Sunday, September 16, 2012

Time Warner Cable Live Chat: Pathetic

My mother's Time Warner Cable (RoadRunner) e-mail stopped working today. Their website heavily promotes their Live Chat support option. It was terrible, and the subsequent phone adventure may actually be worse (it continues as I type).

Cable providers are, of course, notorious for poor customer service. Recently Time Warner sapped Patrick Stewart's will to live, something even the mighty Borg were unable to do.

The e-mail problem was totally out of the blue. It was working yesterday.

She is visiting me and was using her cell phone when she started having a problem. So I tried to access it via my laptop through their online interface.

First I kept getting "incorrect password" error messages. Then I tried to do a "password reset" and got an error message that said: "pending delete". That did not sound good.

So I went to some support link and the Live Chat was promoted so I tried it. I should have known better considering my past experience with HP Customer Service By Chat. But I tried.

Here's the language they use to promote it:

Chat Online
Chat is a great way to contact us with questions while you're online.

Live Chat is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Please note: You will not be able to downgrade or disconnect service via chat.
Please visit the Call Us section below to contact one of our customer service representatives.

The live chat is also promoted at the top of the login page:


So here's how it started:
User Rita has entered room

We are experiencing higher than usual service times. Please wait and an analyst will be with you shortly.

We are experiencing higher than usual service times. Please wait and an analyst will be with you shortly.

We are experiencing higher than usual service times. Please wait and an analyst will be with you shortly.

It also had a little counter telling me where I was in the queue - started around 49 and slowly dropped as the "higher than usual service times" message repeated. I'm playing the part of Rita (my mom) in this dialogue.

Finally I get something:

Ben Abraham
Hello! Thank you for choosing Road Runner Internet Technical Chat Support. My name is Ben Abraham.I will help you.

Rita
Hello?

Ben Abraham
How would you like me to assist you?

Rita
I can't log in to my account

Ben Abraham. Hmm ... already a little suspicious. Also, the "how can I assist you" thing shows that Ben did not read the form I filled out when I initiated the chat.

Ben Abraham
Provide me with the error message you get when you try to login to your Road Runner email account.

Rita
wrong password

Rita
Tried password reset and got something about "pending delete"

Rita
Would you please check my account and see if there's a problem?

Ben Abraham
Thank you for the information.

Ben Abraham
Give me a minute, while I pull up your account.

Of course all this is taking a lot longer than it looks. "Ben" responds only after long delays. I'm guessing the poor Indian bastards are handling three or four chats at once.

And - "while I pull up your account" ?? Why doesn't he start out with my account information already waiting for him? I gave my account information to initiate the chat.

This is where it starts to get good.

Ben Abraham
Is that you moved to a new address and shifted the internet service to the new address ?

Rita
I've lived at my address for quite a while. Over 3 years.

Ben Abraham
Thank you for the information.

Ben Abraham
The email address -----------@nycap.rr.com is associated with the former internet service.

Rita
I don't understand what you're talking about.

Ben Abraham
Recently all the email accounts accounts associated with the former internet service are disabled .

Rita
I also use xxxxxxxxx@nycap.rr.com

Rita>
Recently like today?

Rita
What do you mean by the phrase "former internet service"??

Ben Abraham
You can transfer this email address to your present address .

Rita
I don't know what you mean by "present address"

Rita
I've been using this e-mail address for several years, including over 3 years at my current street address.

Ben Abraham
For security reasons the former email accounts have been disbaled .

Ben Abraham
Don't worry .

DON'T WORRY????? Are you kidding me?

A little background is appropriate here. As best I recall my family started with Time Warner when I was in high school, which would be the early 1980s, or about 30 years ago. My mom has had their internet service, Road Runner, for well over a decade. And she's been at her current address for over three years. So this address thing is coming up at an odd time.

Also, Ben's use of language - "former internet service" and "present address" are not terribly helpful.

Rita
Do you see why that would be something I would worry about?

Rita
Are you human?

Ben Abraham
This is a live chat support.

Rita

Is it live chat support with a live person? Or with a computer?

Ben Abraham
Rita, please contact our local office.


When customer service acts in an inhuman manner, I like to ask the "are you human" question. Ben's response is quite amusing - he never says whether he's human or not. And I'm not kidding. Companies are working on software with robot agents for chat.

Ben Abraham
They will help you in transferring your email account to your present internet service .

Rita
I don't know what you mean by "present internet service." Don't I have the same internet service today that I had yesterday?

Ben Abraham
We apologize for the inconvenience .

Rita
Hello?

Ben Abraham
Your present internet service is with name RITA REDLICH at [Address Omitted], ALBANY, NY , right ?

Rita
Yes.

Rita
And it has been for over three years.

Ben Abraham
Before 3 years you lived at a different address , right ?

Rita
Yes.

Ben Abraham
Your previous address was --------------, SCHENECTADY NY, right ?

Rita
That is one of my previous addresses, but that was long before. In between I lived at two other addresses.

Ben Abraham
The email account -----------@nycap.rr.com was associated with internet at -------------, SCHENECTADY NY 12303.

Rita
But I have been using these e-mails during the 3+ years I've lived at [present address].

Rita
I used the e-mail addresses yesterday. What changed?

Ben Abraham
All the email account associated with the previous services have been disabled as they were being used by unauthorized person for sending spam .

Ben Abraham
In order to stop this all the former email accounts have been disabled .

Rita
When did this spam problem start? Can't you just reset the password?

Now all of a sudden there's a spam issue? Where did this come from? And why didn't he say that at the beginning?

He mentioned this spam thing once and it never came up again in the entire 90 minutes or so this drama will take.

Ben Abraham
You can enable them by transferring them to the current service.

Rita
I don't know what that means: "current service"

Rita
Whatever. How do we make this happen?

Ben Abraham
By current service I mean your internet at your present address .

Ben Abraham
Please contact our local support team, they will help you in getting back the email address..

Rita
How do I contact "our local support team"?

Ben Abraham
Give me a minute, while I provide you with the contact number.

Rita
And their hours please

Ben Abraham

Ben Abraham
You will get all the information on working our hour and contact numbers as well.

In case it's not clear, what didn't (and doesn't) make sense to me is that my mom has been using her e-mail address with her "current service" - the internet at her "present address" - for over three years. 

Ben told me the "local support team" would be able to solve the problem. That's not what happened. To be continued ...

But first, the rest of my conversation with Ben.

Rita
Is your name really Ben?

Ben Abraham
Ben, is my official name .

Ben Abraham - right. It seemed like an odd name. Asked if it's really his name, he replies that it's his "official" name. What does that mean? For more on the use of Americanized names, see: Guardian.

Rita
What time of day is it where you are right now?

Ben Abraham
We are located in India .

That was a shocker.

Rita
Okay. Thanks for your help ... sort of. This hasn't been all that helpful, but I'm guessing that's not your fault. I'm sure you're doing whatever you can within whatever Time Warner has allowed you to do.

Ben Abraham
I appreciate you understanding .

Ben Abraham
I hope your issue gets resolved as soon as possible .

Rita
I spent maybe 30 minutes waiting for this live chat support. But I didn't get support at all. I spent 30 minutes to be told to contact somewhere else for support. Please relay to your manager that this is not what I expect from the word "support". Basically this was a waste of my time.

Rita
I mean really, what did I get out of this? What was the useful information? How did this help me?

Ben Abraham
Rita, I could have helped you if it is some thing which is in my control.

Rita
I'm not saying "you". I'm saying Time Warner.

Rita
Why does Time Warner direct me to live chat, only to waste 30 minutes of my time getting no help?

Ben Abraham
I do understand that this has caused lot of inconvenience and we apologize for the inconvenience caused.

The fake apology. This is a common problem with "customer service" these days, and not just in India. You see, if Time Warner (and all the other crappy companies) really cared about the inconvenience it was causing with its poor customer service, it would make its customer service better. But they don't care. And thus, their apology is fake.

Rita
This is what I want you to relay to your manager.

Rita
I know you can't do anything about it yourself. You're half a world away working within rules that were set for you by someone else.

Ben Abraham
Sure, I will definitely pass the message.

I make it a point when I am in this situation not to blame the individual. Ben, or Akhil or whatever his real name is, is some poor chap in India just trying to get by in life and maybe move up to something approaching middle class in India, which is still a crappy lifestyle by our standards. For more on their lives read My Summer at an Indian Call Center, and keep in mind that this is a text chat so Ben probably doesn't speak well enough to make it at a call center. He is probably living below the level that article describes. 

Ben is not the problem here. The blame falls on Time Warner Cable management. CEO Glenn Britt has focused on creating a customer service-oriented organization.

Ben Abraham
Would you like me to provide you with any other information?

Rita
Not that it will change anything.

Rita
I hope your day gets better.

Rita
Is there any other information you can provide that would be helpful to my problem?

Ben Abraham
The local support team only can help you with this, please contact them .

Ben's question is obviously part of the script he's been given by his managers. He probably gets fined twenty rupees if he doesn't include it at the end of the chat, even if it's completely inappropriate.

Rita>
Goodbye.

Ben Abraham
For more information about Road Runner products and services, please visit our website http://help.rr.com and check for online FAQs.

Ben Abraham
Thank you for contacting Road Runner Technical Chat Support, we value you as a customer.Have a nice day!

Ben closes the conversation with more fake nonsense. "We value you as a customer." I understand that you value the money my mother sends you every month. But you don't value her enough to treat her with respect.

And this whole live chat thing is even more of a scam. Why do the conversations take so long? Because the agents engage in more than one conversation at the same time. Here's a company bragging about how their Call Center Live Chat Software enables this - with experienced agents handling up to six at one time.

So let me get this straight. Time Warner is paying Ben less than $2/hour, and he manages up to six customers at a time. The typical customer is paying $1000/year and Time Warner Cable makes something like $2 Billion in profit. CEO Britt pay dropped to $16 million a year. That poor bastard. How does he get by on that?

Time Warner Cable uses Live Chat to keep costs down. I get that. But in doing so it does not value us as customers. It devalues us. On the bright side the world is changing. They are facing more competition and eventually it will force better service. But not soon enough.
As mentioned earlier, the adventure continued by phone. That will be my next blog post.
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