Sunday, February 3, 2013

An Open Letter to Robert D. Marcus, President of Time Warner Cable, Inc.

Update 2/26/2013: Our internet connectivity issues have been resolved. We received a call this morning from Time Warner offering to refund our internet bill for the time affected by loss of service, which we gladly accepted.

February 3, 2013
David Wharton
Greensboro, NC

Robert D. Marcus
President & Chief Operating Officer
Time Warner Cable, Inc.
60 Columbus Circle
New YorkNY, 10023 

Dear Mr. Marcus:

I write to express my frustration and disappointment with the service provided to me by your company.

Time Warner Cable, Inc. provides internet and cable TV service to  our home. Both my wife and I depend on internet service for business use, and its reliability and speed are very important to us.

In late November of 2012, our internet service began to fail frequently. Our connection would be dropped unpredictably, sometimes for hours at a time, on a daily basis. Our modem was rebooting itself about 65 times a week. Even now, more than two months later, our service is not completely reliable, as internet service disappears for short intervals every day. Thus we cannot depend on it for Skype or Vonage communications with colleagues, etc.

But unfortunately (for us), the protocols Time Warner uses for customer service are so arduous to navigate that we have resigned ourselves to living with a low-quality connection. Let me describe that process in brief.

Whenever we placed a call for service, we were put on hold for a minimum of 20 minutes, often longer. Then we provided account and address information to a low-level service tech, who did not have access to information about previous service problems. This person apparently had to follow a rigid protocol of asking us fixed questions and directing us to try various procedures (tighten the cable connection, reboot the modem, etc.)  -- even though we had done these things repeatedly to no avail -- before scheduling a service truck.

After each service visit failed to resolve the problem, we still had to go through this protocol before being kicked up to a "higher level" of service. Two times while I was on the phone with "higher level" service techs, my call was dropped, and the service person did not call me back, even though I provided my cell number. Those two times, I was not provided with a call-back number to anyone who knew the history of our problems or even with a case number, so my only recourse was to call the low-level service number, wait on hold, and go through the whole rigmarole once again. This process consumed many hours. 

It took 5 truck visits in all to bring our service up to its current quasi-reliable level. The first three truck techs said they couldn't find anything wrong, though they replaced some minor parts. One suggested that the problem was with our home's electrical service (it wasn't). The fourth tech to visit our house finally brought some equipment that allowed him to determine that our signal was indeed spotty. After this fourth truck visit, a concerned higher-level service tech finally scheduled a visit to our house by a supervisor. The supervisor found a problem at the pole on the street -- some kind of plate was rusted. It was replaced and service improved, but is still somewhat unreliable.

Then the coup de grĂ¢ce. We got a followup robocall asking if our service was now acceptable. When my wife pressed the button for "no," she was put on hold ... then after a while the call was dropped. No callback.

From our end, your customer service protocols look like they are designed to impede access to that service and to wear down customers who have only minor problems until they give up. If that is the case, all I can say regarding our case -- mission accomplished. I can't bring myself to call again, even to ask that our bill be pro-rated for our months of bad service.  Instead of waiting two hours on the phone again, I decided to write you.

One last thing. All of this would be a lot less galling if I could simply cancel my service and sign on with a competitor. But the lobbying arm of Time Warner has been so effective in North Carolina that you have no competitors, and your industry even managed to persuade my state legislature to make it illegal for cities like mine to provide their own broadband service.

Well played, Time Warner, well played indeed.

David Wharton