I sometimes wonder how Time Warner Cable manages to stay in business. I think it must be a combination of general apathy on the part of its customers and its overwhelming, almost-monopolistic nature. It certainly doesn't remain viable because of its customer service policies.
Before I get into my story I must preface this by saying that I have had excellent customer service experiences with TWC in the past. Many of the reps have been helpful, courteous, kind, and willing to go the extra mile for me. However, a company's customer service reputation should not be judged by how good the GOOD customer service experiences are, but how good the BAD customer service experiences are. All it takes is one bad experience to sour a customer for many many years.
Two weeks ago, our DVR box from TWC started acting up. The closed captioning would not turn off once it is turned on (until the box is hard-reset), and it was acting very sluggish and unresponsive to both user inputs and cable-feed inputs. On-demand suddenly was unavailable on any of the free or paid on-demand channels. Since their "software upgrade", we have had many of these problems flare up occasionally (although not usually all at once), and they're normally fixed by a reboot of the box. This time however, the box reboot only made things worse as the operating software froze halfway through loading and would not proceed any further.
Being a Friday night, the tech support lines were already closed. Luckily, they offer an internet-based chat with tech support reps that normally allows me to take care of these kind of things. After waiting about 10 minutes, I got a rep on the screen who listened to me explain the problem. He had no specific fix for the issue but attempted to "refresh the signal" to the box and had me reboot it again. After trying this twice, and getting no closer to fixing the problem, he declared the box broken and informed me that I must take it in to a service center and exchange it for a replacement box. At my request, he acknowledged that alternately, I could schedule a service call for later that week (Thursday was the earliest available) for someone to come swap it out. I chose to take it back myself the next morning, rather than us having to wait most of a week just to have someone show up in person. And that's where the fun with Time Warner REALLY started.
The closest Time Warner office to my house is about a 15-20 minute drive north. This would be my 4th time replacing faulty hardware with them (in about a year's time), and I know that in the past they've occasionally been out of stock of the HD DVR boxes, so I decided to call first and ensure they had one there before I wasted the precious gas to go up there for no reason. So Saturday morning I looked up the number to the office on the TWC website and gave a call to the 800 number listed there.
I immediately realized that this was NOT the local office number, but rather the main TWC support number. While I was on hold (estimated wait time of 10-15 minutes), I grabbed a phone book and found another number for the office, this time with a local area code. I hung up and dialed this local number. And was connected back to the main call center support number, again. This time the estimated wait time was 15-20 minutes. I started to get a little frustrated, but waited it out fairly patiently while reading a book.
When I got a support rep on the line, I explained that I was trying to check whether that specific branch had a replacement box in stock for an exchange. She told me that the branch had no direct number in place for me to call (I had already figured this out), and if I held on the line, she'd find out for me. I agreed and waited on hold for about 3 minutes of phone silence, after which I heard the click of a transfer and the background music started back up. I wasn't sure whether I had been kicked back into the queue or was still on hold, so I waited for about 2 more minutes until the muzak cut out and when I looked at the phone, I realized I had been disconnected.
Getting REALLY frustrated now (blood-pressure set to about medium-high), I called back and got back in line for ANOTHER 15-20 minute wait time. As soon as I was on hold, I fired up a web browser and initiated one of the internet-based chats, hoping a rep on there would help me more quickly than through the phone system. I also knew there was less chance of being put on hold and disconnected on the online chat, so I had the following chat while I waited on hold on the phone:
CSRep: Hello! Thank you for choosing Time Warner Cable's Online Chat, My name is <CSRep>. Please give me a moment while I retrieve your account details.
CSRep: What I understand is that, you are trying to find out if Kannapolis, NC office has replacement HD DVR boxes.
CSRep: Please be assured I will try my best to resolve the issue.
Ross: I've been on hold on the phone for 15 minutes and disconnected once, so I figured I'd try asking on chat
CSRep: I apologize for the inconvenience caused.
CSRep: Can you give the Zip code of Kannapolis NC?
Ross: I have no idea
CSRep: Any near by area?
Ross: using your time warner cable lookup page on the website
CSRep: Please visit the above weblink.
CSRep: And please check with Customer Care Center
Ross: I have
Ross: I gave you the zip code I found there
Ross: they have NO DIRECT NUMBER, which is why I am having to go through all this crap
CSRep: Please allow me a moment.
CSRep: Please visit the above weblink.
CSRep: For customer care center in Kannapolis.
Ross: THERE IS NO CUSTOMER CARE THERE
CSRep: Have you opened the web link?
Ross: I am competent enough to navigate your website prior to calling/chatting
Ross: The only information there is a link to the main number
Ross: Which put me on hold for 15 minutes, and then disconnected me
CSRep: Please take down the address and telephone number.
Ross: (877) 566-4892 is the main number – there is NO DIRECT NUMBER to that office
Ross: which is why I need someone within Time Warner Cable to check for me
CSRep: Kananapolis, 1730 S Cannon Blvd, NC- 28083.
Ross: THAT IS NO HELP. I'm talking to them right now on the main number.
CSRep: That is the only number for Kannapolis.
CSRep: Please try with 704-377-9600.
Ross: That is the same support line as the main one, just with a local area code. I'm STILL on hold with them and can't believe you all can't find out something as simple as a stock issue without me visiting in person.
Ross: This has to be the most unhelpful customer service group I've ever dealt with. Thank you for nothing.
About the time I began banging my head against the keyboard during this web chat, I got through to another rep on the phone. I explained my issue to the gentleman on the other end and he asked me to hold while he checked it out (this time, no disconnect or transfer occurred). When he came back, he informed me that there was no direct line to the Kannapolis office. I told him I knew that, as I had been informed of that information by at least 2 other customer service reps this morning, and that is why I was calling the main customer service line for them to check.
He clarified that statement: The Kannapolis office has NO OUTSIDE LINES available, so not even Time Warner main customer support can contact them! The best they can do is email that office and hope that one of the reps there is responding to email! He did let me know that there was no record of the office indicating there was a LACK of boxes available, so in all likelihood there were some in stock, but I would have to go check in person.
I decided that going into an argument weighing the merits of proving something through evidence vs. proving something through lack of evidence to the contrary would not get us anywhere, thanked him for his efforts, and hung up. End result: 50 minutes spent on the phone/computer with nothing to show for it. I drove out to the Kannapolis office and was able to swap out the box, come home, and hook it up. Then I was presented with a message to the effect of: "This cable box is not authorized for service. Please call Time Warner at [TWC phone #] to resolve this issue."
Having learned my lesson about the 20-minute wait times, I jumped on both the phone and internet to see which way would get me there first. The web-chat won by a couple minutes, but still took me a total of about 15 minutes total to get the box up and authorized.
All told, I spent about 3.5 hours dealing with reps on the phone, online, and in person to resolve my issue. I'm not happy with how it all turned out and have written a letter to Time Warner explaining the frustration I dealt with all the way through this effort. Unfortunately for me, Time Warner really is my only choice for all the services I need at the features and costs I require. However, if I have another run-in like this, I'll seriously consider taking a hit on either price or service options to go with an alternative and show Time Warner my dissatisfaction with their behavior in the only way they seem to understand – with my wallet.
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