Time Warner – We Won! (sort of)

The first fight with Time Warner Cable is over, they’ve suspended their tiered bandwidth usage pricing plan for the foreseeable future to educate their customers.  This doesn’t mean we’re done though.  It’s more important now than ever to continue the fight to make sure this doesn’t ever happen. They still plan on going forward with the plan they’ve just temporarily suspended it in favor of putting the meters in place to educate their customers.

I was going to post two letter templates. One to send to Time Warner, and another to send to your local representative.  However; this became a little unnecessary.  My letter to the representatives no longer really applies, so I’ll be drafting a new one shortly.  My letter to Time Warner is still (mostly) relevant so I’ve posted it below.  Feel free to duplicate it, change it, fix it, enhance it and send it to Time Warner yourself.  Please Do!

To Whom it may Concern,

Your recent announcement of plans to begin capping bandwidth usage has created a surge of activity both on the web and off.  People are reacting to your plan in an overwhelmingly negative fashion.

It’s clear that Time Warner Cable stands to make a significant amount of money.  Your own representatives have stated that this plan is meant to generate more revenue in order for Time Warner Cable to invest in its network infrastructure.

What isn’t clear is why your company feels it is necessary to burden it’s customers with extra cost for something which Time Warner Cable does not pay extra for.  Nobody is disputing the fact that there should be more (some higher) tiers for bandwidth itself, but the idea of charging based upon bandwidth usage is nothing short of monopolistic, anti-competitive behavior.

The reason the Rochester NY, Greensboro NC, Austin TX, and San Antonio TX markets have been chosen for your ‘test’ is quite clear.  There is no comparable competition and Time Warner feels they can demand their customers pay whatever they feel like.

You have claimed that only the top 20% of customers will be affected and that the majority of people will actually spend less.  However; no data has been provided to this effect and we have been asked to take this information on faith alone.  That is not enough.  Of the people surveyed over 90% have stated they oppose the bandwidth usage based fees.

Right now customers pay $40/month for an unlimited standard RoadRunner connection and $50/month for an unlimited Turbo RoadRunner connection.  With the new tiered system the current Turbo speed is not even available, and at the standard speed it is possible to acrue a bill of up to $150/month.  This is almost 4 times the current rate, a 300% price increase!

People are turning to the internet for information, ideas and entertainment.  Families with young children, especially teenagers will be hit the hardest.  In a society where most of the bandwidth is used by the younger generation, it would be neigh impossible for parents to ensure their children do not exceed the limits.  Not a single person wants to monitor a fuel gauge of their internet usage.

Many small business owners depend upon the internet for their sustenance and people are already struggling.  It is at this time, with unemployment numbers at a near 20 year high, that Time Warner Cable chooses to place even more of a burden on it’s customers.

Time Warner Cable posts enormous profits yearly.  This money should be reinvested to improve the network to a level which can sustain the increased demand.  Instead of using your current profits you’re asking your current customers to bear more cost.  All for a new network they won’t be able to use without a new higher subscription plan sometime in the unforeseen future.

Shame on you Time Warner Cable.

We as your loyal customers and subscribers deserve more, not less.

Your Customer,

Geico and BestBuy – Crappy Customer Service

Out to LunchWhy in the world should you make things difficult for your consumers? Why make them wait, why inconvenience them?

I don’t have an answer, I’d be willing to bet nobody does, but they still do it!

I had two crappy customer service experiences in the past few weeks which iritated me very much. The first has to do with my car insurance. I’m not a very big fan of insurance companies to begin with but when they do something that inconveniences me and makes me do extra legwork for reason it just pisses me off.

What happened with Geico is I recently turned 25. When this happened my insurance is supposed to go down right? wrong! Geico sets up your policy and prices only once a year. When that happens if you’re under 25 (even if its 1 day before your birthday as in my case) you get shafted. You get your ’24 year old price’ until the next time they reevaluate your policy or 364 days in my case.

When I found this out I gave Geico a call and asked to speak to a manager. I explained that if they didn’t reevaluate my policy using my new age that I would simply transfer my account to another insurance company for a day (or less) and then transfer back to Geico because I did some quote checking around and Geico is still the cheapest for me. He thought this sounded silly and had me hold while he checked to see if he could just give me the newer price without me closing and reopening my account. Sadly despite his efforts this was not a possibility and he appologized. Well I hope your happy Geico because of the crap you’ve made me go through I haven’t bothered to spend the time transferring my insurance around.

My second experience was at a local BestBuy. What happened affects me more than most consumers possibly because of my Wegmans background. I took my camera with me to the store to get repaired. Dust was getting behind the screen and was starting reduce the visibility. When I walked up to the Customer Service counter I noticed that the line for the Geek Squad was about 10 people long. There was nobody at the normal counter and 3 workers standing around doing absolutely nothing.

I went to the normal counter, explained my situation, and was told that I needed to see the Geek Squad. I told them to look at the line and all I needed was turn in my camera to get it repaired. They appologized but said I’d have to wait for the Geek Squad. While I waited in line I noticed all 3 workers at the regular counter just standing around gossiping together. I wanted to speak to a manager but I didn’t want to take the time. I wish I had.

Why don’t these companies take customer service more seriously?

I'm NOT Partial

What is with all these partial article feeds? I know the discussion has been beat to death and nobody really has a definitive answer of whats better. Honestly though, isn’t that definitive in itself? The fact that it doesn’t really matter either way and people (LIKE ME) get irritated at having to leave their reader of choice (see Google Reader) would make any sane person just use full article feeds. Don’t you want to make your readers happy after all?

I’m sick and tired of having to navigate to the article in order to get the full benefit. I already subscribe, I comment when I deem appropriate, I contribute where I can, Is it really necessary to force me to your site? The thing that bugs me the most about it is the reason you’re doing it is most likely ad driven. Do you get that many more clicks? I doubt it. I bet the same people that are savvy enough to be subscribed to your feed are savvy enough to utilize the Adblock Plus extension.

I would just like to proclaim that

No blog I maintain will EVER have a partial article feed.

I have noticed this more and more as of late and it MUST STOP!

To Serve or Not to Serve (The Customer)

He who wishes to secure the good of others, has already secured his own. ~Confucius

We are affected by Customer Service more than once every day. It makes a difference when you get your coffee in the morning, it matters when you fill your gas tank on your way home and when you buy your weekly groceries. The way in which you are served leaves a lasting impression on you. To that end it is my belief that Customer service should be the most important part of any business regardless of its particular niche. This week two companies left their impression on me and I’d like to outline those impressions below.

The Good News

Sometimes when you’re at the brink of never shopping somewhere again they can unexpectedly surprise you. That was the case with Circuit City this week. I live approximately 5 miles from the nearest Circuit City and rather than go there and find out they didn’t have what I wanted in stock i decided to give them a call. Literally 20 minutes after being on hold, being transferred 10 times, calling back twice and complaining, I finally got in touch with a manager who then instructed me she’d check the inventory and call me back. All this for a simple inventory check?

She called me back to let me know what I needed was in stock and that she’d have it held at the desk. Perfect. I headed over picked up what was held at the desk for me and went home. The problem arose when I tried to use it. The item I picked up turned out not to be the item I had asked for. Furious, I stormed back to Circuit City the next morning expecting a fight since I had already opened the package. When I arrived back at the store the same person was working the counter and instantly recognized me (it was also the Manager who I had talked to on the phone the previous day) and said:

You’re just not having any luck with this are you?

I said “no I’m not” in a gruff early-morning voice and she then proceeded to do the exchange without any more complaints. At the end of the transaction she explained that she had also credited my card for $8.50 (when there was no price difference) simply for the ‘inconvenience.’ Instantly she transformed my frustration into acceptance and even happiness. Not only did she fix my original problem but went above and beyond to simply make sure I wasn’t frustrated with their service.

The Bad News

My wife Rachel and I are planning on going to the Brian Regan show with some friends in our hometown in a few weeks. Since I sent out the notice to let people know about the show I offered to buy tickets for everyone so that we would be seated together. Originally I priced the tickets on TicketMaster at $30 a piece. This is what I told everyone and what I collected.

When I actually ordered the tickets The real bill included $2.50 (per ticket) for a facility charge, $7.50 for a convenience charge(per ticket) and a $3.60 service tax(total). That’s $10 per ticket more than advertised and an additional $3.60! After giving them a call I found out that the facility fee is actually charged by the venue so there’s nothing we can do about that however the tax and convenience charge is something Ticketmaster applies on top of the ticket price. Also I found out they only charge this convenience charge on the phone or on the Internet. If you go to the Ticketmaster counter the fee is waived.

How in the world does this make sense? Because it’s more convenient for me order my tickets from the comfort of my home you get to charge me more money? I say shenanigans! When I order from home especially over the Internet, I’m not distracting your customer service people from their real jobs, serving people who really need their help. It costs you no additional money to let me buy over the Internet. In fact I say it costs you less because you don’t need to have someone standing at a counter.

So what did I end up doing? Going to the actual venue and buying them direct. I had to leave work early just to get there while the box office was open. Such a complete inconvenience and utter customer service failure.

In Summary

The age old statement

The Customer is always right

Shouldn’t just be a saying on some old warn out poster behind your counter. Make it your policy, your goal, your JOB. After all, who pays your salary? What’s the best type of advertising?

That’s right Customers.