Customer Service is Back!

…and companies like Wide Open West are leading the way.

Have you received the personal cell phone number of a Comcast service rep lately? Have you called AT&T service lately, where the very friendly customer service rep concludes each call with, “I would just like to make sure, before we hang up, that you’ve been extremely satisfied with the level of service I’ve provided.”? Have you issued a brand complaint online, only to have it quickly addressed by a customer service rep on Twitter?

Times are changing…and for the better, it would seem.

For years, the monopolistic monoliths have gained a reputation for treating their customers like numbers…nuisances, even. Poor service, bad attitudes, lack of issue resolution. This is all presuming you had the good fortune to navigate through the automated prompts by either saying or pressing 1 now, only to talk to a real live person 20 minutes into your service call.

But two things have changed:

1.) Social media has changed the customer service landscape, as what were once private service calls can quickly escalate into very public disputes.

2.) Companies like WOW have raised the customer service bar, and their legacy competitors have no choice but to follow suit.

I recently switched cable television providers. Unhappy with extremely poor customer “service” I’ve received for 20 years from what was once the only game in town, I finally got the opportunity to make the switch to a provider who would treat me with respect, urgency and interest—none of which did I ever feel was the case with my former provider.

It was a different experience from day one. I received the personal cell phone number of sales rep, who indicated right away that she would also be my service rep. She told me to call hernot an anonymous toll-free touchtone labrynth—if I were to have any questions or issues whatsoever. (I’ve already tried this out, and the conversation has been direct, instant and personal. When’s the last time you said that about a service provider?)

Once I signed on, I was not forgotten. I received this hand-addressed, hand-written thank-you note from my personal service rep at WOW:

When’s the last time your cable provider did that?

What’s nice is that it seems that the larger companies, who for years have been basking in the comfort of their own monopolies, are starting to embrace this more personalized approach to customer service. For me, though, 20 months of trying harder does not make up for 20 years of bad road. I’m going to give the new game in town a shot; the old game had plenty of chances.

Because if it weren’t for social media, or companies like WOW raising everyone else’s game, does anyone honestly believe these companies would be changing at all? See: your electricity provider.

Doubt it.


Keep Your Politics Off My Pigskin!

Why Punditry, Politics and Pigskin Don’t Mix

Am I the only one who is utterly astonished by the news that Bill O’Reilly will interview President Obama during the Superbowl festivities? Great! The interview absolutely no one has asked for, airing during the worst possible time!

Maybe it’ll be good for ratings; I honestly don’t know. What it won’t be good for? An enjoyable viewing experience for my mixed political family.

I figure most people watch the Superbowl for one of three reasons:

  1. They love football and are genuinely interested in the game.
  2. It’s a national event, and it’s enjoyable for the mere spectacle of it all.
  3. Who doesn’t like a good party?

I doubt there is a national movement for reason #4.) To absorb biting political analysis in real time.

Most see sports as a diversion and an escape (from more serious fare, from our daily drudgery, from the problems of the world), and the grandest event in sportsdom is the Superbowl. Why are we tainting that with the intrinsically partisan posture of politics? Is nothing sacred for us pizza-eating, beer-sipping masses?

Chances are, if you are a fan of President Obama, you don’t like O’Reilly. Inversely, if you love O’Reilly, chances are you don’t much care for the President. I, for one, live in a house divided, so you can be pretty confident that when one of them is talking, half of the room will be groaning. When the other one is talking, the other half of the room will be rolling their eyes and muttering. What is sure to follow are a few snide remarks and (please, no!) a familial political debate. Just in time for kickoff!

As marketing communications strategists, we live and breathe knowing thine audience. I can’t help but wonder who focus-grouped this idea and decided that it was tailor-made for a football viewing audience.

I, for one, am dreading it. But beyond that, I’m wondering: Who is clamoring for this? Does the country really need more political infighting filtered into our football viewing schedules? What is the target demo for this? Whose taste is this suiting? What am I missing?

I hope to miss the interview for starters.

Where College Football Has it Wrong

Two gripes about college football—the best, most entertaining sport in the land. The first is obvious: the BCS is pure BS. But that’s a yearly canard, and hardly original. The second is its replay policy. Let’s tackle that one first…

Constant Replay
I hate it. A few college coaches fought the implementation of instant play (Lloyd Carr among the most vocal) for logistical reasons and good ole’ fashioned if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it reasons. I thought, as I often did of him, he was being an old grump who was afraid of change. But I’m here to tell ya, if this is the way they’re going to do it, he was right.

If you’re unfamiliar with the policy, it’s different than the NFL’s. In the NFL, each team is granted two replay challenges per game, and is awarded a third if one of their challenges is upheld.

In college football, EVERY play is reviewed. EVERY play is under scrutiny and potentially reversible by the booth officials. You could conceivable have 10 stoppages per half, if the booth deems that many calls on the field are worthy of review. And I’ve watched games where that seems like what’s happening. Some of them aren’t even worth disputing by the aggrieved party. Some are plays that an opposing coach would NEVER consider worthy of tossing a challenge flag (which they can also do, by the way).

It’s ridiculous. It disrupts the flow of the game, it makes the whole spectacle a practice in perfection (when sports never is), and gives too much power to the cameras while taking too much away from the officials on the field. What results is not football; it’s a video game.

Why can’t they institute a coach’s challenge policy and leave it at that? The whole point of this was to make sure that games weren’t decided on one or two OBVIOUSLY horrible calls…like a TD that never was or a fumble that is clearly missed. It shouldn’t be the intent to make the officiating flawless, because it never will be. Even if they stop play to review EVERY SINGLE play of a game…which I guess they technically are…we’re never going to get it 100% right.

Can’t we all just settle for the standard that no outcomes will be erroneously decided by a blatantly blown call on the field…and leave it at that? Why go so far past what was originally fought against, to something not even the NFL would consider doing to take more fun out of the game?

Ugh. It’s for the birds.


PLAYOFFS? PLAYOFFS?!!! We’re just trying to win a game; don’t talk about PLAYOFFS!!!
Nearly everyone with a pulse agrees that the BCS is a joke. I don’t need to hash out that argument again here. But what I do think is worth mentioning is something that addresses the bowl-game die-hards who insist that the bowl system is the only way to end a college football season. (Really? Which bowls matter anymore? Why should we care who plays in—or wins—The Pepperidge Farm Tuscaloosa Nitwit Bowl? You REALLY wouldn’t prefer to decide a national champion on the field, as opposed to a computer and a bunch of vested voters?)

Aside from the championship game, which I think now plays sometime mid-March, there is nothing (aside from money) in it for any of the other teams “competing” in the lesser bowls. But a playoff system would change all that. I know. Here we go again…

Another argument I won’t hash out again on these here Internets is the virtues of a playoff system. But I have been hearing a lot about one proposed idea that I could really get behind. It’s laid out in a book entitled “Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series.” Though I haven’t read it, apparently what the author Dan Wetzel is proposing is parameters for a neat and tidy playoff system. It makes so much sense, it couldn’t possibly ever happen:

  • 16 teams
  • 11 division winners from all division-1 conferences
  • 5 at-large bids, selected by committee
  • first two rounds are home games, played at the field of the higher-seeded team
  • final four are three games at a destination, held in early January

I’ve run out of pixels (and energy) to fight this good fight, but from what I see, I like it. Tell me that sucker can’t make money. Tell me nobody would watch it. Tell me the kids wouldn’t like it.  Tell me that wouldn’t decide the TRUE national champion on the field of play.

Heck, tell me anything…that’s what comments are for….

Life Is Scary as a PR Cog

In honor of Halloween, here are 11 scary confessions about my life as a PR and marketing professional.

1 – I see more of my smart phone than I do of my children.

2 – I actually consider how the lady at the drive-thru window “messaged” the fact that they were out of fries.

3 – I spend almost as much time viewing the source code of a website as I do consuming the actual content.

4 – I see the likes of Tiger Woods sex scandals through the prism of crisis communications, and not for the sheer entertainment of it all.

5 – I get confused when I don’t see a “Share This” widget when leafing through the morning newspaper.

6 – I ask my wife to “send me a calendar invite” when discussing weekend plans.

7 – I advise my six-year-old son to “think about how that message will resonate with ALL of your core constituents” when he complains about bedtime.

8 – I view television ads as short films, not product pitches, and wish to meet the director and copywriting teams of the good ones.

9 – I miss the look of ink-stained fingers that are proof-positive you’ve just spent an hour with a newspaper.

10 – I actually proofread my Facebook status updates.

11 – I don’t mind anything about any of the above, except for #1.

Got any of your own?

Two Words: Dogs Rule! (an ongoing series)

Dogs Rule! (part 32)

…and OK Go knows how to make a music video. Is this possible without cuts, edits and special effects, as is their wont?

My Divorce from Rolling Stone

Have you seen the latest cover of Rolling Stone magazine?

Must be that I’ve officially joined the “40 and over” crowd, but I enjoyed writing this email to Rolling Stone’s circulation department.

I have attempted to cancel my subscription for a while now, but you insist on sending me your magazine. How do I put it another way than “I don’t want it.”? I’ve done this online, via phone, stopped payment, yet you continue to send it to me. Please stop. Please, please stop.

You don’t need to send me a survey asking why, or a special discount offer to remain a subscriber. I will simply tell you why:

Your content is of no value to me. If I wanted to join the Lady Gaga fan club, I would’ve done so long ago. Ditto Katy Perry. There is nothing of use to me in your magazine, so please….make it go away. Furthermore, as a father of two young, impressionable children, I simply can’t have your magazine lying around the house. I hide it like a pervert hides porn. If the recent covers weren’t enough (naked Lady Gaga, near-naked Katy Perry, naked blood-drenched cast of True Blood), the contents would certainly do the trick (“effing a crucifix” is not the pull-quote I want my children to memorize).

So, by now, you’re getting a good chuckle at this prude who can’t handle a little edgy content. And you’re rightly conceding that, “then Rolling Stone is not for you!” I agree. Then why do you insist on sending it me? Please stop. Just make it go away. I know you want to boost your subscription numbers to sell advertising, but I have no interest in being a pawn in your deceptive media-planning game.

Please. Just make it go away.


For a little context, see here: