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Telephone Chris Herot, from Lexington, Massachusetts, wrote in response to the prior post about the telephone services offered at the Stamford Marriott. He agrees there is a "declining number of people will pay those outrageous charges by raising the price for the few suckers who remain". He provided an example where upon checking out of a hotel recently he was confronted with a charge for more than $10 for a two minute phone call.  He said the front desk sheepishly acknowledged it was a rip-off. They cheerfully removed the charge from his bill.
On a positive note, the more enlightened hotels are starting to offer a bundle of services people will pay for. The Marriott "Wired-for-Business" connectivity offer which enables guests to "Work smarter with unlimited…" in-room high-speed Internet access plus local and long distance phone calls for $9.95 per day is not a bad deal unless — you have your own EV-DO service and a good mobile phone plan. There is also some innovation going on In the directory assistance area where 800-FREE-411 is providing a nice alternative to the old-fashioned 411 system.
But what about customer service? This week received two telephone company bills — both had significant errors — caused by outdated backend batch-oriented systems. One took 21 minutes to resolve, the other one 49 minutes. Some would say that telephone customer service is an oxymoron, but I have noticed a significant difference in recent months in terms of attitude. Although I have had issues with Comcast, Verizon, and Cingular, the customer service representatives act like they care. Unlike the past, they apologize for service problems, they thank you for your business, they identify with the problems you have, and they sincerely work to get them resolved. At Verizon, the reps are empowered to offer on the spot credits to resolve issues. Competition seems to be driving these companies to start caring about their customers. You can lock customers in with contracts but you can’t make them happy unless the service reps show good attitude. I see a real shift in a positive direction. If we can keep the regulators and lobbyists in Washington from reducing competition we can expect to see service and pricing get better and better.