The first bit: Yesterday, Seth Godin posted an update to his fantastic series of things that are broken. In it he goes over user interfaces, organizations, and operations that make no sense or don't work. He happened to find and upload the one and only time he gave the even more fantastic talk on things that are broken. Here it is, for those interested:
The second bit: It just so happens that yesterday, after five months of nothing going wrong and not needing it, I cancelled AT&T DSL as my backup internet service. I switched from Comcast to AT&T years ago after an uncapping incident involving my modem and several gigabytes of undisclosed stuff (to be fair, I cancelled just seconds before they were going to deactivate me). But at a certain point DSL just became way too slow for work and other things, and so I made amends with Comcast and switched back. I kept AT&T just in case. For a month now, I've had a reminder set on my phone to cancel AT&T, and finally yesterday, I did.
I woke up this morning to no internet. I immediately placed my palm on my face and cursed the gods of serendipity.
So I called Comcast about the disruption of service. The tech answered pretty quickly and spoke English very clearly -- two very great signs. And to be fair, she was VERY competent and efficient. When she ran all of her tests and we went through the power cycle stuff, she said I would need a tech.
"Can you do me a favor?" I asked.
"Sure?" she answered.
"Can you check to see if there's an outage in my area?" I requested.
So she did. And she reported back that according to what she could see, 100% of customers in my area had no service.
"Oh, okay," I said. "Can you give me an ETA on when they'll have that fixed?"
"As of now, this hasn't officially been confirmed as an outage," she replied.
"Well, can't you confirm it?" I asked.
"That's not in my jurisdiction," she replied. She explained that the way it works at Comcast, a certain threshold of customers have to call in and report a loss of service before it'll be sent to dispatch, who will then declare an outage.
"Well if you can see right now that 100% of customers in my area don't have service, why can't you just report that?"
"It's not in my jurisdiction," she said again.
Broken. It makes NO SENSE WHATSOEVER that, if she can see the disruption, she can't report it.
So I asked for the repair appointment to get a report in and get closer to that threshold. I was told the earliest appointment was Wednesday (4 days from now including today). I placed my palm on my face again, and again, I cursed the gods of serendipity -- if I hadn't cancelled AT&T yesterday, it wouldn't be a big deal. But I did, and it was.
"If I have to wait four days, that's going to severely screw up my work," I said.
"Why don't you sign up for business service?" she asked. She explained that business customers get immediate technician dispatch if they report by 2 PM the same day. I do business from my home, so it's worth the cost each month to ensure I don't get screwed. So I asked if she could convert me to business service.
"I don't have that authority," She said.
Broken. I want to hand her nearly double my cost a month, and she can't take my money.
"I can transfer you to that department," she said.
When she did, I found that the business sales department was closed.
BROKEN. Why didn't she know that?
At any rate, a few hours later, service came back on and here I am, blogging on it while watching Life on Netflix. This isn't about Comcast sucking. They answered the call quickly, they were polite, and they did what they could to get things fixed.
This is about how much more they could do if they just removed the barriers to allow their people to better handle things. Let the tech make a call when she sees a wide disruption of service. Let the tech upgrade someone's service and bill them for more money at the point they've decided it's worth it to spend more money. Let the tech see along with the transfer to a department when that department is opened or closed.
These things are broken. Please fix them.
If there are things in your organization or life that are similarly broken -- if at any point you find yourself saying "That's not my job" -- you're part of the overall problem yourself. Fix it.