Posts Tagged ‘Cable TV’

For over ten years I have had some sort of TV service. During that time, I became accustomed to the yearly bill increases that were followed by yearly phone calls to the company, asking to speak to a manager in order to remove or reduce the increase. The good prices, I’ve been told time and again, are for new customers. Why, I’ve asked time and again, don’t you just give everybody the same fair price? Every year it was the same thing, but every year I was able to negotiate a lower price. Until this year. This was the first time that I have gone through this process with Comcast.

A few months back I received my monthly bill and noticed that it had nearly doubled, from $98 to $180 per month. My introductory rate had clearly expired. It was time to go through the yearly routine. So I called. Once again, I was told that the good prices are for new customers. I could reduce my rates, however, by changing my services: fewer channels, dropping HD, slower internet, faster internet (yes, there was a bundle with some new sort of internet that would have reduced the price). The problem with all of these options was that I did not want to reduce my services and I did not want to increase the amount of money that I was paying. Comcast’s offers would have placed my bill between $130 and $160 per month.

I told the representative that I wanted to continue receiving the same services I had been receiving for the same price I had been paying. The representative said it wasn’t possible. I asked to speak to a manager. I again stated my desire. The manager said it wasn’t possible. I said that it was likely I would cancel my service but that I needed a day or two to explore my options and that I would call back. I explored my options and called back. I talked to a friendly representative who understood my situation but couldn’t help me any more than the previous representative or manager. I cancelled my service. A few days later, I returned my equipment to Comcast’s local office. Then I got angry.

The same evening that I had returned my equipment, I got a phone call from Comcast (likely a different arm of the company) saying that they were sorry to see me go and that they were able to offer me my original services at my original price in order to keep me as a customer. Having spent over an hour on the phone with various Comcast representatives in the past week, none of whom could make me this offer, I told the representative that there was absolutely no way I would be renewing my Comcast subscription. I also made it very clear that if this offer had been given to me at any time during my previous phone calls I would still be a Comcast customer. Instead, I’m one of the millions of customers Comcast has lost in the past few years.

Cable companies exist largely as monopolies in the United States. In recent years, pressure from satellite and phone companies have led to bundling and a wider variety of services, but this hasn’t been enough to prevent customers from leaving. In this time period, Comcast’s profits have actually increased, as has its stock price. This strategy may work in the short term but in the long term it seems that Comcast is fighting a losing battle. Treating existing customers poorly as alternatives increase will not lead to customer loyalty, it will lead customers to flee as quickly as they are able. Once these customers are gone, it will be hard to get them back.

Imagine how successful a cable company could be if it offered customers a fair price that would not increase dramatically after six months or a year and if that price included common things like HD channels, DVR service, and the ability to connect more than one TV. Cable companies have had a monopoly but the changing technological landscape means that customers are able to go elsewhere to get the things that they have traditionally relied on cable companies for.  The pricing tactics of cable companies may have served them well when customers had no other choices, but if they don’t change soon these tactics are going to fail them.

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