shown me that the cost of excellence is worth it. When you hire the best, they do the work of 3 people.

I’m not sure exactly what all that adds up to, but it would be something along the lines of Digital Strategist.

Email Marketing Abuse

I’ve had a credit card through Household Bank for many years. This morning I opened an email from them and saw that they wanted me to log into my account for an important message.

I wondered what it could be? Has my account been compromised? Has my identity been stolen?

The email from Household Bank urging me to take action

The slightly urgent email

So I immediately log into my account…

Household Bank's important message for me

Ummm, this message is NOT important to me

The message waiting for me wasn’t important to me in any way. It is important to them, just not to me.

I understand that Household Bank wants to stop sending me my statement every month in the old-fashioned way. I understand that it costs them money to do that and that they would save lots of money if they never had to mail anything again. What I don’t understand is why I should care about their cost-cutting measures.

How about this instead, “Hey Phil, if you sign up for email notifications instead of paper mail we’ll lower your interest rate a bit!” See how that suddenly becomes a message that is important to ME?

UPDATE: It just happened again. That message must be on a 3 month rotation… ugh.

The Cost of Opportunity for AT&T

Yesterday news broke about how Verizon will start charging customers an addition two dollars unless they pay their monthly bill through Verizon’s AutoPay system. What that means to a normal customer is that when your bill is due, Verizon will reach into your bank account and take out the full amount you owe according the Verizon accounts payable books. Verizon Wireless serves 91 million phones and other devices on accounts that pay the company directly.

Verizon Sucks truck

Can you hear me now?

This has a similar feel to the Bank of America fiasco over the summer where they started to charge people for using their debit cards. Once enough people started squawking about it, the bank backed away from the new fee. Verizon customers don’t seemed thrilled.

If I ran AT&T (or any of the other carriers) I would see this as a big fat opportunity to stick it to my biggest competitor!

I would start running ads everywhere I could that say, “AT&T will pay your cancellation fee at Verizon if you’d like to pay your bill however you want.”

The cancellation fee at Verizon is at most $175. The cost of acquiring a new customer is probably ten times that.

The reason I don’t see that happening is that I have a feeling the other carriers are letting Verizon take the slings and arrows so they can do the same 6 months from now when the heat has died down.

What do you think? Is this just the first carrier to do this, or can the voices of all their subscribers actually have some weight on this issue?