Time Warner Cable has just given me an incredible example of how to waste your advertising money, and I'd like to pass this lesson on to you.

Time Warner just recently bought out Comcast here in the Dallas, Texas area. My parents, who are both in there 70s, have been Comcast cable customers for years, and now they find themselves customers of Time Warner.

Naturally, Time Warner has spent massive amounts of advertising money to tell all of the former Comcast customers how great things will be for them now that they are with Time Warner.

Recently my parents asked me to help them set up a high-speed internet connection and I advised them to stick with the same company that provides their cable service. Big mistake.

It is now 8:46 pm and I have been trying to install a high-speed internet connection for my parents for more than 12 hours.

Actually, installing the connection and loading the software has been no problem. What has been a problem, and what has used 172 minutes on my cell phone and 43 attempts (all documented on my cell phone's call log for today) to contact Time Warner's "Customer service department" (boy is that a misnomer) has been my repeated attempts to get the password and log on ID that should have been given to me when I picked up the self installation kit.

Had I been given this information with the kit, I would have had my parents connected at 9am today.

So if you are listening Time Warner, what good does it do you to spend millions on advertising when your actual service contradicts what you say in your ads? Why not spend a portion of that money on hiring additional customer service employees?

To the rest of you, here is the message: Advertising, marketing and PR are wonderful things that can produce wonderful results for promoting your business. But if your callers cannot get through, or when they finally do get through have to wait on hold for 172 minutes before they are cut off, or if they finally reach an employee who is untrained or incompetant (that hasn't happened to me yet today, but I am expecting it), what good has all that advertising done for you?

Now if you will excuse me, I plan to call another internet provider.

(By the way, if someone would like to forward this post to some top executive at Time Warner, maybe they will get the message).

COPYRIGHT © 2006, Charles Brown


Since Time Warner took over Comcast, the customer service has completely disappeared. If you are lucky enough to get anything besides a busy signal, you end up on hold forever.

The other day I called them because our internet connection was down. I was on hold for just shy of 15 minutes before I gave up.

They need to divert their ad dollars to customer service, because I am on the verge of defecting and they sure aren't giving me any reason to stick with them

8:06 PM

I wrote "15 minutes."

What I ment to write was "25 minutes," not that being on hold for 15 minutes isn't bad enough.

8:07 PM

I think the real problem here is that many companies think that advertising solves all problems.

When I wrote this post, I wanted to show how useless millions of dollars spent on advertising can be when the customer service "infrastructure" is inadequate.

I should point out that I finally did get through to Time Warner and got my parents internet service all set up. The two people I talked to were VERY helpful. It wasn't their fault the company had decided spending money on ads was more important than hiring 10 or 20 new customer service reps.

All the advertising in the world does not make up for a bad experience at the point of customer contact.

Charles Brown

6:16 AM

Too many companies fail to understand that customer service can be as much a part of integrated marketing as advertising, marketing, and PR are. There needs to be a connective thread -- a connective message -- that runs through ALL communications that leave the company, whether those communications are ads, tip brochures enclosed with monthly billing statements, online technical support materials, customer service phone calls, or something else. Fail to do this, to understand this, and you have a situation like the one Charles describes -- where an ad message and customer service don't just not tie out, they contradict.

Customer service becomes a customer's most point of contact once they've signed on the dotted line for a product or service. As such it will be a factor that weighs heavily in their minds when they consider whether to upgrade, renew, add services, whatever.

Customer service also has a significant impact on word-of-mouth marketing. In this age of discussion boards, forums, chat groups, and blogs, you would think that companies would learn that their customers will talk about them...and more likely about the bad stuff than the good stuff.

And when these discussions occur online, a (theoretically) permanent record is created in cyberspace. Someone doing a search on "Time Warner AND customer service" six months from now will likely find your post...and any other complaints that have been logged on blogs, boards, and what-have-you. And even if their customer service DOES improve in the meantime, it's unlikely there will be many (if any) blog postings or discussion board comments out there saying "Hey, anybody noticing that Time Warner's customer service improved?"

10:01 AM

I think we are just beginning to see the power of blogs and other online communication tools. Whitney is right when she says six months from now someone will find my blog when they search for customer service and Time Warner.

I have a hunch that someone in Time Warner's PR department will someday be assigned to monitor all blog references to their company. If so, I would love to have a dialogue with them (now that my objectivity has been restored).

The real problem here is not that that a certain company is a corporate villian. They are not. The problem is that their advertising dollars are wasted if the customer has a different experience when they contact the company.

Have you ever called a company that has paid for full-page ad, only to talk to an unempowered, untrained person on the phone?

My question is, why spend all that money on advertising when some of that money would be better spent hiring and empowering customer service reps?


12:27 PM

You're message is a bit confusing. Based on the title, it seems that you're saying adverising is bad, or that adverising with Time Warner is bad. Once I read on, I understood what you were trying to say. I just went through that same Comcast to Time Warner transition in Los Angeles, and it was rough, but there is light on the other side. Comcast is an evil empire and the CS reps you're speaking with are Comcast employees being transitioned. I have the Platinum package including phone and internet and I could not be happier. The FCC closely regulates and greatly slows the transition. Once it's over (you'll know when they can add your phone service) things will be great, and you'd be doing your parents a diservice to piecemeal their services to other carriers. Good Luck!

5:06 PM

Actually Bokchoy,
I don't think my post was confusing at all. I simply stated that companies spend massive amounts of money on advertising and PR, but fail to adequately staff the minimum wage employees in their call centers to handle the calls those expensive ads generate.

What good does it do to spend that much money on advertising if your call center cannot handle the calls?

If you read my post, I hadn't yet gotten through to one of the "evil" Comcast employees, even after 172 minues on hold listening to "Your call is important to us." When I finally did get through, the employee was very courteous and helped me finally resolve the situation.

The lesson here is that call centers and those lowly under-paid employees who actually talk to customers are a vital link to any marketing effort.

Yet call centers are the first things to be cut and jobs are shipped overseas because "the suits" really don't mean it when they say my call is important to them.

Charles Brown

11:38 AM

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