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.

Sincerely,
David Wharton

5 comments:

Donna Newton said...

David, I sympathize with you. Our issues have not been as disabling as yours seem to have been, but they have been frustrating just the same. What concerns me more, however, is that the state continues to erode the authority of City government. We have seen this time and again and if what we are hearing about plans at the state level, we will be seeing more of this. I wish I had more time to explore this issue and what can be done about it and would love to hear from someone who can.
Sincerely,
Donna Newton

Steve said...

I transitioned to AT&T U-verse a year or so ago and have been pretty happy. I remember remarking at the time that I would never have imagined I would be excited about re-entering a business relationship with AT&T.

Anonymous said...

The problem you describe with your spotty service is exactly what I have been dealing with in the College Hill (Greensboro NC)neighborhood for over six months.

It is very frustrating and Time Warner is not worth the money. We need more competition to force them to provide a better product and service.

michele said...

David, I assume that TWC has already tried everything in your situation, but just in case, I'll share how they helped us. A while back, we noticed that we weren't getting enough bandwidth, even though we were paying for turbo or whatever they called it, and sometimes the internet went down completely. At that time, we had multiple children still living at home and lots of computers, some of which were used for business, and we used a lot of bandwidth. TWC sent multiple technicians out to help solve the problem.

We'd always had to have this booster thing on one of the cables inside the house, but that wasn't doing the job, so they dug up our main cable line and replaced it with a new, bigger, better cable and that solved the problem. Maybe that would work for you, if that hasn't been tried already.

We also had problems getting wi-fi to work way back when TWC first offered it, and they sent us a lot of technicians and supervisors from TWC and a company they contract with, and they worked on the issue until they fixed it, which did take a few weeks to completely resolve, as I recall. We even had a call from a TWC VP, apologizing about the situation. But it sounds as if you may not have received that same level of service. :( Our only complaint about TWC is the price. But as you pointed out, there's no alternative to get all the services they offer (including internet and TV), at the level they offer it, so we pay it. And we sure do use it! ;)

jimcaserta said...

I wonder how much of your problem is related to above ground cabling, and then how much of TWC's local network is above-ground. It could be a unique problem, but their response is very poor.

Do you have cable TV service through TWC?