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mharvey
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 13, 2006 7:44 pm    Post subject: Making Companies Pay for Bad Service Reply with quote Back to top

Now here is a good idea... if a company gives you bad customer support, maybe they should compensate you. I am all for that. I really like the service I am getting from Vonage but I always dread having to call them on the phone.

http://blog.washingtonpost.com/thecheckout/2006/04/making_companies_pay_for_bad_s.html

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ellisile
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 17, 2006 10:02 pm    Post subject: VONAGE ****! Reply with quote Back to top

I have been trying to get someone that I could comprehend on the phone for days finally I decided that my local phone company provides better service so it is worth more money to me Vonage **** as far as I am concerned. Never did get the service working due to bad customer service and even worse tech support. They all sound like the same person maybe they onlt have one employee also I hope your house never starts on fire! [url=http://http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2006/03/vonage_fire.html]
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scerruti
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2006 7:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

Frankly, this is the most ridiculous, whiny, cry-baby attitude I have ever seen. The guy who wrote this "Bill of Rights" makes money by charging companies to help them improve customer service, of course he would like to see legal requirements for minimum levels of customer service.

Why should I, the technically competent user who rarely needs support, have to pay extra for a level of support I don't need? While not needing a high level of support is the case for me with Vonage, someone who needs more support with Voip might need less support in some other area where I would be willing to pay more.

ellisile is correct, if you don't like the level of support you get from a company in most cases you can either a) choose a different company or in some cases b) get support from a third party, like this forum.

In cases where the consumer doesn't have the power to switch vendors (government monopolies, employer health plans) then it is the responsibility of the purchaser (through the franchise agreement or health plan selection) to ensure that the level of customer service is adequate. In this case a bill of rights is not the correct term, the correct term is service level agreement and it is contractual and not legislative.

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dcongrav
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2006 12:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

Stephen, normally I agree with most of what you've written but, this time around I think you are way off.

You state that "Why should I, the technically competent user who rarely needs support, have to pay extra for a level of support I don't need? This argument is similar to: Why should I pay for health insurance when I'm not sick. Let the sick people pay for health insurance. Of course, when you become sick, I don't think that any company will cover you. That's the whole point of spreading costs over the entire "population" and not only the presently needy.

Also you state: "In this case a bill of rights is not the correct term, the correct term is service level agreement and it is contractual and not legislative" but which company is willing to agree and "sign" a decent SLA without being legislated into it. It comes down to a basic question: How does a 1000 man army conquer a 100 million man army? One at a time. Company's have the customer over the barrel when dealing with only one of us but change considerably when dealing with a whole bunch of us. The trouble is that there is no customer's union so quite often, legislation is all that's left to the individual consumer.
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scerruti
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2006 1:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

By Vonage, or any company, not providing an acceptable level of customer service it leaves the door open to other companies to step into the void and compete.

This goes for features as well. I have long maintained that Vonage's focus on being a broadband based replacement for traditional phone service leaves a lot of room in the market for other smaller companies to compete on features instead of price.

I think in the Vonage specific case that they are under performing in the customer service arena. I think they know it as well and would like to be doing better. However I am not convinced that legislating levels of customer service will not reduce consumer choice without providing a real benefit.

I think that Best Buy serves as an appropriate model. For years Best Buy was a joke at providing useful information in the stores. But their reputation is beginning to change in part because of optional services like Magnolia (their upscale home theater business) and Geek Squad. The key here is optional. These services are available for customers who choose to pay more.

I don't see your health insurance analogy as applicable. In places where health insurance is universal (for example Massachusetts) part of the intent is to reduce societal costs from uninsured people waiting to seek care (publicly funded emergency room visits and spread of disease). Even in those cases mandating that healthy individuals carry coverage to subsidize the unhealthy is not popular in the US.

No such "compelling common interest" argument can be made for most services requiring technical support. Certainly not services that are purchased by individuals. The customer may not have a union but he does have the services of Consumer Reports or JD Powers who make an effort to provide information to consumers about the customer service available from companies prior to purchases.

But far more important, Vonage and other companies absolutely depend on having an overall positive image so that people will accept their product. For example, I stopped actively recommending Vonage when I became fully aware of the extent of their customer service issues. I will still recommend Vonage, but only after analyzing the amount of technical support I will have to provide in Vonage's place. Vonage, however, still manages to have a positive image because customer service problems are the exception, rather than the rule and the price makes up for the inconvenience for the majority of users.

As far as consumer protection goes, that argument could be better served by looking at claims that the product did not meet its advertised claims without a better level of customer support. That is, instead of requiring customer support for its own sake, allow the courts to determine if a company's level of support makes a product unsuitable for its intended use. The excessive shrink wrap licenses and terms of service that are allowed with products fundamentally limit this avenue of approach. My argument that legislation in that area is more desperately required.

Finally, predefined levels of customer support could kill third party Voip. There is no way that Vonage can promise to resolve customer problems that stem from problems at their ISP or problems with the Internet at large. There is no way any Voip company could meet points 1 and 3 of the bill of rights for every customer.

The one point that the article makes is that industry is training us to expect bad customer service. I disagree, as people we traded customer service away voluntarily for price concessions. Not just in the area of technical support but in retail shopping as well. We did this in the choices we made when we purchased products and where we chose to shop. Industry listened and reduced prices by reducing support. We made our bed and now it's time to lie in it.

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NateHoy
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2006 1:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

dcongrav wrote:
Stephen, normally I agree with most of what you've written but, this time around I think you are way off.

You state that "Why should I, the technically competent user who rarely needs support, have to pay extra for a level of support I don't need? This argument is similar to: Why should I pay for health insurance when I'm not sick. Let the sick people pay for health insurance. Of course, when you become sick, I don't think that any company will cover you. That's the whole point of spreading costs over the entire "population" and not only the presently needy.

Also you state: "In this case a bill of rights is not the correct term, the correct term is service level agreement and it is contractual and not legislative" but which company is willing to agree and "sign" a decent SLA without being legislated into it. It comes down to a basic question: How does a 1000 man army conquer a 100 million man army? One at a time. Company's have the customer over the barrel when dealing with only one of us but change considerably when dealing with a whole bunch of us. The trouble is that there is no customer's union so quite often, legislation is all that's left to the individual consumer.


If you were referring to a monopoly position, I'd agree with you. However, your analogy falls short in a couple of areas.

First, health insurance and telephone service are not analogous at all. I pay for health insurance not because I need it, but because I MIGHT need it. I hope never to use it, the whole time I am paying for it. Those who choose not to (or are unable to for various reasons) get health insurance pay for medical care as they need it (or for various reasons end up not paying for it, which ends up in my health insurance bill at the end of the day). Health care is pretty much a guaranteed right - hospitals are not allowed to turn you away because you cannot pay, though of course they can send bill collectors after you later.

Second, in a competitive marketplace, law has no place telling a corporation what levels of customer service they may or may not offer (the only exception being safety issues like 911 access, or fraudulent behavior, or anticompetitive practices). If I knowingly to go into a "discount outlet" and buy a commodity product from someone who hasn't the faintest clue what they are selling, and knowing that I'm on my own, then chances are I know how to use the prouct I am buying. If not, I would have gone to a full service store, gotten recommendations for the best product, and paid a price premium to the store to pay for the higher levels of service.

Service comes at a cost. If and when a company's service is unacceptable, you leave the company and go with one of their competitors.

For the reliability Vonage has given me in the last 9 months, I wouldn't shed a tear if they made phone Tech Support a 9-to-5 service. The phone line has worked with 1-2 minor outages.

Another company will come along, charge more, and offer a better service with reps who understand their product and speak better English. Heck, it's possible that your cable company already does this, or your local telco for that matter.

Do I expect bad service? Yes, from any company that I am buying a deeply discounted product from. I don't go to Wal Mart and ask the sales clerk about how to compile custom Linux distros for the router I am looking at, and what version of GCC I need. I don't buy Vonage because I want a personal concierge to dial the phone for me. I do both because they are cheap.

This is a feeble attempt by a lawyer to be at the forefront of a bunch of ill-advised and counterproductive lawsuits. Want Vonage to improve their customer service without raising their price. Well, one hint might be to NOT make them pay for a bunch of $500 an hour stuffed suits for a year fighting off lawsuits.

If you really want customer service, find a company that offers it and do business with them. Your money is the power of the market. If you demonstrate to a marketspace that you are WILLING and ABLE to pay for superior service, SOMEONE WILL OFFER IT.

That's the nature of the competitive marketplace. Your demands as a consumer and willingness to pay for those demands determines what services are offered in a competitive market. Vonage is making boatloads of money by offering a product based on pre-packaged convenience that works for the majority of their customers, at a cheap price. They have made Voip a consumer commodity, similar to regular telephony but without the monopoly. There are lots of others in the marketplace that offer different features and levels of service.

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