Occasionally (OK, rarely) I obsess over something I’ve written. For those of you thinking I’m questioning my accuracy, hold your water; nothing is inaccurate. Occasionally (OK, rarely) some things bother me.

Several weeks ago I reported on a Forrester Research survey where TV service providers (read that as cable) ranked just above medical insurance providers in customer satisfaction and approval. Survey respondents vilified TV service providers, and the survey’s author, Bruce Temkin, Forrester’s vice president-principal analyst, confirmed the ill feelings.

Temkin said he believed that cable, like some occupants of the White House, lives in a bubble, secure in its monopoly status and entrenched in its disdain for the outside world. The attitude, the analyst said, runs from the top of an MSO’s management ranks through to the front line grunts.

I was about to make it a new year’s resolution to cut cable a break on this; to explain how my most recent experiences with cable techs have shown them to be helpful, courteous and possessing a sense of humor. The good For example, there was the time that, while waiting interminably for a call to the office to be answered, I asked the Comcast tech if he wanted to lie down and take a nap. He laughed – that’s right, laughed – and shook his head. "That ain’t gonna happen with me," he chuckled. "Y’know we fired that guy’s ass."

Reference the YouTube clip of the sleeping Comcast tech waiting for a call to be answered if you don’t understand this.

A later tech actually rewired my house to try to improve my HD reception, which really warmed my heart and made me feel good about cable even though it didn’t seem to make much difference with the picture – and I wasn’t shy about sharing my opinions with friends and colleagues.

Then, in the last couple weeks, I experienced why the survey respondents rated their carriers the way they did. First, I bought a new cell phone with e-mail connectivity. When the e-mail crashed (or I thought it did, but that’s another story) I called Verizon Wireless, and the CSR was helpful, courteous and, while unable to solve the problem, almost contrite that it was happening. The Verizon rep said the problem might be on Comcast’s side so I called Comcast. The bad "It’s not us," said the Comcast guy gruffly. "You’ll have to work it out with Verizon."

When the phone broke again – not an advertisement for BlackBerry – another Verizon rep walked me through how to get it back online and e-mailed me an instruction book to supplement the pitifully scant operator’s manual that came with the device. The third time it crashed (is there a lemon law for mobile phones?) the rep resolved a problem that had little to do with Verizon and lots to do with BlackBerry, with amazing grace, humor and patience.

About the same time this was happening – since bad things seem to gang up – my second digital box, a Motorola unit, suddenly lost contact with local broadcast channels. It would flick in and flick out as if the signal stream was broken. Since this was the second time this happened and since I’d swapped out a previous box, I removed the box and reattached the cable directly to the TV; the picture was fine. The ugly I carted the offending unit to the local Comcast office where I patiently waited in line for the only CSR along with other customers who could be heard grumbling about getting "no signal" messages. When it was finally my turn, I started to explain what was wrong with the unit and what I thought might be causing the problem. About a quarter of the way through this explanation the rep interrupted me and asked, "What do you want to do?"

I wanted to explain that either the box was defective or Comcast was having a digital signal delivery problem, but since she was obviously not interested I returned the box and disconnected digital from the second outlet. Now, of course, I don’t pay for that extra outlet – I hope – but I also don’t have access to my premium HBO service since Comcast requires a box to get it. Had she offered a modicum of understanding and/or a new box to try, I might still be a digital subscriber and might occasionally watch HBO in the bedroom. Instead, I have one buggy primary HD unit, one line plugged into the TV and one growingly fervent wish that Verizon would get around to giving my neighborhood FiOS.

It’s pretty clear why cable ranked below mobile phone providers. What puzzles me is how it managed to beat out HMOs. Rather than resolving to be nicer to cable this year, I think the resolution should go the other way: Cable should resolve to be nicer to its customers. Of course, that’s a 50-year-old resolution that never seems to stick. – Jim Barthold

The Daily



Nancy Altobello has been appointed to fiber-optic cable manufacturer Amphenol’s board. Altobello most recently served as global vice chair, talent at Ernst & Young.

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