“Besides perhaps a root canal or a tax audit, few things can be more frustrating than making an appointment to have a cable technician visit your home. You’re given a four-hour window and find yourself waiting and waiting, with no idea when the technician will arrive. Inevitably, it seems, he does not show up until just before the window expires. Or, despite the four-hour time frame, he arrives late.”
- “Cable Contract Has Fines for Late Service”, Fernanda Santos, New York Times, September 14th, 2010
In honor of TOA’s 7th birthday last week – The New York Times reported eloquently that the City of New York (the place where the idea for TOA was actually born) gave its citizens a long needed present by officially recognizing “The Cable Guy Problem” and codifying into law that cable companies have to provide a Time of Arrival (TOA) and then need to arrive on time or face a serious penalty (losing a month’s subscriber fees).
As all those who read this blog know – TOA Technologies, my company, has made it its mission to solve this problem : i.e. the problem of customers stranded at home, frustrated, waiting without knowing when, or even if, the cable technician will arrive. TOA’s advanced technology solution helps our clients manage customer appointments and the technicians in the field serving those customers with one goal in mind – to make sure that customers’ time is respected and customers’ needs and preferences come first. Our patented solution has been adopted by many companies around the country and the world to specifically address the problem (including some in the NY Tri-State area).
Irad Carmi (my partner) and I recognized years ago that this problem was not ‘just another customer service annoyance’ but rather a greater sociological, economic issue that reflects a deep systemic operational problem that most service providers who run a mobile workforce have ignored. It is ingrained in their legacy systems and processes and based on just plain taking the customer and their time for granted. But it ultimately ends up backfiring and producing a lot of inefficiency along the way.
This problem isn’t trivial because it ends up costing many millions of people, the customers waiting at home, a lot of their precious time, their hard earned money, vacation time, their freedom, etc. It produces aggravation, at the least and, many times, even animosity towards these service providers and their employees. It also actually costs these companies their brand equity, the goodwill of their customers and a lot of wasted revenue money lost on missed appointments, unproductive technician time, unnecessary calls to the call center and, most of all, the ultimate price: customers leaving them when better service is offered by someone else.
[In fact, TOA just completed its annual Cost of Waiting Survey, which we will publish shortly and which I will be blogging about. This survey examines this very issue and its economic and social effects in three countries (US, UK and Germany), and the results are incredibly interesting, so stay tuned].
TOA has been blessed by many visionary clients who ‘got it’. They are the trailblazers, the early adopters, who gave us a chance at every point along the way, and who like us, just could not sit around and see their companies waste tens of millions, even hundreds of millions, of dollars AND not provide great service to their customers.
There are always visionaries in every company. But all it takes is one person. One person, I know, can change a culture, a company, the world entire. And we have met many of these. These visionary leaders know that they had to make a change and they were and are willing to fight for that change themselves, against the machinations of their organizations. They do this because they know that they are right. They know that there is a better way – and using a cross section of technology and mind to transform the customer appointment experience (using TOA, of course) – and they KNOW: if it is there, then they have to make a better experience available to their customers. It takes a lot to make change in big companies, but there are always people who do.
We are grateful to them (and you know who you are…) for standing up to the status quo and for giving us a great opportunity to (in our small way) help make life better for your customers in many places around the country and the world. So it is to these leaders that I am dedicating this post, and about them that I am actually writing the response to the NY Times article AND today’s editorial about this issues (yes, the Times wrote an editorial about this). Because these clients of ours did not need legislation to choose positive change for their companies and their customers.
We have a lot more companies and many more leaders to convince that we have THE solution for them. But with the help of my great team and the help of our fantastic set of current bold visionary clients (who all become evangelists too…) I know that we will.
Oh, and thank you, City of New York!