Customer Service Rant

Several weeks ago My wife and I were at a movie theater around town (for my local friends, the Marcus Majestic). And we were sitting in their new dinner style theater, complete with individual captains chairs, tables going across each row and an attentive wait staff which could be summoned with a dimly lit light at your table. The experience is truly one of a kind and was completely worth the added premium in ticket price (about $1 more, though I’m sure the food was also more expensive).

As we sat waiting for the previews to begin, chowing on popcorn, I noticed each seat had a pamphlet on ATTs new Uverse offering. I considered at the moment what a great idea that was. You have a captive audience that clearly values the multi-media experience, and since this is a full service dining experience, chances are folks were coming in before showtime and would have time to kill (as we did).  During this time I had also become increasingly annoyed with time warner cable who over the past six months had raised our prices on three separate occasions, all due to promotions expiring. I’m ok with this when its within reason…but our cable/internet charges spiked 50%.  Talk about a bait and switch. So already inclined to say good bye to TWC, we switched to uverse that week. I’m not quite a Uverse evangelist but so far, I’ll say it as been great, especially since its completely integrated with a multitude of online accessible features (the video quality is also perceptibly better).

OK…let me now get to the purpose of this rant…Why Time Warner Cable sucks.

1) When I called into to disconnect our service, TWC informed me that they could not cancel until they physically had the cable box in their posession. OK…I can understand that to a degree.  So my wife accomodatingly drives there that day, at which point we expect a refund for any unused service, right? Wrong. 4-6 weeks.

2) 4 weeks go by…Instead of a check, we get another bill. It would seem “Mr. Kaneta, that when you returned your equipment, the store failed to issue a disconnect.” So not only did I not get a credit, I got another bill and had another month’s worth of fees charged to my credit card.

3) I call up TWC (the rep was actually very polite and helpful)…we work it out such that an agent will arrive at our house to do the disconnect in a week but I won’t be charged for anything beyond the day I returned equipment. Great…except they can’t send me my money until 4-6 weeks after disconnect. So all told I’m out 2 months of service fees that will take 10 weeks from the day I cancelled to show up in my mail box (if I’m lucky)

4) Sadly this is not the first time this has happened to me with TWC. How often does TWC fail to disconnect and charge their customers?!?!? Truly an unbelievably poor service experience… With as much as they spend on customer acquisition, you would think retention and user experience would rank among one of their priorities.

So with that being said, Time Warner now ranks among my five worst service providers on the planet. In no particular order because they all suck… 1) Time Warner Cable. 2) Sprint. 3) Stonegate Properties (my first apartment after college). 4) CARTUS Relocation Consultants. 5) The money-eating vending machine in my office.

Congrats Time Warner Cable… you’ve officially moved from mediocre to suckville.

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  1. #1 by samkale on September 3, 2009 - 5:38 pm

    Are you really that surprised that a company who already *knows* they’ve lost your business isn’t falling all over themselves to cater to your every need? I mean, sure, they should be able to terminate your bill in a timely manner and keep themselves from charging your credit card an additional time, but for all that other stuff … you’re already gone – why should they care whether you’re happy or not?

    • #2 by Kris Kaneta on September 3, 2009 - 6:00 pm

      And that’s exactly why they don’t let you talk to customers…

      First of all…people cancel services all the time. Relocation, extended travel, buying a new house, etc. And given the relative stickiness (or lack there of) of current offerings, its highly likely that customers comeback depending on what suits them. I may have been moving to an area without TWC service, but that doesn’t preclude me from coming back, does it?

      Thank you for proving my point that service providers often think only of what it means as an acquisition right here and now. There’s a thing in marketing called cultivating the funnel, but I guess that’s not important.

  2. #3 by samkale on September 3, 2009 - 7:06 pm

    True, there’s cultivating the funnel, and true, there’s building that long term relationship, but remember that until very recently cable providers had a relative monopoly on their customer areas. So they didn’t really *have* to worry about moving in/out of the area or, for that matter, a customer having any sort of choice in their cable service provider.

    I’m not saying that its an acceptable reason to treat you like you were treated. But at the same time, one must ask whether it makes economic sense to work towards long-term customer value.

    Let’s look at customer profitability. You said that a 50% jump in price is unacceptable. The next logical question is whether there is some level of price jump that *is* acceptable to you? Would you have tolerated a 10% jump in price? 20%? 30%? One would imagine that the “special introductory” price of the service is the true price and that any incremental price they could get out of you would fall directly to their bottom line.

    You subscribed to the bandwidth upgrade and the extra premium channels not because you really really wanted them, but because they were free. Did you order pay-per-view services during the year you were with them? Did you order movies on demand?

    Did you order anything that would in any way signal to TWC that you are a high value customer capable of being long-term profitable to them?

    So now you’re asking a company to expend time, energy and resources on the promise that someday just maybe you’ll come back to them, even though they have seen no reasonable indication that you will a) come back to them, or b) be any more profitable to them than you were before if you *did* come back.

    I think too often we want to believe that we’re the exception rather than the rule, that we’re special rather than ordinary, that we’re high value rather than, in your own words, “just another sheep.”

    My point here is not that service providers are good, nor is it that you are bad. If it were me instead of you, I’d be raising h***, too.

    But from the business point of view, there are valid reasons for simply not caring about you once you’re gone.

    • #4 by Kris Kaneta on September 3, 2009 - 8:13 pm

      I think you give TWC way too much credit. You honestly think they know customer profitability? And if so, should my profitability have anything to do with whether or not they properly terminate billing after you cancel service. Moreover, while I’m not an expert in digital home services, the bandwidth I consume is far less than most – hence my guess is that I’m pretty high on the profitability scale. Beyond bandwidth, cable and data services is a fixed cost. They need those towers whether or not I consume 1mb or 1tb.

      And yes, I do (did) order many high margin services, like sports packages and ppv (the former of which I didn’t use nearly as much to get the most out of my subscriber fee).

      And finally I’m not asking them to expend energy for me – I’m saying they should expend energy for the longevity and financial benefits of their business. I vote with my wallet…and my vote has already been cast.

  3. #5 by Kris Kaneta on September 16, 2009 - 10:00 am

    Check out my follow-up to this entry here (because you know I just can’t let things go)…

    http://kaneta.wordpress.com/2009/09/16/customer-service-rant-revisited/

  1. Customer Service Rant Revisited « Never Again in the Same Sentence

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