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HissyFitWatch: Drama at the Time Warner Cable Store; When Angry Customers Attack

Phillip Dampier September 26, 2012 Consumer News, Editorial & Site News, HissyFitWatch, TWC (see Charter) 10 Comments

Anger management failure at the Time Warner Cable store

I always wondered why some Time Warner Cable stores maintain a very visible security presence, often with a uniformed guard stationed in plain sight. This morning, I got my answer.

While visiting a local cable store to exchange a set top box, I ended up behind five other customers, with just a single representative on duty. Seated on the provided couch, I was well-positioned to hear the issues of customers in line before me. It was the usual pattern — a bunch of late-payers wondering how much of their $400 past due cable bill they needed to pay to reconnect service, a customer exchanging a troublesome remote control or turning in unneeded equipment, and one older “gentleman” who clearly spent his morning preparing for a personal indictment of Time Warner’s customer service.

He was in line right before me. I should have realized there was going to be a problem, considering he spent 15 minutes muttering under his breath and mocking the representative’s answers to other customers as he waited his turn.

His moment finally arrived, and he unleashed.

“How do you people sleep at night,” was his opening. “Time Warner Cable sucks.”

And they’re off….

For at least 10 minutes, the woman behind the counter took a relentless verbal, often personal lashing.

Phillip “Next in line after Mr. Angry” Dampier

“I worked for a utility company and I would have been fired if I ever provided service as bad as yours,” was quickly followed by “do you actually train your people?”

It seemed, in-between the insults, this particular customer lost cable service the other day, called Time Warner’s automated attendant, and was erroneously told there was no reported service problem in his area. Finally reaching a live person, the customer service representative quickly repeated that, despite protests that “the whole street is out.”

Over the course of the day, the perturbed customer repeatedly called Time Warner to give regular updates on their conclusion there was no problem.

“There were Time Warner trucks on my street and you people have the nerve to tell me there is no problem,” relayed the man. “I’m glad I don’t have your phone service because even your own people told me not to get it because it was unreliable. I would not have been able to even call you then.”

But the final indignation was the customer’s perception a Time Warner Cable employee ordered him to stay home for a service call the next day.

“How dare you tell me what to do. You people wasted my time and yours and I never had this problem with Dish when I had them,” he lectured. “I don’t know how you guys even stay in business with crappy service like that and you lie to your own customers.”

The employee behind the counter had evidently been well-seasoned by prior encounters with angry customers. While never telling the man she understood his concerns, she did repeatedly tell him she was not the one telling him the things that obviously had upset him.

Other customers watching the display further back in line began to leave the store, noting the man showed no signs of drawing his angerfest to a close.

“I should just go back to Dish,” repeated the man. “You people are just awful and you always have been and you should be ashamed.”

For a few moments, there was silence as the representative looked up information about the customer on her computer. That was her big mistake.

“I am going to back my truck up and just chuck my cable box through your window for all it is worth,” as the relative calm of the eye of Hurricane Angry Guy had now passed on by. “Screw all of you.”

Having self-satisfied himself with his venting, he stormed off slamming the store door open as hard as he could.

“Customer #110 is now being served at window 2,” proclaimed the automated voice.

That was me. I hesitantly approached the desk.

Initially defensive, the customer service person cut me off the moment I took a breath to speak and tartly asked for my phone number.

It should be obvious to any reader here that I am a relentless critic of some of the policies and decisions made by the management of large cable and phone companies like Time Warner Cable. I am also a customer, so technically I could feel entitled to unleash my concerns about the industry as a whole on any employee of the cable company. But that would be wrong.

Taking your frustrations out on a customer service representative that had nothing to do with creating a problem will not solve the problem. Hurling a tirade of personal, verbal abuse is simply unacceptable.

If Time Warner Cable made the mistake, calmly discussing the problem without yelling at the representative would have probably netted the customer a customer courtesy credit and an apology. Asking the representative what she could do to alleviate or compensate for a problem gives them a chance to help. Putting them under a state of siege is a sure way to shut them down, hoping you will leave as quickly as possible.

In short, nobody deserves to be treated the way this representative was this morning.

Being affable got me a lot farther. The representative’s initial defensiveness quickly dissipated and she went out of her way to address concerns and even offered things I did not request. When it was all over, I thanked her for her help and she returned the courtesy wishing me a great day.

Some people believe being difficult and browbeating customer service will get them satisfaction. But I have found that remembering the “three P’s” of customer <-> customer service interaction work far better:

  1. Be polite. If you have a problem with your provider, don’t assign blame to the one person that might be able to alleviate the problem. Calmly explain what the company did wrong in your eyes and empower and encourage the customer service agent to be your ally to resolve the problem. Making things personal puts anyone on the defensive, which guarantees less interaction, not more. Treat people the way you expect to be treated.
  2. Be persistent. If the offered solutions don’t work for you, let them know in a calm voice that their suggested resolution is insufficient. Ask them if there is anything else they can do to resolve an issue or compensate you. If they seem unable to help, ask them if a supervisor could.
  3. Be persuasive. Reminding a customer service agent you appreciate their help and that, as a long standing customer, you want to preserve a positive attitude about your provider gives them the incentive to go further for you. If necessary, remind them that a happy customer stays a customer. An unhappy one leaves and tells everyone they know. Keep things business-like and keep your anger in check.

Currently there are 10 comments on this Article:

  1. Duffin says:

    This is the very reason that I always say that I believe everyone in the US should be required, by law, to work a retail job for at least a month in their life. You learn how to treat people just from how badly you get treated in jobs like that. It’s so unfair for people to come in and insult people simply due to the place they’re working. Years of working retail has helped me to always remember to treat people providing me a service kindly. At least, as long as they’re treating me with respect as well.

  2. txpatriot says:

    I worked for three years in the restaurant business, as a cashier and as a food preparer when I was in high school.

    I’ve seen customers at their best and at their worst. I totally agree with Phillip and with Duffin — you’ll get much further along with honey than with vinegar. Also when I do get good service, I try to notify the manager and praise the employee.

    Lord knows they hear of bad service often enough, I think good service merits an “atta-boy”!

  3. Dave Hancock says:

    Apparently, this guy did not want anything – other than to vent. He probably found the only real “face of TW” that he could find.

    Yes, Phillip’s “3 ps” are good guidelines when you are trying to accomplish something. But this guy apparently wanted just to vent. And he should be allowed to vent, due to the apparently crappy CUSTOMER mis-service that he had received. The problem is that the TW executives that need to hear his complaints are not at the local center!

    If his whole street was out for a prolonged time, perhaps he can convince his neighbors to dump TW en-mass!

  4. Ben says:

    I think people are missing the point. I am not saying blowing your stack is the right thing to do, but I can certainly understand it. Policies and ignorance coupled with bad overall service can drive people insane. They get sick of it and the repeated problems that they reach a breaking point. I concur with Dave that much of the anger is directed at the wrong people. The frontline reps ARE poorly trained and can’t do much beyond answer basic questions and swap boxes. It’s just a fact of the matter nowadays.

  5. Kevin says:

    People are just plain rude these days – It does not matter where you go, they are everywhere – They think they need to scream and yell – Like Phillip says, follow the 3 p’s and you are more likely going to get more than you expected –

  6. Racerbob says:

    I agree. People are very rude. You can tell just by the way they all drive also. In a huge hurry to get wherever they are going burning up all of their gas and then you catch them a the next stop light. LOL

    Well I am very happy with TW. I just cut a deal to return to the cable TV fold with a nice two year CATV/ Turbo Internet combo.

  7. kelly lucas says:

    On the flipside, I tried to communicate w/ time warner cable. I spent over 4 hours on HOLD in 5 phone calls. There was some confusion regarding billing and I set up a payment plan (I don’t agree that I should pay in advance as they do, however, I agreed…). They took a credit card # and asked me to authorize a payment amount which I did. My cable was shut off two more times as was my internet. Every time I called, I explained about the payment (after holding endlessly) and was told it was all set w/ my service restored. I tried to be nice every time. Even tonight. Two weeks later, I came home to a note in my door. Accordingly to their records, I had not scheduled a payment (they are not allowed to do that on the phone they said??) even tho I got a notice from teh bank saying it was taken out. The note said that I had to pay that payment that i already set up plus a payment that took me to a week after today’s date. When I called, I held for over an hour to be told there was nothing they could do. I said that they gave me no notice, no call, no letter, no email, no notice on my online bill pay, and according to my records I was square. They were rude and patronizing and I admit that I became that way. Isn’t the customer the customer??!! They said, two choices, pay for service through 11/7 c or put my cable box on the front porch. Guess where my cable sh*t is. Instead of offering any type of compromise to work things out, they patronized me and didn’t care that they lost my business. Well, its lost forever and I will also be spreading the word as much as I can. When I expressed that they actually said, “I have no idea how many people you might talk to or reach, but really we can’t help you”. OK. bye bye.

    • I recommend you send an e-mail to: [email protected]

      These are social media reps that can help cut through the red tape and resolve the problem you are having. I have found them a lot better helping out with customer service problems the ordinary customer service people can’t always help with.

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