Why make it hard to become a customer?


I try not to just vent or complain about personal experiences here, but I'm incredibly frustrated with phone companies. I think a lot of this waste is begging for a “Lean Solutions” approach and some lean engineering/design application. Why do service providers have such non-existent or broken processes? As Womack says, we're supposedly “good” at service in this country and that's why it's OK manufacturing goes away. We're hardly “good”, service is getting much worse, I agree with Womack on that.

When I moved to Texas, I called SBC and was told, after waiting on hold and being transferred three times that they don't offer service at our address (although our next door neighbors have SBC and we're in a new suburban big city area). I called Verizon and was also told “nope, can't help you”.

So, hello Vonage telephone service that runs through the cable company. If you have poor and disfunctional ‘customer acquisition' processes, no wonder the traditional phone companies are hurting. MAKE IT EASIER TO BECOME A CUSTOMER! I'M TRYING TO GIVE YOU MY $$$!!!

Sorry about the shouting. So my cable company has been very spotty. The TV and internet service conk out way too often, which really hurts me with a home office setup that I use once in a while. It's hard to work without internet.

I call the cable company (using a cell phone because my Vonage doesn't work without cable service, argh) to tell them I have no service. “We have an outage in your area” is their response. Well, duh. They always have outages, I guess we're just expected to deal with that as a customer.

This all violates Jim Womack's principle of “Don't waste my time.” They certainly aren't solving my problems for me either.

My next step was to call Verizon this morning to try to sign up for the new fiber optic TV and internet service that my town is a test market for.

Step 1: Go to verizon.com. Just TRY to find a phone number to call. Again, don't make it hard to become a customer.

Step 2: Click on Texas on a map and get a phone number.

Step 3: Call phone number and have the person say “OK, I have to transfer you to Texas. Again, a very broken process. I thought I had found the number, doing a lot of “unpaid work” in Lean Solutions terms, but no, it was wrong.

Step 4: Wait on hold 5 minutes…. that's when I give up. Why would you have such bottlenecks in the customer acquisition process????

I guess I'll just put up with what I have. I'll post to the blog when my internet is actually working. I better click “publish” before it conks out.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. Mark,
    Great post on a great blog. I had a similar experience a while back…

    Instead of taking the time to make coffee at home, I thought I’d treat myself to Starbucks. Our local franchise is located a short drive away, inside of an Albertson’s grocery store. Upon approaching the counter the clerk (“barista”) told me that her cash register wasn’t working, therefore she couldn’t serve me.

    You’re kidding me, I thought. I pointed out that her register was literally surrounded by a dozen or more Albertson’s cash registers, but apparently the partnership between Albertson’s and Starbucks doesn’t allow each company to help the other out in a bind. So I offered cash. Almost exact change, but round up just to be safe, and keep the change. Nope. How about an extra buck or two just so I wouldn’t have to go search for a coffee elsewhere. Sorry. She refused to take my money… while the fresh coffee brewed right behind her.

    I wanted to give Starbucks cash business, even with some additional profit. I wanted to take some of their excess, perishable inventory off their hands for significantly more than it was worth. But they didn’t want it.

    So I went elsewhere, and not only did they lose my business for the day but they have a customer who will be a little hesitant about taking the risk to drive to that store again. Starbucks could have taken my cash and kept a paper journal until the register was fixed. They could have engendered considerable loyalty by even taking less from customers intending to charge their drink.

    Great products and fantastic marketing will bring customers to you, but you still have to make doing business an easy and pleasant experience.

    Superfactory / Evolving Excellence Blog


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