Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Cincinnati Bell and the Problem of Monopoly

I pause today to sing the anti-praises of Cincinnati Bell.  The company would be more aptly named if the “B” were to become an “H.”  (Yes, I just had yet another bad experience with them.)

It’s not that there are not nice people there when calling for service is required.  True, most of them seem to have English as a second language.  But unless the accent is so extreme that I can’t understand, that does not really bother me.

What does bother me is the fact that the “customer experience” when calling Cincinnati Bell seems designed to make it difficult to impossible to solve problems when problems arise.  Layers of menus insulate callers from anything beyond cookie-cutter help.  Representatives who don’t understand various problems greet you with polite, but mostly very unhelpful “help.”

Why is it that when I call other, even larger, companies with vast customer service divisions, problems are solved quickly, pleasantly, and usually relatively easily?  Consider just two examples:  Charles Schwab and T.D. Ameritrade.  Both are very large companies which are required to work within all sorts of (often unnecessary) government regulations.  Yet I almost enjoy needing to call them when I have a problem.  They are not just polite – they are downright neighborly-sounding – but they fix problems quickly, efficiently, and with very little effort on my part.

Why this difference?  One thing comes to mind.  Schwab and Ameritrade are thinking about Fidelity, T. Rowe Price, and many other choices I have for their financial services.

Cincinnati Bell, at least for those of us who need a land line in my area, has been granted a monopoly by the government.  For that kind of service, they have no competitors, and competition is not even allowed.

Monopoly is, contrary to propaganda otherwise, something only governments can grant.  Governments either claim monopolies for themselves in certain areas, or grant monopolies to favored providers in other cases.  Governments love monopolies because a monopoly granted by government is always controlled by government, and governments crave control.

Does this suggest anything to anyone about things like “ObamaCare”?

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