February 16, 2007

The Cable is on the Other Foot

I used to work for the cable companies. As their lawyer/lobbyist in DC, I defended the cable companies both professionally and personally. Whenever anyone complained to me about their cable company, I immediately took my clients' side. Now, however, I am simply a cable customer, and things look very different on the other side.

A few days ago, I was at a friends' house when the cable guy came over. She was having a problem with her new LCD flat panel tv. While high definition broadcasts were coming in perfectly clear, regular, non-hdtv broadcasts were blurry. After doing everything we could with the television and the cable box, including returning the tv for a replacement, we decided that the problem must be with the cable signal, and called the cable company.

The first thing the cable technician did was fail to show for his appointment. He or his supervisors didn't even call to say he would not be showing up. This was on a weekday where my friend had to be home from the office for a four-hour block of time. It was also the second time in a row that her cable company technician had failed to show for an appointment with her.

Several days later, the technician finally arrived. As is typically the case, he was a subcontractor rather than a direct employee of the cable company. Apparently, his compensation is not tied to sales or subscriber numbers. After being told of the problem, and that the television picture looks nothing like it did in the store, he replied, "that's because they use DirecTV in the stores." I was stunned. I asked him, "you mean to tell me that DirecTV has a better picture than your cable company?" "Sure," he replied. I said, "so I guess we should just cancel our cable service and get DirecTV."

The cable tech spent about 45 minutes with the tv, trying different types of cables and connections. During that time, my friend and I were joking about what it would be like to bring your Mercedes to the dealership with a problem, and have the mechanic say that Lexus makes better cars, and that they would not have such a problem. Ultimately, the cable tech was unable to improve the picture quality. We asked him to call his supervisor and see what they could do from the cable company office. He said he wasn't going to bother, because he knew that the company couldn't do anything to improve the signal.

The last thing my friend said to the cable tech, after thanking him for trying, was that she would call customer service and tell them that if they could not address the problem, she would switch to satellite tv service. The tech did not disagree that this would be a good idea. Given this level of service from the cable company, I am not surprised that, over the past five years or more, the satellite tv companies have experienced higher subscriber growth than the cable companies, and have poached many more cable subscribers than vice-versa. They just might add another subscriber soon. Maybe two.


At 12:14 PM, Blogger Barbara said...

I'm just surprised they didn't try to fix your problem by phone with a technician in Bangalore. The concept of real service has been lost -- totally. I give the contractor credit for having balls, but if his company found out about his advice, he would probably be relegated to selling TVs in Best Buy.

At 7:41 AM, Blogger Aileen said...

I thought you'd get a kick out of this hilarious post...It combines this TV theme with another favorite theme of yours! :)



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