I’m a staunch advocate for treating people, especially your customers with the best care and experience, regardless of if you’re Nordstrom or REI. It will pay off in the short and long term for all parties involved. I’ll either be your biggest advocate or your worst enemy. Need proof? Check out the lesson learned from FTD Flowers here and here. Over the course of the month, you’ll read posts from fellow guest bloggers from around the world sharing their good, bad, or ugly customer service experiences…all of them very real. 
Chris Miller

“Just like Tom Selleck … but without the mustache.”

Today’s customer service post comes from Kansas City. Chris Miller is one of the funniest people I know. Definitely in the top three.  I think it might have been the huge orange wig he was wearing when I first met him as part of a Team World Vision event he was at. Don’t believe me? I guarantee you will be easily entertained by his Twitter handle or Facebook feed.  

A few days ago I was asked to write a blog post around a customer service experience. I was told that it could be either a positive or negative experience. As I thought this request and began to ponder which experience I would write about, there was one that immediately came to mind.

But I said no. I repressed the thought. I wouldn’t go there. I couldn’t. This post should be positive. It should reward one of the many good companies doing good work.

I began to think about the good experiences I have had. Receiving a kind reply from a Brooks Running employee on Twitter. Being calmed down by an Apple Store employee after my MacBook refused to start. Chatting with an Amazon employee when I accidentally purchased the wrong software, and thought I had just thrown away a hundred dollars. All good. And would make good stories.

But that one bad experience kept creeping up. I couldn’t shake it. Like a shadowy figure in a dark alley, stalking its next victim, it lingered just out of sight, waiting to take ahold. It haunted me. I couldn’t escape…

Time Warner. Time Warner Cable.

Since moving to Kansas City two years ago, they have been the bane of my Netflix-watching, Facebook-posting existence. From the slower-than-promised download speeds to faster-than-expected calls to upgrade to the premium package, they have proven themselves to be a consistent annoyance. But it wasn’t until an experience two months ago that they became the reason for multiple trips to my therapist.

I had just come home from work. I had a paper due at midnight. I had to get online. I sat down at my computer and dove into my research. Or I intended to. Instead, I found myself staring at the “no networks found” dialogue box on my screen. So I called Time Warner.

The menu. I dial my phone number. Wait? They need my account number too? I opted for paperless billing. I need to get online. I can’t. My phone. Switch to speaker. Open email app. Search. Click the link. Login. How do you find your own account number? The recorded voice prompts me again. My blood pressure is rising. Took too long. Must start the call again. Menu again. Phone number again. Account number again. We are in. Wait. More options. Which department?

Photo Credit: Chris Miller

Photo Credit: Chris Miller

After five minutes of this a got a person, a real life person. I could tell he was real by the “I-hate-my-job” tone in his voice. He checked the area for an outage. Nothing. He said it must be something on my end. We unplugged the router, the cable box, computer, toaster… Everything plugged in was unplugged. We waited five minutes. We replugged. Still Nothing.

For twenty more minutes we tediously completed every step in the Time Warner Cable Tech Support Handbook. I was still not online and running out of time to finish my paper. I think he could hear my panic. He decided to take a closer look at my account. He then noticed that it had been deactivated. He didn’t know why.

We then got on a conference call with someone from accounting. She was confused. She went to get the manager. That left me and the tech guy on the the line, awkwardly listening to hold music. It was like being on an elevator alone with someone who may or may not want to murder me. I was scared.

Finally, she came back. She explained that my account had been closed due to a lack of payment. She said I should contact my bank. I explained that I was set up on Time Warner’s auto payment system. They were debiting the money directly out of my account. She was baffled. She did not know that Time Warner had this service.

She checked with a co-worker. They concluded that Time Warner does indeed have this service, but they have turned it off for my account. She didn’t know why.

She turned it back on, but explained that I must pay the balance. I agreed and got my credit card out. She then informed me that this can only be done through a customer service representative. I asked to be transferred.

They couldn’t transfer me. (That was beyond the capabilities of their system.) I was told I must hang up and call a different number. Once completed, I must call this number back to reactivate my account. I asked for a direct number. They informed me I must go through the phone menu. A single tear fell down the right side of my face. They broke me. In that moment, they broke me.

Forty-five minutes later, I was speaking with my fifth Time Warner employee of the day. The gruffly voice of an overworked technician explained that he could turn my connection back on, but it could take up to twelve hours to activate. All hope was gone. My paper would be late. I would receive a lower grade.

Unfortunately, I am still with Time Warner. There is no viable alternative in my area … yet. Google Fiber is on the way. Until then, I have made it my goal to inform my family, friends, and neighbors of their shady ways. And, as a constant reminder of their bad customer service, I have renamed my WiFi network TimeWarnerIsHorrible.

Chris’ story hits a nerve. I know we all can recall a single time we have been stuck with no other alternatives to leave a brand despite your best efforts. It may be due to uncontrollable circumstances or an industry monopoly. But companies should be reminded that these situations do not create long lasting customers. Rather obligated, disgruntled, and an un-loyal customer base. If you were in Time Warner’s shoes, wow would you turn their reputation and response around? 

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There’s no exchange of moolah behind these blog pages, pro-deals, or freebies with this series. What you see is what you get; real stories from real people who are sharing their experiences to challenge the status quo, inspire companies to take action, and ultimately build a life long customer. Be sure to check back this week!

July 13: Our love affair with the world’s most hated airline by Kayla Robertson

July 12: Treat others how you would want to be treated. by Kristin

July 10: Where’s the Line? by Kristin McGunnigle

July 8: Do customers dream of electric sheep? by Stephen Ellis

July 5: Nike earns an A+ by Jackie Ostlie

July 3: How to Please the Queen by Katrina Taylor

July 1: Are you kidding me? by Evelyn Wolf