• May 1, 2006
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

A Singular Slip

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Technology vendors are still focusing too much on bells and whistles and not enough on reliable products and services. For casual use this is fine, but not when someone's life is on the line. Unfortunately, consumers have grown numb to and accepting of substandard services and products. People accept that software will have glitches, computers will be obsolete in 18 months, and cell phones will conk out, yet these miscues do not stop consumers from buying the latest technology. However, as consumers and businesses become increasingly more dependent on technology, they must place more demands on vendors to deliver more reliable products. In the early days of cell phone adoption, wireless telecom providers and their resellers would often scare customers into buying a cell phone--an unscrupulous, but effective strategy. They positioned cell phones as a lifeline in the event of an emergency. You may recall the following sales pitches: "You don't want your loved ones to be stranded on the side of the road," or "It'll provide peace of mind to know that you can reach someone in the event of an emergency." And millions of people bought it, happy to pay for the 20-minute monthly peak calling plans. After all, how many emergencies can one have in a month? As cell phone popularity ballooned, thanks partly to more economical calling plans, the cell phone morphed from an emergency device to an everyday instrument of convenience. People were willing to forego call quality for the convenience of being always connected--so much so that many replaced their trusted landlines with cell phones. I even contemplated this. But a recent bone-chilling story involving delayed cell phone messages has convinced me to stick with reliable landlines. On a Saturday night in March, my colleague's 84-year-old mother was desperately trying to reach her daughter. The mother, a smart, well-informed woman who made substantial donations to various charities, including those for wounded veterans from Iraq, called her daughter's cell phone and left four voicemail messages--all cries for help. The messages, however, were delayed and didn't reach my colleague until the following Wednesday. By then the police had informed my colleague that her mother had died that Saturday night. Delayed cell phone messages are not uncommon, but this is unforgivable, especially as cell phones were once touted as necessary lifelines in the event of an emergency. Some might ask, "Why didn't her mother call the police, or someone else?" Our best guess is that she was panicking and afraid, and couldn't think of anyone else to turn to but her daughter. Nonetheless, my colleague is overcome with enormous grief and pain. "Those messages are burned into my brain," she cried. Her cell phone carrier, whose name is pronounced like a word in this column's headline, has no clue. Hopefully, after reading this column, they'll get one. The editors of CRM magazine are saddened over the loss of one of our avid readers and supporters of the magazine. Our, sympathies, friendship, and support go out to our colleague and her family. David Myron Editor-in-Chief dmyron@destinationCRM.com
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