FairPoint's secret plan for improving service

After FairPoint's stunning failure when cutting over customer service for Verizon's Northern New England land line business, and after a tidal wave of negative press, it's hard to imagine what FairPoint could do to make matters worse.

But the struggling telecommunications company has found a way. Late last week, according to wire reports, it announced to the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission its intention to set weekly targets to gauge its progress in resolving ongoing customer problems with billing, service, caller-wait times, etc. That's a good idea, and one that could help rebuild customer trust as the telco shows progress in its efforts to get back on track.

Too bad it won't tell customers what those targets are or whether it is even coming close to meeting those targets.

Apparently, the company considers that information to be a competitive secret.

FairPoint should reconsider. How could the release of that information possibly make FairPoint's situation any worse? Given the abysmal state of the company's performance, the competitive secret here is already out.

For those who have not personally experienced frustrations with the carrier, large display ads from cable companies offer stark reminders almost daily. Time Warner has been running a large display ad, in bright red colors, picturing a man banging his head on his desk, phone held high. "Frustrated with FairPoint?" The ad goes on to offer a special price for FairPoint customers on its Digital Phone and Road Runner broadband Internet services.

At this point the company's reputation has nowhere to go but up. Any report of progress, however small, would no doubt help its sagging fortunes. FairPoint got a good start in damage control when company president Peter Nixon admitted last week that FairPoint's service quality has "unaccepably low."

FairPoint needs to continue an open and transparent dialog with customers if it expects to survive.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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