Pink Floyd, Seinfeld, and Extremes in Customer Service

One of my favorite Pink Floyd songs from the later years is “Poles Apart”, off of their 1994 Division Bell album. The song was on my mind yesterday and I had customer service issues with two companies–and couldn’t have been more pleased with a third.

Verizon and Comcast battled throughout the day for “most frustrating, most indifferent, most incompetent company.” Comcast was in the early lead after improperly configuring my cable modem, causing me to be down for no reason at all for three fun-filled hours yesterday. Fear not, fans of Verizon: your horse made a startling run at the end with interminable hold times and disconnections. Nice! In the end, Verizon won by a landslide.

Note to Verizon: Learn the effing rules of Twitter or simply disable your account. By not understanding the basics, you’re just providing customers with yet another source of irritation. These days, there are many ways to do customer service:

  • phones
  • chat
  • Twitter
  • email

Don’t suck at all four.

The Moon

Jerry Seinfeld once famously said, “We never should have put a man on the moon. Now, every time that we can’t do something, we’ll have people saying ‘We can put a man on the moon, but we can’t do .’” Of course, Seinfeld said it more eloquently than that, but you get my drift.

Contrast both of these calamities with the amazingly pleasant experience I had yesterday at my local tennis shop. Hours after I dropped off my racket in need of restringing, I get a call from a very friendly employee telling me that it’s ready. They did what they said they’d do when they said it. Ahh….the beauty of simplicity in an otherwise frustrating day.

Simon Says

Look, I’m not a complete idiot. I understand that stringing a tennis racket is fundamentally easier than porting phone lines and ensuring that a cable modem is working. But when your core business involves phones and other “techie” stuff, shouldn’t most of your employees be reasonably good at it? And, while we’re at it, here are a few more questions:

  • Why does it take calling three reps to find one to diagnose my problem?
  • Why am I making all of the calls?
  • Why don’t you assign reps specifically to handle a customer issue from beginning to end? Ownership isn’t a bad thing.

On a different level, small businesses’ just get customer service a hell of a lot more than large organizations.


What’s your view big company customer service? Can’t they learn something from the little guy?

Original post.

Phil Simon is a recognized technology authority. He is the award-winning author of eight management books, most recentlyAnalytics: The Agile Way. He <consults organizations on matters related to communications, strategy, data, and technology. His contributions have been featured on The Harvard Business Review, CNN, The New York Times, Fox News, and many other sites. In the fall of 2016, he joined the faculty at Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business.