Experiences happen over time and experience designers are obsessed with how their designs play out over time and what people experience but after my recent agony with Comcast I realized that the value of time to the customer is not something I have seen teased apart. Time is relative, right? We know it can go fast or slow based on the experience we are having but what is the value of time to your customer?
You can read the background story of my trying, unsuccessfully, for almost 2 hours to sign up for Comcast services. I signed up for my electricity service in under 10 minutes. Now that should be pretty embarrassing for Comcast.
I do want to say that I appreciate, deeply, the challenges and the commitment Comcast has to making this experience better. It has gotten better but this experience is an exemplar of how far it has to go. It impacts me deeply because of my own work and the impact it has on people's lives.
How much time do we have?
I did some math and basically, if you have kids you likely have about 0-6 hours of personal time for choice activities, things that you want to do that you are not paid for. Without kids and with one job you are probably around 12-23 hours. My free time is probably around 20 hours right now but I still spend a lot of that working on side projects.
How did Comcast impact me over those 2 hours?
Took 10% of my free time this week, time I meant to spent on my dream projects
Made me late to a dinner party
Took my time to shower for the party
Time for some chores to improve my home life
The value they had built with me at my other home
Comcast left me unserved, frustrated, making me a frustrated driver who told everyone at the party how awful they were. I don't want that for the work I do.
What I missed most was the priceless time when I my body is comfortable, my mind free and in rhythm to write. It is a very priceless time for me. Blood sugar and brain all lined up. It hit me then, time for most people, is not valued in dollars, it is valued by desirable experiences. That is what we mean when we say free time is so valuable. It is measured in time with friends, smiles, hugs, meals, stress, peach, joy, knowledge, all rich and powerful currency.
When you think about it that way, you can see how solving for that precious time makes businesses ripe for disruption. This post and the others like it are the sound of inevitability for cable. Think about some other giants that have fallen recently. Blockbuster, Microsoft, even Apple now faces potential disruption because their data management sucks and other companies are learning how design or at the very least, benchmark. Watch out majors because time, technology, audacity, funding, and most importantly, disrespecting people's most valued experience currency is going to kick your ass.
First, I enjoyed the casual tone and politeness of the agent I was instant messaging with. Unfortunately, if you miss my goals as a customer then you have wasted everyone's time.
The access to someone for so long felt like a luxury till the agent starting steering me towards bad packages and extra services without trying to understand what I needed.
She almost cost me 24 months of free HBO, just about the only reason I was adding TV to the package. Ugh. Ok, so I can't trust her to help me choose.
Once I had chosen the package I chose the store pick up and self install option but was charged $30 install fee in my bill. When I asked the agent said "No! It is not an installation fee." But it said that on my bill...
I accepted the installation charges as it had been over an hour of working with the agent and it was getting old but when I went to log into my account I was unable.
The next agent, agent #2, said he could see that I signed up for phone service, I had not. When pressed he said he could not see my order. 20 minutes later I was on with another agent who asked me for the package I had ordered and it became clear that he was trying to place my order again. I was dumb struck.
In the mean time, agent #1 called me to give me my work order and account number... uh, ok. So you have a work order, I have 2 versions of my bill and you can't sign me up. Wow.
Agent #3 asked me how it was going and when I said bad, he told me not to worry, I could rest assured that I would get their services in the end. Really? Wow, you can figure out how to take my money? A miracle! Huzzah!
Turns out he couldn't.
The wait goes on.