How can an entire industry with millions of customers be terrible? You might have guessed I'm talking about the cellular telephone industry, but in reality I could be talking about several different sectors. I'm going to focus on the cellular industry in spite of the fact that it's so common for people to complain about their carrier that it has become quite tired to hear people do it. I mean who cares to hear about how bad someone else's carrier is when your own carrier is so bad?
The thing here is that it seems that every single carrier has serious customer service issues. Everything from the technical side of the world (no coverage in needed areas, data being slow, etc) all the way to a complete inability to solve basic problems with billing or even selling proper accessories. Companies have come and gone and consolidated and been acquired and sold and split in so many different ways it's crazy. But the only result of all this seems to be things stay the same or get worse, never better.
Companies only seem to get customers by acquiring them, by having an exclusive phone contract (can you say iPhone?), or having coverage in just the right place. But I think a poll of cellphone users would find that there are very few that don't have serious problems with their current cellphone carrier. That carrier just happens to "suck less" than everyone else.
So how does this happen? How can there be no room in the market for a company to actually do a good job of solving the customer's needs? I have no idea. I do know I don't see any of the current carriers doing anything much to make the situation better. AT&T doesn't seem to be expanding their current network to new areas, they're just making the data side faster where they currently are. Verizon is stuck with none of the new wave of awesome smartphones (iPhone and Palm Pre). Sprint has always had network coverage problems in big ways, so they went and bought Nextel, which was worse. Yeah, that makes sense.
My theory on how these things happen is that the stock market puts so much emphasis on growth yet very little on actual, oh, profit that companies make decisions based on growth. And when they have a captive customer base (we all require cellphones in our lives now), well, it's easier to acquire/merge/whatever than it is to do the right things to take your competitors customers. The contract model seems to also hurt their ability take customers with upgrades in actual customer service. Perhaps it's time to end that as a major business model? Or at least regulate the telco industry again? I really don't know, but I know there's something significantly broken right now when an industry so large can suck so bad.