After being generally unhappy with the billing and customer service of Time Warner Cable I finally canceled my account thinking that if I’m not their customer anymore they would cause me no further aggravation. Right? Wrong. And they wonder why cable is one of the most disliked industries?
The billing errors continued… and get worse. First, it was a bill for several thousands of dollars because they hadn’t gotten around to taking my three cable boxes off the bill. That took a month to resolve, and I guess they expected me to pay the disputed thousands until they credited it. When I finally get a corrected bill I tried to follow the instructions in their email… “Click here http://www.TimeWarnerLA.com/PayXpress to view and pay your bill. ” but then THAT didn’t work either. Why? Because my account was “closed”. Well then why did you SEND that to me?
Frustrated, I wanted to communicate my experience to someone capable of understanding, and actually addressing, my concerns. Surely SOMEONE at a big media corporation would want to know how much of what they tell people to do doesn’t even work and how frustrating the end user experience is. You don’t get to talk to someone like that by calling 1-888-TW-CABLE and talking to someone in a phone room. The only way I’ve found to get an issue escalated to an executive at most companies is through the Better Business Bureau, so I filed a complaint.
Instead of a response from Time Warner Cable apologizing for my experience and assuring me that these issues were being resolved I got a letter from a collection agency advising me that their collection was now on my credit report. Really? Yes really. I explained that I’d been billed a wrong amount, and that after I got that cleared up it wouldn’t let me pay on-line. They advised me I could go to any of their offices to make a payment. Uh huh, sure and they COULD come to my house and pick it up in bags of pennies too, that’s not the point. The POINT is that I tried to follow their instructions, which didn’t work. More importantly, I don’t WANT to “go to an office”. I want to pay on-line like I always have. What’s the great challenge to making that work?
Even after all this, I was certain that at some point I’d reach someone with a clue who’d resolve it. After all, I wasn’t disputing the amount or asking for anything free. I just wanted my concerns acknowledged and NOW I also needed the stupid collection item deleted. I wasn’t even hoping for an apology… so I didn’t think it would be a tough sell.
Frank Eliason at Comcast has been participating on Twitter as @comcastcares to resolve just these kinds of issues before they become public and embarrassing. Clearly they get it, and they’re at least making an effort. I contacted Frank and he put me in touch with Jeff Simmermon at Time warner who was trying to replicate the success Comcast had on Twitter at Time Warner Cable. Jeff (@JeffTWC on Twitter) is a really nice guy, and he also seems to get “get” it, but is more on the PR side and far less empowered than his counterpart at Comcast. He cc:d my issue to John Orzolick (“Customer Care Advocate”) and James Abbott (unknown role) at Time Warner Corporate.
John Orzolick, unfortunately, did not “get” it. His position was that despite being billed the wrong amount, and despite being told in writing to pay online when I could not that I should have just ignored what they SAID and understood what they meant… and figured out another way to pay them. What John Orzolick doesn’t seem to understand is that his attitude of punishing a customer who’s clearly trying to help them improve their processes doesn’t serve him, his company, or the customer.
Here’s what he SHOULD have said: “I’m sorry about the billing errors and the problem paying on-line. We’ll get that forwarded to the appropriate team to be addressed. In the mean time we’ll get the collection retracted as clearly you were making a good faith effort to resolve this and we dropped the ball, we’ll close out your account with your payment unless there’s anything else we can do to win you back?” Doesn’t that make more sense for everyone?
At this point, I’d rather spend 10X the money fighting this in court and in public than be penalized by corporate inefficiency and apathy. It’s kind of fun for me to fight goliath. I’m one of those guys that wants to “fix” things that are broken, and yes life would probably be easier if I just ignored them like everyone else. But if there weren’t people like me, I wonder… would ANYTHING ever get fixed?
Update: Added @AlexTWC (Alex Dudley, Vice President, Public Relations) to the mix. Not optimistic.