The whole thing started when Liz innocently went out to mow the lawn one day earlier this summer. She was unaware, but the cable company ran the coax for her neighbor’s television service under the fence, through her yard, around the back of the house to the neighbor’s house. It wasn’t buried or hidden, it was just laying on top of the lawn …
I’ve friends living in lower, southwestern Michigan who recently had a terrible experience with the cable company servicing his area.
The whole thing started when Liz (not her real name) innocently went out to mow the lawn one day earlier this summer. She was unaware that the cable company servicing their area ran the coax for her neighbor’s television service under the fence, through her yard, around the back of the house to the neighbor’s house. It wasn’t buried or hidden, it was just laying on top of the lawn. This was a very odd way to run the line, especially since there was a utility pole closer the neighbor’s house from which the line could have been run. Here’s a diagram showing the setup:
She found out about the cable when the neighbor came outside asking if her service was working. His stopped working and he was wondering if hers was out, too. It turns out, Liz had run over the line going through her yard and cut it. She didn’t see it because, admittedly, she’d let the grass get a little too high. It’s quite lucky the cable didn’t get caught up in the mower and cause more problems than just interrupted TV service.
Calls to the cable company brought out a technician a week later to route the cable outside of my friends’ yard. There are three things wrong with this scenario:
- the cable was run incorrectly
- because of that, it was cut by a lawn mower
- the customer had to wait a week before it could be fixed.
If that wasn’t bad enough, when the cable was rerouted, it was still wrapped around my friends’ house, just outside the fence.
It still wasn’t buried, it was just lying on the lawn. Since Liz saw it before she mowed, she was able to avoid cutting it. Still, this was unacceptable to her.
Liz, her husband, Steve (not his real name, either), and their neighbor tried calling the cable company repeatedly over the next several days trying to get someone out to run the line from the utility pole closer to the neighbor’s house. This would solve the problem and save everyone a lot of trouble. The cable company told Liz and Steve that they would have someone out in two to three weeks.
During one interaction, one person on the phone asked Liz if she liked her neighbor. When she responded in the affirmative, she was then asked why she would consider cutting the cable to his house if she liked him. Needless to say, that infuriated her. When the neighbor called, he was told not to worry about it because his service was working.
After trying in vain to get the cable company to fix this, Liz posted a video on her Facebook page expressing her frustration and outrage. Steve called the cable company and threatened to post the video on YouTube if they didn’t come and deal with the situation. That got someone out there the next day.
Lessons To Learn Here
This was an epic fail on the part of the cable company.
- The first thing that went wrong was the placement of the cable. OK, it was also the second thing that went wrong. Had the technician run the coax from the utility pole closest to the neighbor’s house, none of this would have happened.
- If there was a technical issue preventing a proper connection from that pole, had the technician asked for permission to run the cable through my friends’ yard and properly buried it, they would have likely given their OK. Informed consent is better than no consent.
- Upon being alerted to the problem, the cable company should have dispatched someone within hours, not weeks, to fix things. It’s ridiculous to think that there wasn’t a way for them to solve this more quickly.
- It took a threat to “out” the company before they would take the incident seriously.
So, basically they had three chances to do this right. Even after being told about the situation, they deflected and delayed rather than just dealing with the problem.
Here’s the lesson: Offer the best products, services and customer service possible. If you do that, you’ll go a long way to keeping current customers, attracting new ones and avoid reputation issues that come up when things get totally screwed up on a regular basis.
Every time I read about the incumbent cable companies complain about NetFlix or Amazon and how those companies compete unfairly, I think about stories like this and my own interactions with them and any temptation to believe their whining goes completely away.