No Competition

no-competition-2Haven’t we all looked at our businesses and thought: “Wouldn’t it be great to not have any competition?”

After all, competition affects pricing, our level of service, our need for communication with our customers and customer satisfaction.

Or does it?   A review of many of the most disliked companies in the US and the reviews of their customer service indicates that while we hate doing business with these companies, we are often forced into it.

Let’s look at a few examples:

Comcast is rated nationwide as the lowest rated ISP, the second lowest rated phone provider and the third lowest rated telephone service provider. So why do we do business with them?

Why Do We Do Business With Them?

Simple; there is often no choice. If you live in an apartment or condo such as I do for much of the week, there is no choice. If we want TV or Internet, it’s Comcast or nothing.  Regardless of how poor the service is or how exorbitant the cost we’re stuck with them. Like so many other people around the country, if there was competition, I’d switch in a heartbeat.  But there isn’t!

Another One Of The Companies We Love To Hate …

Or another one of the companies we love to hate: CenturyLink.   CenturyLink is rated just a bit worse than Comcast for phone service, providing the second lowest rated customer service across the country. But, you may comment, we’re talking about landline service: Who still has a landline?

For those of us who live much of the time in the San Juan Islands, CenturyLink controls almost all of the communications. That includes phone, Internet, and even cell service where it uses VOIP. Last November, a damaged underwater fiber optics cable cut all communications for almost two weeks.  For many people who live in this area, the phone is their lifeline as some areas do not have reliable or even any cell service. For those who have DSL internet, when the phone is out, so is the web.

You would think that since we are capable of stringing reliable phone and data cables under the Atlantic Ocean, that a little redundancy could be provided under a two mile stretch of water. But, with a small market and no competition………..

Of Course, One Of Our Favorites Is ….

And, of course there is one of our favorites, Bank of America. This fine company ranks third nationally on the list of most disliked companies and is currently negotiating a twelve billion dollar fine for home loan fraud on top of a previous $6 billion fine.  Yet, most of us have no choice of where our home mortgage is sent to be processed. For many of us, yep, it’s Bank of America; despite the horrific fines and equally horrific service. And once again, for the consumer, there are no choices.

In Seattle, We Have Our Own Local Star …

In Seattle, we, in addition to these national giants, have our own local stars of poor customer service. One of these is a company that I use almost every week, Kenmore Air Lines. As a frequent flier, I was pleased that Kenmore had a frequent flier program. Then it was cancelled in favor of providing Alaska Air miles. Then that was cancelled in favor of……nothing. But that is only the beginning. Rather than outlining my own experiences on Kenmore, the comments come from other customers:

“On a recent trip from their boarding location in Seattle, we encountered the most arrogant, unfriendly, insensitive, obnoxious and rude boarding agents in our experience on many hundred flights on other airlines. Those young ladies are the worst!  The ones in Victoria aren’t much better. Lesson: Take a boat!”

“I will not fly on Kenmore Air again. The Kenmore flight arrived on time and we should have departed on time. The crew took their time getting things loaded into the aircraft and dawdling behind the desk. There were only 7 people on my flight and 4 of them had connections in Seattle. We repeatedly asked if we would make our connecting flights and the crew reassured us there would not be an issue. We departed with Kenmore 30 minutes late. All 4 of us missed our connecting flights. If Kenmore Air was more organized this would not have been an issue. I have called and left two voicemails for the head of customer service with no call back.”

Since I fly on a weekly basis, I have had these experiences and more. But, once again, with no competition, there is no reasonable alternative. To be fair, Kenmore has many positive comments from the occasional user. But for those who fly on a regular basis, the comments are reflective of the experience.

As A Member Of An Organization That …

It is often said that one should not raise a problem without offering a solution. And as a member of an organization that specializes in reengineering companies, we know there are solutions for poor levels of customer service. But until we, as consumers, are willing to cause poor customer service levels to become poor bottom line performance and declining stock prices, these companies won’t even believe they have a problem.

So we hate doing business with them?! So what?! After all, we hate Congress and keep sending them back and paying them to do mostly nothing. The solution to the problem of poor customer service; be it commercial or governmental, is in our mirrors. And so far, it just stares back at us.