Creature Comforts

NOON -- On a flight back from New York yesterday, the great Mike Greenberg sat next to me and actually made the observation: "If I had to choose between having a pillow and warm nuts, I think I'd take the warm nuts."

Obviously this requires some context. And I'm writing this on April Fool's Day so he'll have full deniability.

Anyway, Greenberg, enroute to his broadcast partner's charity golf tournament, was stunned to learn that American Airlines is now saving money by not providing pillows on its planes. So he started asking if they've also stopped serving warm nuts in first class.

It's a fair question: What kinds of insane choices might a trouble company make once it becomes more interested in saving money than providing good service?

Alas, we were served warm nuts, but the no pillows thing is worrisome. Greenberg and I could have been doing something constructive -- like arguing about whether he or Dan Patrick has better hair -- but were reduced to picking apart an airline's business savvy.

It's a stretch, but there is a lesson here for telecom companies. It doesn't matter what kind of advanced network you're building, if you can't get the small things right, customers won't stick around for long.

Fair prices; easy-to-read bills; and helpful, articulate customer service reps are trivial things to some companies. But that might change when carriers and cable companies find themselves providing comparable voice, video, and data services, with no discernable difference.

Pillows and warm nuts are trivial, but that's the stuff consumers remember. They don't just want to get from point A to point B. They want a nap and a snack, too.

Similarly, telecom consumers won't be satisfied with a phone line and DSL. Be prepared to save them a trip to the video store; simplify their home security systems; and knock $50 off their cell phone bill while you're at it.

— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading

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