In striving to find something interesting to tell you several times each week about business change, customer service, and search engine optimization, I often find myself looking under slimy rocks and trying to clean them up. This is where The Answer Guy’s Customer Service Wall of Shame got its roots, starting with this story about customer service at Nissan of Manhattan a bit over a year ago.

I’ve gotten to write about car dealers once more since then, specifically about the finance arm of Honda, and yes, Honda Financial earned a place on our customer service wall of shame, as well.

Then this morning I came across this piece about cell phones. And a light bulb clicked on.

Three-ways may sound like fun, but they usually leave no-one as happy as they thought they’d be.

As I pointed out in the piece about Nissan of Manhattan and their woeful customer service, the crux of the problem is that with the dealer, the car maker, and the customer all having two scapegoats to blame for the problems that arise in three-way relationships, no-one has an incentive to find a happy point for all three parties. This same problem reared its head with Honda Financial, Open Road Honda, and my friend’s mother, and does the same thing in the phone business … except, it’s even worse.

In the case of cell phones, the issue is that the customer isn’t even one of the three parties. Instead, software makers, hardware makers, and phone carriers all have their own agendas, and the customer becomes an afterthought. I alluded to this phenomenon right after I started using an Android phone in November of 2009; when something when wrong with WiFi upon a software upgrade, and I couldn’t figure out whether I should be working with Verizon, Motorola, or Google.

Sadly, all of this adds up to a problem with no clear solution. And that’s where business change becomes so important.

My Droid is now a bit over two years old. I have no problem with it, and although it could use a new battery I might stick with it for a while longer—except that apps keep getting bigger and the design of the original Droid isn’t good at handling that. So I’m looking to upgrade.

I’ve been a Verizon Wireless customer uninterrupted for fifteen years. If I buy a new phone from them, they lock me into another two years of service at $80 per month, and because I’d be moving from a 3G to a 4G phone, it’s likely I’d lose my unlimited data plan in the bargain. Verizon’s answer to my unhappiness with that? They offer me $50. Seriously.

Should I stay? Maybe I should just take a third-rate phone from WalMart for half the money Verizon wants for a phone upgrade, and halve my monthly costs in the bargain. That’d show them!

Of course, no, it wouldn’t. Why? Because too many companies don’t seem to care about customer service, Verizon is the only company of the three that control issues with whom I have any customer-driven contact, and, oh yeah, I’m the fourth point in a three-point relationship, and nobody is smart enough to see the benefit of making me (or you, dear reader) happy.

Customer Service matters. As you get ready to roll into 2012, please be sure to include real customer service in your business change plans.

Happy New Year!

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