As a lot of you know, I’ve been playing with the phone since I was a child.. and that’s now multiple lifetimes in Internet time. I remember the cutting of crossbar offices to electronic, and the cutting of electronic switches to digital. I’ve seen “mobile phones” go from clunky two-way radio style devices to (now) 4G data handsets.
I would have never thought it would have come to the point it is at now.
As part of an upcoming move, I’ve been pricing my options. Where I’m moving, it looks like I have three choices: the incumbent phone company, the cable company, and the WiMax provider. So, I go to the web sites of the three companies to shop.
First, we’ll talk to the WiMax provider. The website shows me a coverage map, and it looks like I’m in good coverage, but I have some concerns because I’m not in GREAT coverage. However, I’m able to get the pricing and coverage information quickly and efficiently. A big A+ here. Of course, it’s just Internet and phone only (no TV), but the price looks right.
Then I go to the cable company’s website. It’s a little messy at first, because I already have service with them at my present address, and they don’t seem to want to price out my options for the new address. I load up Chrome’s “Incognito” mode, and it all works great. Boy, there’s a lot of packages, and the packages with Internet included area little vague at first what the available speed options are. But, with a little bit of bouncing between the individual unbundled service information page and the bundles, I’m able to figure out that a 15 down 3 up package with TV and an unlimited phone is around $100 on a promo, and the cost after the promo is clearly spelled out and easy to understand. An “A” here, and that’s only because it would have been nice if the bundles made it clearer what tier of Internet service was included without having to bounce between screens.
Then, I tried to check with the incumbent telephone company.
For starters, the website wouldn’t even load. Okay, I think, maybe Comcast is messing with the website (hehehe, “net neutrality” anyone?). So, I fire up the wireless modem and try that. Still no dice. I can get the basic information screens, but they don’t have any pricing and availability for the specific area I’m interested in. This is concerning for me, because where I’m considering moving to (Oregon City) there’s no guarantee that anything will be available. When typing in the address of the apartment, the website just returns a blank screen, an error, or just returns me to the screen with vague pricing and no specifics.
Okay, maybe their website was down when I tried. And sure enough, this afternoon the website SEEMS to load.. but there’s nowhere near the clarity of information present that the cable company and the WiMax provider offers. I want a package with Internet and phone service, no TV really needed, preferably something in the 8-15 Mb/s down range. The best I can figure out is that unlimited phone is $35/mo and that there is some kind of $14.95/month promotional price on high speed Internet, up to 7 Mb/s down. But I’m still not sure what the price on the high-speed is after the end of the promotion, nor am I clear if there’s any higher speed options available (and it’s worth noting that they DO advertise 20 Mb/s speeds in this market generically). They’d love to have me talk to an agent to give me more information!
I wanted to root for the phone company. I gave them a fighting chance to give me the information I needed in the format their competitors do, and in a way that saves me time. This is information services we’re talking about here, folks. If there ever was a product that you should be able to sell over the web it’s.. well, the web, dammit. Your competitors websites all would have let me order the services right then and there: just a credit card entry away.
The capper is when same phone company tried to engage me on Twitter after I posted a one-liner about the site not working. If I had time to “talk to an agent” about my needs, if I wanted to, they were merely a phone call away. That’s not what I wanted. I wanted the information on the web in a clear, concise format like both your competitors do.
After all, you’re an Internet provider now, right?