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Lessons in customer mindfulness from the least mindful corporations – cable companies

Corporate cable megalomaniacs tried to defend some of their terrible business practices. It went as well as you imagine, which is to say, it was terrible.

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Can’t say we’re surprised

There isn’t much you can say about cable company customer service that would be positive. In fact, you could say the three constants in life are death, taxes, and cable companies sinking to a new low.

This most recent new low came about during a senate subcommittee hearing, where representative from Charter Communications, Time Warner cable, and Dish (among others) tried to defend some of their terrible business practices. It went as well as you imagine, which is to say, it was terrible.

Rather than spend too much time crapping on cable companies (no pride in hitting an easy target), let’s go over how to not be like these corporate megalomaniac, based on what they said in the hearing:

1. Customer service isn’t a zero-sum game

A report released by the committee showed Charter and TWC both failed to issue automatic refunds to customers when they were made aware of billing errors. These errors accounted for at least half a million dollars in overbilling.

So, how did they respond? For starters, they claimed that they refund over $150 million per year to other customers, so it all evens out.

Doing the right thing by one customer doesn’t make things any better for the party scorned.

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2. If you are in the hot seat, get your numbers right

In that same discussion, TWC and Charter claimed (through some questionable math) that only 8,000 customers had billing errors, when the report had established that 40,000 customers in Ohio alone in 2015 experienced problems.

But hey, at least they had an answer. That’s arguably not as bad as the instances of complete silence that followed questions about whether or not they advertised the price of their services after the promotional price was lifted.

At this level, where executives have time to prepare for such an inquisition, this mistake is just pathetic. If you ever have time to prepare before defending yourself, get your facts straight.

But what if you are put on the spot? It’s acceptable to ask for time to get the numbers right. If the customer insists on an immediate remediation, see if you can refund part of the issue until you can investigate the scope of the remedy. And while we’re on that topic…

3. Be up front about the value of your business

Nobody likes liars. They’re just nasty. So it can’t be a good look for Dish when they admitted to charging for HD TV, an item they brag about offering “for free, for life” in their advertising. According to their Senior VP of Operations, HD fees are included in the receiver that they pay for. Now, bundling fees isn’t a strange idea, but it’s rather brazen to admit that in a congressional hearing when it directly contradicts your marketing message.

If you have to lie about your business value, your business value probably isn’t that good.

Play to your strengths, and don’t try to make them out to be something they’re not. Consumers (and congress) can and will sniff out the BS.


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Written By

Born in Boston and raised in California, Connor arrived in Texas for college and was (lovingly) ensnared by southern hospitality and copious helpings of queso. As an SEO professional, he lives and breathes online marketing and its impact on businesses. His loves include disc-related sports, a pint of a top-notch craft beer, historical non-fiction novels, and Austin's live music scene.



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