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When Customer Dissatisfaction Is a Tech Business Model 257

jammag writes: A new trend has emerged where tech companies have realized that abusing users pays big. Examples include the highly publicized Comcast harassing service call, Facebook "experiments," Twitter timeline tinkering, rude Korean telecoms — tech is an area where the term "customer service" has an Orwellian slant. Isn't it time customer starting fleeing abusive tech outfits?
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When Customer Dissatisfaction Is a Tech Business Model

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  • by robinsonne ( 952701 ) on Friday August 22, 2014 @03:27PM (#47732113)
    Where are customers supposed to flee to? Many of these companies are de facto monopolies in many areas or at the very least in lock-step with their "competitors." There aren't very many choices for tech companies unless you want to do without, which is unpalatable for many.
  • No alternatives. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Cammi ( 1956130 ) on Friday August 22, 2014 @03:28PM (#47732127)
    The only way to flee is to have an alternative. And despite all of the wanna-bes, there are no real quality alternatives.
  • by Maxwell ( 13985 ) on Friday August 22, 2014 @03:28PM (#47732131) Homepage

    Required comment: the big corps have won. Deal with it.

  • by Matheus ( 586080 ) on Friday August 22, 2014 @03:31PM (#47732153) Homepage

    ^ This exactly (mod parent up).

    Every single company listed in the summary has little to fear from competition at the moment. They have no incentive to placate the user base so the corporate drive of "maximize profits and growth" goes unabated.

  • Customer/product (Score:5, Insightful)

    by afidel ( 530433 ) on Friday August 22, 2014 @03:34PM (#47732177)

    Remember, if something is free you aren't the customer, you are the product and so long as they're not pissing off their advertisers these companies can do anything that doesn't significantly reduce their user counts.

  • by bmo ( 77928 ) on Friday August 22, 2014 @03:44PM (#47732271)

    It's almost like large organizations have voting rights.

    What do you mean "almost"?

    They have more voting rights than you, me, or anyone.

    And you know what? We've got "temporarily embarrassed millionaires" who will fight you tooth-and-nail to defend that, in spite of their own interests.


  • Re:Free market (Score:5, Insightful)

    by therealkevinkretz ( 1585825 ) on Friday August 22, 2014 @03:46PM (#47732291)

    bought-and-paid-for politicians using the law to favor their friends isn't "the free market"

  • by ArmoredDragon ( 3450605 ) on Friday August 22, 2014 @03:47PM (#47732295)

    I work for a big corp, and we don't treat our customers like crap.

    I think what you're looking at is companies like Comcast who have government guaranteed monopoly in the areas they serve. Smaller outfits or community broadband outfits are either forbidden from competing or are forced to pay exorbitant easement fees. Not by the federal government, but by the local governments. For companies in Comcast's position, there's no need to be concerned how you treat the customer, mainly because the local governments tell them not to worry about it.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Friday August 22, 2014 @03:50PM (#47732329)

    Nononono, they don't have voting rights. They get to choose who you may vote for, and you then get to choose between their candidates.

    IIRC it's called "separation of power" or something like that.

  • by lucm ( 889690 ) on Friday August 22, 2014 @03:53PM (#47732377)

    Even when there is intense competition the service is usually bad, because then the companies are stuck in a price war (like the one in the cloud involving Amazon, Google and Microsoft) so resources are scarce for great customer service. And once a winner emerges from a price war, the service remains poor because the company can get away with it.

    This is not specific to the tech industry. A long time ago people were greeted by a small army of sharp-looking attendants at the gas station who made sure to check the oil, clean the windows and check the tires. Nowadays you are lucky to get the attention of a nonchalant clerk facebooking behind a 4 inch bullet-proof window when the pump does not accept your credit card directly or when you don't get a working code for the automated carwash.

  • Re:Free market (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <gameboyrmh@gmai l . c om> on Friday August 22, 2014 @03:59PM (#47732441) Journal

    I find it funny how people who defend capitalism in this day and age like to say that what we have is "crony capitalism" and if we'd just give real capitalism a try for once it would be super awesome.

    What does that sound like?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 22, 2014 @04:04PM (#47732471)

    I too dislike Comcast, my only option for non-dial-up internet (other than my cell provider, which I find myself preferring despite awful speeds & device limits).
    But what options do I have? I can't bring my money elsewhere. Protesting in the USA has been deadly lately. So I'm encouraging the Comcast-TimeWarner merger. TW was just as bad when I lived in their monopoly. With 55% of the US forced into 1 very bad company, either:
    - Enough people will wake up & complain to matter
    - The US will no-longer be the place to have tech business, and then MAYBE regulators won't be able to ignore the economy getting trashed.
    - Someone will talk about Monopoly sanctions like when AT&T had to share their lines.

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Friday August 22, 2014 @04:18PM (#47732581)

    The best (most profitable) customer is the one that can be bullied into puting up with your bullshit. The demanding ones, the ones who know how the service should work and cause trouble when it doesn't measure up are worth getting rid of.

    Thank you, sir. May I have another?

  • Re:Free market (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 22, 2014 @04:42PM (#47732765)

    In general, I agree, except I don't think "keeping prices low" is key. I think "making more money" is key, and "keeping prices low" is a pretty poor strategy for accomplishing that. Raising prices as high as you can without losing market share is the goal, and there are many ways of doing that without giving better service or a better product. Make it hard to leave, buy your competition (knowing there's no such thing as antitrust any more), manipulative marketing (proven to work, yes, even with proud, self-reliant libertarians), clever patent handling... all much cheaper and easier than the iffy, expensive route of providing a better product.

  • Re:Free market (Score:5, Insightful)

    by twotacocombo ( 1529393 ) on Friday August 22, 2014 @05:06PM (#47732957)

    Good customer service is expensive.

    Good customer service is less expensive than bad customer service. A smaller call center staffed with decently trained and compensated CSRs is far more cost effective than watching the headcount continuously grow and churn to deal with the increased call volume due to poorly trained staff dumping calls, permaholds, supervisor escalations, previous callers figuring out they've been lied to, etc. At some point, your call center will outgrow its allotted space, and then you'll have to deal with a costly move or additional locations. Both companies I worked for experienced this, one of them had to move TWICE in 4 years, and the cost was mindblowing. Then, as you lose a lot of your customers, there's the cost of downsizing.. all of which could have been avoided by just properly hiring, training, and compensating a solid, core group of people to take care of your customers and make sure they didn't become unhappy with the thought of giving you their money.

  • Free market (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 22, 2014 @06:03PM (#47733305)

    The free market fairy's powers only work in actual free markets. A cable or phone company with a government-mandated monopoly is not part of a free market.

  • by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Friday August 22, 2014 @06:32PM (#47733471)

    Isn't it time customer starting fleeing abusive tech outfits?

    Fleeing to where? Some other company where the service is just as bad or worse?

    I'm currently displeased with T-Mobile and the lies they told me about their "no overages fees" promise. I walked into AT&T and asked "how much to put your SIM in my phone?"

    "$20 a month for 300Mb data, unlimited talk/text". Oh, ok!

    "Plus $25/month to use a phone with that service." WTF? You can buy a service that requires a phone and then charge EXTRA to be able to use a phone with it? MY own phone, to boot?

    I could understand if you were adding additional devices to the service (two phones sharing one plan, e.g.). I could understand a charge to get a phone from them. But I consider it dishonest to separate out the plan from any devices that you need to have to use that service. It makes the cost look artificially low.

    $20/month! Great deal. $45/month, not so good anymore.

    Adding in that they charge for texts coming through the email to SMS gateway despite being "unlimited text", the service was more expensive for less product. I could choose to send a message to T-Mobile but it would wind up costing me more per month, and I have no reason to believe that AT&T's customer service is any better than T-Mobile's.

    So, it is likely that the idea of fleeing companies with bad customer service would only result in increased thrashing as 100 people move from company A to company B and 100 move from B to A, and 200 people find out that neither one is any good at helping them, and 200 people find out that they couldn't get as good a deal at their new provider as they had at the old.

    There is also the issue of the devil you know vs. the one you don't. AT&T may have better service, but they probably don't, and I already know how bad T-Mobile is. Changing providers for no benefit, added cost, and potentially no better service is a lose for me and T-Mobile probably wouldn't even notice.

  • Re: Free market (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Friday August 22, 2014 @07:07PM (#47733631)

    so it's good to take care of those who fall behind.

    And before the government started doing this, we had things called "charities" that people donated stuff to and they took care of those who fell behind. Now the government is taking the "donations" and doing the organizing, so why should people give money to anyone else to solve problems the government is supposed to fix? That's the problem with socialized charity -- people start losing track of personal responsibility to BE voluntary benefactors to others because they ARE already involuntary benefactors.

    That means that socialism is not the natural result of free markets, the result is charity. Socialism is a result of a distortion of the charity market by government assumption of responsibility.

    A wealthy member of a community, before this "genius" invention was made, would've been happy to organize large projects for the public good simply for the prestige of having been in charge of them.

    And many of them still do. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for one. Ronald McDonald House. St. Jude's Children's Hospital (Danny Thomas may not have given all the money to build and run it, but he certainly organized it.) Dave Thomas and his work for adoption. We have a local version of the McD house in our city, funded by the local Pepsi bottling company owner. Mario Pastega, I think it is. There is a heart wing bearing the name of the donor who built it across the street. There is the name of a local timber baron on a lot of things that his money built for the good of the people. The new engineering building on campus bears the name of the donor for that.

    Now they require that a portion of workers' labor be diverted to them permanently,

    Huh? People who stay at McD house have to divert a portion of their labor to Ray Crock's estate permanently? No, the generosity of the rich is not based on requiring a lifetime of slavery from the recipients. The people who are "diverting a portion of their labor" are doing so for money so they can buy things that other people have made, and the people who run the companies are not limited to "the wealthy" you denigrate. But the charity activities are just that -- charity.

    While it has made large projects easier to start, those projects have had less and less value to the common people over time.

    The fact that there are more and more common people over time is a pretty good reason why any one large project has less of an impact on all of them. There are also more and more large projects, and many more small ones. A local businessman who hands a $1000 check to a local charity is doing what he can just as much as (or more than) Bill Gates handing a billion to someone. The fact that the organization getting the $1000 only operated in a city or county and not globally, well, there's room for ten thousand more organizations for those locations, and they likely already exist.

    At this point, the labor market is an arrangement whereby you either build something you don't care about for a rich person, or you don't eat. It is functionally indistinguishable from slavery,

    Except that "rich person" may be your next door neighbor who is scraping by because he has a payroll to meet and health insurance to buy for you and the city is levying a special tax for some project. In fact, he's more likely to be your neighbor because there are a lot more small businesses than you think.

    And you working on something you don't care about is due to the specialization of society and the fact that not everyone can do the same job. You trade your labor doing something you don't like to do for money so you can buy things you want.

    And of course, it differs from slavery because massa can't whip you for being late back from lunch, and he can't stop you from quitting and finding a different job, and he can't even make you do something outside your job descr

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"