Jon M. Huntsman School of Business

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Monday, June 20, 2011

The necessity of cell phones and customer service

Have you ever been somewhere and as you're getting ready to leave you realize both your legs are asleep? It makes me feel awkward and momentarily helpless.

That's also how I felt last week when some cell towers were down and I had no cell service for a day or so.

Just like my legs being asleep, I knew it would pass, but I still didn't like it.

To make it all worse, I don't have another phone. I guess I could have used a work phone or something, but I don't have a landline at my house. I missed an important work phone appointment, but I wrote the person an email a half an hour later when I figured out what was going on and they were very understanding. But what would have happened if there was some sort of disaster? Well, chances are that even then the phone lines might be out, but still it makes me think that I should get a landline, just in case.

And just communicating via email isn't always the best. The same goes with texting. Yes, it's convenient. Yes, I can attach documents and include URLs. However, in any formal messages, I always have to be thinking, "How would this sound to a superior or a client or someone under me? Does this sound like I am unintentionally rude or unprofessional, or like I'm inadvertently criticizing them?" My wife and friends know me well enough to understand my tone, but coworkers and colleagues probably don't. What other messages am I sending?

Ten years ago I didn't have a cell phone, so why am I so tethered to it now? I'm addicted to it, and I don't even have any apps or games featuring disgruntled fowl launching themselves at buildings. I see the benefit of my future children having cell phones, but I also see drawbacks. I grew up fine without one. How did we used to do business? Are cell phone even necessary?

Probably. We've built our past-paced culture around being able to get ahold of whom we want at anytime. It will be an interesting day when something happens to knock out our communication networks or if there's some massive power outage. We feel entitled to open communication - from the government, from businesses (especially big ones, or ones in which we have stock) and from our associates.

Speaking of open communication, I'm just going to complain a little about the lack of it from my phone provider, who didn't email me to tell me that there was a problem with some towers. (I almost said "who didn't call or text me", but I caught myself.) Actually, I don't even know if this was a planned thing. If it was, then it was a bad idea and it was poorly executed. But supposing it was not, which I prefer to assume, they still should have taken the initiative to try and let their customers know there was a problem.

I don't care if I have to pay more – I would rather have a provider that's concerned about me and goes out of their way to let me know there's a problem and how long it'll take to fix. What about doctors who depend on their phones to get emergency calls from their patients or from the answering service? Because of this company's lack of concern for their customers, somebody could have died. Obviously this is a bit of an exaggeration, but it's still feasible.

The videogame industry has been struggling with that lately, too. One of my coworker's accounts got hacked and the company didn't tell him. One day he tried to use his credit card, and it was declined. So he called his bank and they told him the same thing has happened to other people and others were putting their own accounts on hold because of a hack. At that point he called his videogame online network customer service people and they explained that their network had been hacked weeks before.

Ok. I'm done. This went from my vulnerability from only having a cell phone to me being frustrated with bad customer service.

And since I've been sitting cross-legged on the floor while I wrote this, my legs are asleep, too.

Paul Lewis Siddoway

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