Saturday, October 20, 2007

Hammer This

Please stop sending me links to the hammer lady! Yes, I know about it. I was even tempted to write about it. But I think there's little to add that hasn't been said already. 450 people posted comments to the Washington Post article about it! How much more is there to say?

For those of you that still haven't heard the story, Mona Shaw, 75, of Manassas VA, a kindly grandmother type right out of central casting, was so mistreated by Comcast - starting with a missed appointment, a botched install, a total loss of service, and finally ending with abuse-in-person at the local Comcast office - that she reached her breaking point and proceeded to go home and return with a hammer to dispense justice, outraged-grandmother style.

Here's a link to the full article by Neely Tucker, Washington Post Staff Writer.

The reporter bent over backward to give equal time to Comcast. In the article, Beth Bacha, a Comcast VP, noted that Comcast has more than 25 million customers, "the overwhelming majority of which are very satistified with their service."

I'd love to see the evidence of that. Their customer base is not that evidence given that many Comcast subscribers live in non-competitive areas. And for customers fortunate enough to live in a competitive area, Comcast may be having a very tough time - especially if my own experience is any guide.

Recently a member of my own community posted a note to our neighborhood mail list. She described how she had been experiencing Comcast outages for two weeks and wanted to know whether other neighbors had been experiencing similar problems.

Ten people replied. (I didn't participate in the discussion - I just watched.) Nine said they had switched to Verizon FIOS and doing so was very easy. Repeatedly, people said FIOS TV and Internet were rock solid using terms like "great", "never a problem", "couldn't be happier" and, from one person, "Switch to FIOS now! Run, run from Comcast."

Oh, the tenth person? He said he was fed up with Comcast and was about to switch. Bottom line: Not one person defended Comcast or admitted to remaining a Comcast customer.

This is remarkable - not just because Comcast has had the market to themselves for so long but because they've had years to work out problems in their operations. And from the statements I hear around the neighborhood and in newspaper articles like the hammer lady, Comcast has done so badly that people are desperate to try anyone else - even at a higher price.

Needless to say, Verizon is finding fertile ground here and, for some people, offering cheaper bottom line prices with faster service to boot. It's hard to see a rosy future for Comcast right now. Or any future.

It all depends on Verizon. While Verizon has already screwed up in the past (poorly trained subcontractors, for example), people appear willing to accept mistakes if they're corrected and if the end result is better.

Verizon has a golden opportunity - a market that already exists and is hungering for an alternative. Why Verizon even bothers to spend money on advertising is beyond me. All Verizon needs to do is have neighbors do its advertising for it. That's certainly what's happening where I live. (PS: Verizon, stop sending me brochures for FIOS!)

As for Comcast, they need to get the message. They've spent a ton of money upgrading their system and making it more robust. But it still doesn't appear to be as robust as Verizon's. And Comcast needs to do something about how they interact with their customers. Donating money to public events and charities isn't what makes customers happy. (Hey, they're great at something, right?)

I hate to write Comcast off entirely. If we've learned anything, we've learned that we need competition in the marketplace. We need both Comcast and Verizon to prosper. Are you listening Comcast?

1 comment:

Tim Wood said...

Hey Don. What's the latest on FIOS in Rockville? I'm a semi-happy Comcast customer, but I would prefer to have the faster service from Verizon. I haven't heard anything in a while about this from your blog. Are we still waiting on Rockville to approve right-of-way's for Verizon, or is there some disagreement between Rockville and Verizon about the franchise?