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My Time Warner customer service call: 2 hours I'll never get back

Kevin Chupka
Executive Producer/Writer

Much has been made of Ryan Block's nightmarish call to Comcast (CMCSA)in the last 24 hours. It just so happens that I too needed to cancel my service (just the internet) with Time Warner Cable (TWC). Since these two cable and internet Goliaths may soon become one I thought it would be a good idea to compare the two experiences.

For starters I should note that I am a proud cord cutter. I got rid of my cable about two years ago. That experience was not wholly unpleasant. I called Time Warner’s phone tree and said I wanted to change my service. I was talking with a customer service representative in just a few minutes and endured about three brief rounds of “well if I cut your bill by X amount would you keep your service?”

I then waited about 30 minutes at my local Time Warner office to return my cable box and was done. That last step was unbelievably key and I can’t believe I didn't remember it.

I’ll spare you the gritty details but, in short, it took near two hours on the phone (the VAST majority of which was spent on hold) and help from Time Warner’s public relations department escalating my case to finally cancel my internet service...sort of.

I still have to bring my cable modem to the local Time Warner office and wait in that line to finalize it all.

If I had remembered that from last time I could have eliminated the middle man and taken care of the entire transaction in person since I have to go wait there anyway.

Once I finally unstuck the phone from my ear, having canceled but not REALLY canceled my service, I sent the PR contact who helped expedite my request in the first place some questions about they way Time Warner handles customer service. Here’s what he had to say:

KC: I called around 4:30pm - is that a particularly busy time?

Time Warner: Call volume is cyclical in nature, and some late afternoons are busier call times than other day parts. This is peak moving season for NYC and we’re seeing a higher volume of calls for people moving within or out of our service area.

KC: Do you have figures for the avg wait time to cancel (not overall customer service wait times) either around that time of day or across the entire day?

Time Warner: We don’t share those figures publicly, but we set goals and measure against them in our call centers in order to minimize wait times and increase customer satisfaction scores. Regardless of which kind of call, we are working to minimize all call wait times. In many cases, we offer “virtual hold” so that if we experience high volume, we will automatically call the customer back when an agent becomes available.

KC: McDonald's and other fast food restaurants have time goals they challenge their workers to hit (i.e. average customer wait time). Does Time Warner have such goals for customer service?

Time Warner: Absolutely, we set aggressive goals around several metrics to reduce call wait times and for our customer service calls, we’re most focused on the scores we receive for customer satisfaction. Our agents are trained to ask the questions that help identify a customer need or concern quickly and then act to solve for them. We call this first-call resolution so we don’t create a need for you to have to call us back. Right now, and as you seem to have experienced according to your email, the vast majority of our service-related calls are answered within 30 seconds.

KC: The cynic in me wonders if the unpleasant experience is done purposefully to weaken the will of those trying to cancel. The pragmatist in me realizes that would be a really bad business practices. Still, I have called Time Warner many times over the years at a variety of times during the day and a variety of days during the week and have never had an experience until I told the phone tree I wanted to cancel. Is there a different protocol inside the company when handing cancellation requests?

Time Warner: Unfortunately, when you called late yesterday afternoon, we were experiencing heavy call volume during this peak season. Typically, a customer is transferred to a retention specialist who will ask a few questions about reasons for the disconnect, and if the customer is open to listening, he or she will offer other packages or features that may better suit the customers’ needs, interests or budget. Of course, if the customer simply wants to stop service, we comply with their wish.

KC: The 2013 American Customer Satisfaction Index ranked Time Warner last among communication companies with a score of 56 out of 100. What steps have been taken since that news was released in May of this year to improve?

Time Warner: There’s a long list of initiatives and programs underway before and since May of 2014 that are designed around a better customer experience. From network reliability to increasing product value to how we interact with customers online, in person or on the phone. These changes include a new more dynamic TV navigation experience that makes search and discovery of great content easier -- to now offering one-hour appointment windows seven days a week -- to bright new stores with product demos and better layouts.

NOTE: You can see a list of other enhancements Time Warner furnished us with by clicking here on my Tumblr