No Noos is Good Noos!
Noos is a large French CATV company and has the traditional cable monopoly in Paris. [Noos is now called Numericable , probably to try to get away from their bad reputation. No indication of a major change in their performance.] After almost 3 years as a customer I cancelled my contract with them this week because they are experiencing a customer service meltdown. There is a moral here for US telecom companies that don't learn to adapt with the times or focus too much on new opportunities.
As I mentioned in a previous entry, there are many French companies competing for "triple play": offerring a package of CATV, Internet, and telephone service. This could be a highly profitable business with a lot of consumer benefits. Somehow Noos has screwed it up. The usual French word used in Paris to describe their recent performance is "un désastre".
The photo? It shows irate Noos customers waiting for >1 hour outside a Noos "boutique" to talk with a real staffer. (The man in front of the door facing the camera is the security staffer who job appears to be to keep the customers from attacking the staff.)
Why not call, you ask? Taking a line from US firms, Noos has outsourced their call handling operation to Morocco and Tunisia just like US firms outsource to India. Only problem is that English is better known today in India than French is these days in Morocco and Tunisia. Then Noos used a trick some other French companies do and made all customer service calls the equivalent of a US "900 number" so you have to pay 0.34 euros/minute or $0.44/minute for being on hold or talking to someone who really can't communicate due to language problems. (This fee even applies to billing issues!)
So why am I cancelling service? In late December they were doing repairs to the outside of my building and discovered that the Noos installer had used a shortcut to get the cable to my apartment: he had drilled 2 holes through the exterior wall of the building and run the cable through an exterior gutter. The head of the condo association, syndic de coproprietaires, explained that this was forbidden and risked leaks into the exterior walls. He told me they would cut the cable and seal the holes in a few days and told me to call Noos to explain the problem. His son even volunteered to explain the whole thing to Noos and spent hours trying to reach them. Another French friend has spent hours trying to reach Noos also. After all of this, two Noos technicians actually have appeared at our apartment since late December. Both were without any tools and couldn't do anything except ask for a different type of technician. We have also had 4 missed appointments.
If we weren't moving back to the US in a few months, I would switch to DBS or DSL-based video/IPTV. However, in view of our pending move, we will rent videos more and buy more video from Apple's iPod iTunes store. (A little known iPod feature is that with a $10 cable you can connect it to a TV with video/audio inputs and get a good picture on a real TV rather than the iPod screen.)
Convergence is a good opportunity for companies to expand their business dramatically and for customers to get new services. However, alienating existing customers is not a good policy and can happen if you are not careful.
There are many good points to living in France: the culture, the food, the scenery, etc. Noos isn't one of them. Fortunately convergence has given Noos competitors now. If the French government either allows economic darwinism to work here or acts like an effective regulator in the public interest this problem should be resolved. However, in France such actions are often viewed as "anglo-saxon values" and thus are not too likely.
The February 17th issue of Le Parisien had a very similar picture of irate customers and announced that French consumer protection agency was placing Noos under "haute surveillance" and that Noos is supposed to sort things out in 1 1/2 months. Summary from web site:
Noos sous haute surveillance
Poussée par la colère croissante des abonnés, la Direction de la concurrence a contraint hier le câblo-opérateur à apporter des réponses rapides. Noos s'est engagé à traiter tous les dossiers d'ici à un mois et demi.
Noos Press Release February 16, 2007 (in French) [This has now disappeared from the Noos website. I guess it is an episode they don't want to remember.]Press release of Direction Générale de la Concurrence, de la Consommation et de la Répression des Fraudes on the Noos situation, February 16, 2007 (in French)[I give permission to reuse this posting and the picture to anyone else who wants to write about the Noos situation. I would appreciate it, though, if you would send me a copy of how you use it.]