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Cable's Customer Service Edge over Google, Facebook

By KC Neel

It’s been years since the cable industry began taking customer service seriously and while MSOs have come a long way with their efforts to please and satisfy their customers, cable companies still get a bad rap when it comes to customer service. However, even at its worst - and that’s really saying something — cable’s customer service was better than what Internet-based companies like Facebook and Google offer today.

It may have taken up to a half-hour to get a cable customer service rep on the phone in 1980 but at least you eventually had the opportunity to speak with someone on the other side of the line. That luxury is not available to users of Google and Facebook because these companies have no customer service departments. None. Nada. Nothing. And the impact of that can have serious consequences.

When I am not writing for Multichannel News, my husband and I own a bike and ski shop in Colorado. About a year ago, we moved to a new location and modified our name from Castle Rock Bicycle Co. to Castle Rock Bike & Ski. We moved four blocks but it might as well as have been 400 miles as far as Google was concerned. We unsuccessfully tried several times to change our Google Places listing to reflect our new address and name. Instead, Google listed our business as permanently closed.

Given the fact that more than 90% of the Internet searches for our company come from Google, this posed a serious problem. Conventional wisdom would suggest I could just call the company and talk to someone about the issue. But no. Google has 24,300 employees spread across dozens of offices around the world. However, a thorough investigation revealed that Google has not one customer service employee to address these types of issues. I resorted to chat room forums for a solution to my problem.

My latest issue with dismal online customer service came compliments of Facebook. When we moved and changed our name a year ago, I tried changing our Facebook page name but protocol would not let me do that because we had over 100 “fans.” I created a new page with our new name and address and managed both pages. It was a bit unyielding but it worked. That is, it worked until last Friday when suddenly, our old Castle Rock Bicycle Co. Facebook page was hijacked by a real estate blogger who somehow managed to change the name of the page but kept everything else, including our fan database, our “likes,” our events, and even our address.

How they nabbed it, I’ll probably never know and we’ll likely never get that page back because, like Google, there are no customer service people at Facebook to help resolve the issue. Reporting problems is handled remotely and you can’t help but get the feeling that these “reports” simply go into a vortex never to be seen or addressed by any living person.

If this is progress, I’d like to revert to the dark days before cable’s “Customer Service Guarantee.” You might have been on hold for a half hour, but at least you eventually got to talk to someone to at least vent your frustrations and hopefully get help. There is no such satisfaction with these Internet services.

If cable operators are even the least bit worried about the Internet usurping their top-tier position in consumers’ eyes, they would be wise to remember that treating customers with quality care still matters. It is what will differentiate them from the flotsam and jetsom. That has always been the case. But instead of being behind the eight-ball as the industry was when Congress slapped its collective hands for poor customer service and passed the 1992 Cable Act, the industry could - with a little effort — serve as a shining beacon of quality customer service in the information and entertainment delivery universe. I’d be happy to post my experiences on Facebook - that is, if my page isn’t hijacked again.