The iPhone 5’s unveiling last week—coupled with Amazon’s startling announcement that it is implementing next-day shipping on the way to an eventual goal of same-day delivery (!)—are signs of companies that continue to innovate in a fiercely competitive environment.
Contrast those companies’ commitments to improvement and customer service to two of my family’s experiences this past month with other, less forward-looking, businesses.
At long last, we have dumped Cincinnati Bell, not because its services were all that poor—they were basically neutral—but because we found a better deal using VOIP. We’re going to save about thirty dollars a month while having more features than we got with Cincinnati Bell, including a voice mail system that is about six different kinds of awesome. When someone leaves us a message, I get an email with their voice message embedded right inside the email message. I just press play and I can listen to it from wherever I am, which is a great convenience for someone who travels frequently.
Although Cincinnati Bell never gave us poor service, they never felt the need to be competitive either. When my husband called to see if they’d be able to better the rates and services the VOIP company was offering, they didn’t seem to care.
But their indifference to customers’ needs and expanding menu of options pales in comparison to ADT, which has some of the worst customer service I’ve ever seen. When we moved into our house, we inherited an ADT security system and just decided to use it by default, since the house was already wired for it. We’ve muscled along with it for years, despite a frustrating alarm panel that occasionally screeches in the middle of the day for no apparent reason when the house isn’t even alarmed. I think it has an anxiety disorder.
We have switched to a well-reviewed company called SafeMart, which provides all the services of ADT, plus several more, for about 30% less monthly cost.
Now in addition to basic monitoring, we have the ability to program the system from our phones wherever we are. And since it’s a wireless system we don’t have to worry that an intruder will just cut our phone wires and disable the alarm.
We also have this nifty touch-screen controller (above) to replace the ADT dinosaur we had on the wall before. It slices, dices, and makes julienne fries!
Throughout the process of our switching over, ADT acted like, well, a total butthead. No one my husband called for information seemed to understand what he was asking, and he got conflicting answers. And then, a month after he started calling to inform them he would be switching to another provider, ADT told him that he had failed to provide the required one-month window of notice to terminate service, so they are charging us for an extra month even though the service is disconnected. Seriously?
In poking around online, I found that out of 534 customer reviews of ADT on consumeraffairs.com, fully 83% gave ADT just one star, the lowest possible rating. Another 13% gave it two stars. Not a single customer gave the company a five-star rating.
In other words, 96% of customers gave ADT a terrible review, and only 4% ranked it so much as average. One irate customer wrote, “I would rather risk my house [being] burglarized than deal with ADT.”
In my work in publishing, we are constantly trying to figure out how to meet the changing needs of readers and authors; I do understand how challenging it can be to stay ahead of the curve. But I also understand the need to constantly innovate, to never rest on our laurels and coast on the way things have always been done. I don’t take readers or authors for granted, period.
Ma Bell used to have a monopoly; no more. ADT used to be one of only a few home security providers; now other companies are providing far better service for a lower cost. If companies don’t keep up with changes, their customers can and will vote with their feet.