Telecom Needs An Ethics Transplant

2 March 2004

Newton's Telecom DictionaryHere are the dots I’m about to connect:

  • Name another industry that has its very own dictionary; in fact, several of them
  • Name another industry that has ever been accused of ”slamming” you into their services without your approval
  • Mr. Ebbers has been indicted
  • In spite of the millions of dollars spent on telecom equipment and services, call centers know very little about what CEO’s really expect when it comes to serving customers

Telecom has been a highly visible industry in this country since the early 1990’s. Prior to that time, a lot of money was spent on telecom goods and services, but the phone just worked, AT&T had its way and the industry ambled steadily forward dragging its cash horde along.

Then, the calls at dinner time began. Friends and family began to be implicated in every scheme offering cheaper phone services. Sometimes the call didn’t even come in; the change just happened. Companies began to merge and acquire. Aggressive sales and marketing techniques used by more aggressive sales people began to confuse the masses.

Acquired companies weren’t really merged. Billing systems fouled the invoices and call centers put the complaining customers on hold. Errors took years to unravel.

Move ahead to 2004. Here we sit with all of this technology. We have the companies that remain from the legacy telecom years sitting right along side the new generation of equipment and service providers. Telephones, computers, proprietary networks and the Internet are converging. Each of those industries is rapidly developing new sets of dictionaries.

People are going to court, and maybe to jail. High pressure sales tactics are still in use. Some recent entrants in the telecom industry are trying to run billion dollar organizations using spreadsheets. (I kid you not.)

Many people understand less about the phone, ISP, hosting, long distance and equipment invoices they receive than at any time in history. Those same people fear the receptionist calling in sick just as much as they ever have. Nothing can create havoc in the small-to-medium sized business quicker.

With all this technology… With all this confusion… With all the promises made… is the customer getting better treatment or worse from that offered during the days of route salesmen, wooden pencils and yellow legal pads? Has the technology deployed really provided a better customer experience? Do you have any idea what it feels like to call your company? Few calls are dreaded more than those placed to tech support. The hold times we’ve been conditioned to endure when calling the tech support line can’t continue to climb, can they?

Anyone still puzzled about why executives now flee these issues by ”offshoring” the call center to Bangalore? When you know nothing else, you make decisions based upon price. When the prices look cheap, offshoring becomes one more way to annoy your customers with half-baked outsourcing schemes.

It’s time for a change. It’s time for an ethics transplant. It’s time for real solutions to real business problems. It’s time for business people to start figuring out how to be kind to customers again!

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