Thursday, July 17, 2014

Corporate management (banks, utilities, cable) doesn't think through customer service problems in advance very well

Well, some more gripes about customer service.

Last December, the Bank of America moved a couple block in the Ballston area of Arlington, saying it was forced out by a landlord.  Consumers had to close safety deposit box accounts, and that defeats the purpose of having them.  What’s ironic s that the original space remains unleased. 

Then, the bank put only one ATM inside (secured entrance) and two outside.  Now the new landlord does construction on the outside of the building, making two of the three unreachable.  I was chased away this morning, but fortunately the one remaining one was free. Why didn’t the bank anticipate this problem by placing more terminals inside?  That sounds like a security issue.

Think about something else.  Some convenience stores have trouble checking out consumers buying lottery tickets or using food stamps, forcing those behind them to wait.  If you think about it, that can present a security risk to consumers in the store. 

More customer service issues:  Metro in Washington constantly sees escalators fail, and take a long time to be repaired.  There are many delays and mishaps, resulting in single-tracking and delays.  In New York City, on the other hand, there are rarely any delays.  Of course, the NYC transit may be more vulnerable to strikes. 

Amtrak service has not been as reliable in recent years as it used to be, with many trains delayed because of power failures, even in relatively stable weather (particularly between Baltimore and Wilmington).  In two of my last three trips to NYC there have occurred delays of at least thirty minutes.  That’s not good when you hold prepaid tickets in the city.

Electricity from Dominion Power in northern Virginia has been more stable in the past three years or so.  (The repair after the 2012 derecho took three days for me, and it’s a good thing I have the generator.)  But from about 2003 to 2009, there were lots of disruptions.  Before that (in a neighborhood in which I grew up) power failures were rare despite frequent heavy thunderstorms and heavy snows in winter.  Reason:  trees do get old and weaker, but the power company went through expansion with new customers without really caring for the system. Pepco has had worse problems. 

Comcast Xinifity has been pretty stable in the past three years, except for one software change in May that caused a complete failure of the cable (not the Internet), replacing a service visit and an amplifier replacement down the street.  But for about three years (2006-2009 or so) there were frequent stops and slowdowns during the day. 

When you retire, you expect the services you “pay for” to work and provide security.  But there is a labor issue, and an “idle rich” problem, perhaps.   Best source of stable jobs:  investment in infrastructure.  The Democrats are right about that. 

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