Sunday, September 16, 2012

Time Warner Cable Phone Support: Prognosis Negative

In my previous post I described my initial problems and experience with Time Warner Cable Live Chat. That was only the beginning.

The chat session ended with "Ben" (not his real Indian name) referring me to my "local support" team. He did not provide me with a direct phone number, but rather a web address.

Here's the web link he gave me: Time Warner Cable Northeast Contact Page

He told me it would provide the phone number for the local support staff. Here's what the page looks like:

Now I know I'm no rocket scientist, but I still don't see a phone number on this page no matter how hard I look. Nor do I see any reference to a local support team.

Somehow I found the number 518-869-5500. I don't remember how I did, but that is a local number so I called it. The menu options did not include anything about a local support team but I found something that sounded like what I needed and I chose that option.
And after waiting a while I did get to a speak to a person.

Before that person picked up, I did hear some brief recorded statement that Time Warner was experiencing technical difficulties with e-mail and that they were working on it. I do not know if this had anything to do with our problem and no one I dealt with mentioned anything about it.

So unlike my live chat experience, I'm pretty sure the person I was speaking with was in America and he did not seem to have an accent. However, he didn't seem to know much about anything either, and he was not "local" as will become apparent later.

I experienced the same problem where even though I had entered my mother's information through the phone system, he did not have the account ready when the conversation started.

He never mentioned the spam issue raised by our friend in India. He did bring up the same thing about my mother's address changing, though he couldn't explain why an address change from several years ago would suddenly affect her e-mail now.

He did seem pretty sure that my mother's e-mail accounts would have to be deleted. After some conversation I think he started to figure out that this would not be a satisfying resolution of the situation for us. And there was that moment when he decided he needed to speak to a senior technician. That job title might mean someone who has been working there for more than two weeks.

After a lovely stint on hold he said he was going to connect me to someone in our local tech support who would be able to transfer the e-mail addresses to the "new" account. Maybe.

And then he put me on hold, and not your ordinary 3-5 minute hold. This one took over half an hour.

It's important to note at this point that I'm not your typical customer. Most people would get enraged and hang up at some point. My mother, sitting next to me and enraged, refused to go to bed (it was after 11 pm) and insisted that I hang up the phone. I probably should have been mad. But I use the experience as material for ... writing blog posts. I also use the time to research for related material (see the links in the Time Warner Live Chat post).

But wait ... there's more.

When the nice young lady in the Albany area finally picked up the phone, I let her know how long I'd been waiting, and how much time I'd spent with the national guy and our friend Ben/Sunil in India. Politely, but I made sure she knew I was not a happy camper.

Then we dug into the problem. Of course she did not have all our information ready, so I had to repeat my mother's account information and re-explain the situation for the third time. All of this to find out that she did not handle technical support - just billing issues.

She was going to get someone else on the line but I'd reached my limit. It was midnight. I was tired. And I had zero confidence that the next person was going to fix anything.

So I gave her our contact information and asked that she have someone let us know when the problem was fixed. We went to sleep. We did not receive any e-mails or calls today updating us on the situation. My mother's e-mail did mysteriously start working again. We have no idea why it stopped working, or why it started again.

Did the local support team switch the e-mail addresses over to the new physical address? Was the mysterious recorded statement relevant? Was it a temporary glitch that fixed itself? We just don't know.

To be fair to Sir Patrick Stewart, I have not lost the will to live. This was a minor annoyance which, at least for me, provided some amusement. I suspect his experience was far worse.

Customer service just stinks in much of the business world. Often this is the result of monopolistic environments where consumers just don't have better options.

In competitive environments, however, customer service is a big deal. There's a lot of talk this week about the iPhone 5 being unimpressive when compared to non-Apple smart phones - for example: 10 ways Android beats the iPhone 5. This analysis misses one of the biggest features going for the iPhone - the Genius Bar at the Apple Store.

When you have a problem with your Android phone, where do you go to get it fixed? For iPhone users there's an easy answer. You go to the nearest Apple Store, wait a reasonable time (despite the massive crowd) and then talk to a real person who actually knows what they're talking about and actually fixes your problem.

This not only leads to customer satisfaction, but it also exposes the customer to all the cool stuff in the store. We were there yesterday on an unrelated issue and I started thinking I need a new laptop.
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