What my day with Time Warner Cable can teach you about customer service.

It all started with a simple statement:  I don’t watch all of the channels I currently have and would like to reduce my cable bill.

To Time Warner Cable I believe this is an impossible feat.

In total I spoke to 7 live customer service agents and 2 agents via chat over a 3 hour period.  I kept my cool with all human contacts (although I’ll admit to yelling at the “voice recognition” system a few times – I swear to you it only seemed to recognize shouts of anger).  I achieved the desired outcome I was looking for although the methodology they used to get it was absolutely bizarre.

  • The first two told me they couldn’t help and “tried” to transfer me to other departments.  The third person came back with a “great deal” that was $10 dollars more a month than I was paying now.  Needless to say I did not take that “great deal.”
  • Go back to do more independent research so that I can ask for exactly what I’m looking for thinking maybe I was the problem.  Create a very specific list of what I want using their terminology and language.
  • The chat line quotes me a package that was exactly what I wanted and then determined that they weren’t allowed to actually give it to me.
  • They raised me to a supervisor (in chat) who also couldn’t give me the package they quoted and gave me their “local customer service number” which turned out to just be a different number to the main call tree.
  • Back on the call tree I go through two more agents who are not allowed to downgrade accounts.  Promise to get transferred but just get sent back to the call tree again.
  • Finally figure out the voice commands to get to the “downgrade” group.  Get a very helpful agent on the line who regretfully tells me he’s not allowed to downgrade anyone.  At this point I can’t help but ask why the downgrade option sends me to him.  He transfers me to Customer Retention which he promises “can give me exactly what I want.”
  • Customer Retention.  The most helpful person I talk to all day.  I relay (again) the fact that I’m looking to lower my cost because I don’t need all the channels I have.  But the key is “lowered cost”.  At this point I’ve got the answers to her script down.  Finally she comes back with a package for the same everything (less a premium channel) but she’s upgrading my internet and it will save me what I was looking for.  She then tells me that she too is not allowed to actually downgrade customer services!

9 people across the entire customer service spectrum.  Not one of them could (or accurately knew someone who could) downgrade services to save me money.  In fact, most of the reps told me that if I did downgrade my services I would end up paying about 100% more because I’d lose the “package” discount.  AMAZING!

Every rep I spoke to said this was a common request and they understood what I was looking for.  Not one was allowed to do it.

Hint to anyone designing customer service departments:  enable your people.  Your employees have a desire to make you money (it gets them more money!) but they also have a desire to please customers.  If you don’t allow your customer facing people to make customers happy then don’t be surprised when you have irate/angry/bewildered/confused/unhappy/unsatisfied customers.  You can’t make them happy if you don’t give your people a chance.

I came in a content customer and I left my encounter wishing that there was another viable option for what I needed.  At one point I honestly was considering moving my television to DirecTV, my internet to T-Mobile (or AT&T even!) and ditching my landline completely just to get away from the insanity that was Time Warner Cable customer service.


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