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Businesses Must Change or Die (aka “ADT Sucks”)

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, 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.


Topics: Culture, Social Issues
Beliefs: Interfaith
Tags: adt customer complaints, adt customer service or lack thereof, amazon same-day delivery, apple innovation, cincinnati bell, companies must chang or die, customer service, iphone 5, publishing


  1. Yes—ADT is BEYOND HORRIBLE. I can’t even describe the nightmare I went through just to GET service—and I was TRYING to give them money. I told them exactly what I wanted, they installed a system that had nothing to do with what I wanted (I wanted Pulse, they installed non-Pulse), they replaced it and then charged me service fees for BOTH; they overcharged for the first system in the first place, their techs failed to connect necessary things so the battery died ten days later, and then they wanted to charge me for a service call for the tech to come back and fix the problem due to his own installation screwup. At one point I told them just to come in and rip it all out and take it away because I wanted nothing to do with them. I have had Comcast, which is a horrible company, and Comcast is like the concierge at the Plaza Hotel compared to the incompetence of ADT. I’m glad to hear there are alternatives now, because ADT will not survive if there is ANY decent alternative to them. They are disorganized and ignorant of their own products and systems, and they wouldn’t be able to compete against anyone.

  2. The security system company we started with was sold to Stanley Security. I saw that other rates were much lower, so I called to stop service and was told they would match the other price. Good customer service—if it had worked! It took me 16 months and numerous calls to various people before I got the agreed on price. I only stuck with it because we like our system and really didn’t want to bother with having another one installed. FINALLY I reached someone who adjusted our bill and gave us the credit for the time it took to get it changed. Unfortunately, many times good customer service is three or four people deep and it’s a lot of trouble to get to that person!

  3. While I thoroughly enjoy nearly every post I read from you, this post made me feel like you were trying to sell me something, or better yet, trying to dissuade me from buying something else. I understand the point you are trying to make, but I think that point would be better made on a consumer products blog or your own blog. I don’t think it matches the types of editorial commentary I would expect from a religion news blog.

  4. When discussing worst examples of customer service, government agencies are pretty much in the top tier.  When I was buying my current house, using my veteran’s benefits, I was required to fill out a form that listed the houses on which I had previously used my bwenefits, and the dates of the start and end of my mortgages on each one, and then submit it in hardcopy to the Veterans Administration, so they could issue a form authorizing the bank to give me VA mortgage loan.  There were holdups along the way, so I made several calls to their custoomer service.  Each time I got a different person with a different story.  After several calls, I finally got a person who told me (a) the VA has ALL of the data on the form already in their database, because it is reported directly to them by the banks, and don’t really need it form me, and (b) she would print it out and send it to me along with the authorization for the new loan, so I could avoid sending another expensive overnight mail package in an attempt to meet our planned closing date on the new house.  I had wasted two weeks and $60 in FedEx charges. That was only four years ago.

  5. Thought you would be interested in this article regarding ADT’s Pulse pricing. I tried to get a price from them but failed…

    How Much Does ADT Pulse Cost?  Chatting Up A Storm With ADT

    Feel free to share or re-post!

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