How Not To Conduct Customer Service

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All I want for Christmas is a cable modem.

Unfortunately, that was last Christmas.

Over a year ago, an old childhood friend was one of the first to get Time-Warner Roadrunner service. From his experiences and what
I’ve read elsewhere, the service is reliable, fast and reasonably priced. So I’ve been waiting for it.

Although my friend lives a whopping eight blocks away from me, my neck of the woods was originally scheduled a good deal later than
his. OK, I can understand that. So I signed up to be told when they were ready.

Never heard anything. The only change in status I ever saw was my neck of the woods being pushed back on their roadmap.

After a period of time, I called them up, and got someone honest on the phone who said that Time-Warner had somehow messed up the
cabling in my neighborhood, and had to redo it. OK, these things can happen. I appreciated being told the truth, and resolved to wait
some more.

A couple months later, I tried calling, only to be told that the customer representative couldn’t possibly tell me such a thing if I didn’t already have cable service, then got rid of me by transferring me to a completely irrelevant line.

I gritted my teeth and waited some more.

The roadmap now said Spring.

Spring came, but the service didn’t. In late May, I sent an email to Time Warner asking them specifically when over the remainder of spring they planned to have the service available, and if not during the spring, just when. I also specifically asked them not just to tell me “Spring.”

Is this unreasonable? They put up a roadmap indicating Spring, and I’m asking when in Spring they’ll spring. If they have any kind of workplan, they should have a schedule.

This is what I got:

Thank you for your most recent inquiry regarding our Road Runner service.

Please keep in mind that we are working as quickly as possible. The deployment plan ensures the highest system reliability and the most efficient use of resources so Road Runner can reach all neighborhoods as quickly as possible. We have taken the liberty of looking up your address and your area is tentatively scheduled for Spring, 2001.

If you chose yes to the option asking to be updated periodically when completing the early bird application, we will be happy to continue to provide updates.

We ask for your patience and understanding with the time that it may take to respond to your application.

Thank you for your continued interest in Road Runner.

Let’s see what’s wrong with this message:

1) It doesn’t answer my question.

2) All it tells me is what I specifically told them I didn’t want to hear.

3) I asked if they were going to do what they said they were going to do on their website. Instead of giving me the information from the deployment plan, they tell me how wonderful the deployment plan is. This is like waving a red flag in front of a bull.

So here’s what the bull sent back (my comments in italics):

This response did not answer my question for the reasons stated below. I
would like to have a supervisor provide me with an answer.

> Thank you for your most recent inquiry regarding our Road Runner service.

> Please keep in mind that we are working as quickly as possible.

Then why has my neighborhood been delayed nine months from the initial
plan? Why do neighborhoods that were initially scheduled after mine have
service, and my neighborhood doesn’t?

>The deployment plan ensures the highest system reliability and the most
efficient use of resources so Road Runner can reach all neighborhoods as
quickly as possible.

Your company’s track record in my neighborhood seems to indicate otherwise.
Again, why has my neighborhood been delayed nine months from your initial
plans? I already know why, by the way, I just would like to see you give an
honest answer rather than spout propaganda. Under these circumstances,
don’t you think such comments are counter-productive and just alienate
potential customers?

>We have taken the liberty of looking up your address and your area is
tentatively scheduled for Spring, 2001.

I specifically asked you in my email not to simply repeat “Spring,” which
is something I can and do see on your website. I asked for a more specific
time than “Spring.” If you cannot provide a specific time, please say so,
and please also indicate the likelihood of your company meeting your latest
schedule. The whole tone of this response seems to indicate that you will
not have this service available during Spring 2001.

>If you chose yes to the option asking to be updated periodically when
completing the early bird application, we will be happy to continue to
provide updates.

I did that over a year ago, and have never received any update.

>We ask for your patience and understanding with the time that it may take
to respond to your application.

Your company got my patience and understanding when they were honest and
told me they had botched the initial implementation and had to redo it.
Self-congratulatory nonanswers like these only aggravate me and serve as
advertisements for RCN. I wrote this note a month before the end of the
period indicated on your roadmap. At this point, you should have a pretty
clear idea whether you can install or not in the next month. Shouldn’t your
deployment plan indicate this?

A few days later, I get this response from the same person.

Thank you for your most recent inquiry regarding our spectacular new Road Runner service.

(Ed.note: Given what this is responding to, this line is either petty vengeance or this person has a lower IQ than my bowel movements. You know it’s bad when you’re on the receiving end and hope it’s the first.)

We know you have been waiting to hear from us regarding an installation appointment.

We do apologize but unfortunately we are unable to provide any further information regarding an installation date. If you chose yes to the option asking for periodic updates on our early bird sign up form, we will be happy to continue to provide updates.

As always, for more information about Road Runner, please visit www.twcnyc.com and click on the Road Runner menu option. You’ll receive the latest information on service availability.

In other words, I got flipped the bird.

I thought about mentioning this back then, but something told me not to, and this morning was the final chapter.

Obviously, they were having problems with their roadmap. So what did they do? They got rid of the roadmap.

Unfortunately, they should have also gotten rid of comments like these in their customer support section, but didn’t:

Overview

Our Commitment: The Best Service

Our Customer Support staff is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to respond to your cable questions or concerns. We give customers thorough and knowledgeable responses that offer RESULTS.

ROTFLMAO!!!! What a joke! I guess Time-Warner feels it just has to talk the talk.

Now mind you, I’m not mad because I don’t have the service. I’m mad because I can’t even get an answer from “the best service.” If they had told me, “Sorry, but we don’t plan on doing this any time soon,” I’d be much happier than I am now. Instead, I know
I’m dealing with people who keep choosing the crooked path.

What great customer service.

Do I have other choices? To make a long story short, they look even worse.

Conclusions

You cannot have customer service without honesty. Period.

Honesty means telling the truth, even when it’s bad news, not denying it or pretending problems don’t exist. Just who do you think you’re fooling: the customer?

When self-delusion becomes more important than the customer,
there cannot be any true customer service. The company would be better off not even claiming to have any in the first place.

Email Ed

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