Sunday, September 8, 2013

Time Warner Cable (@TWC) and CBS (@CBS): Time To Cut The Chord!


"It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.” 
Henry Ford 

Below is the email I received from Time Warner Cable, appeasement if not kudos (because it sure does not sound like an apology) for their more than month long squabble with CBS that led to a number of channels being blacked out for millions of customers, across eight markets that included New York City. 

Subject: CBS/Showtime Channels Return to Time Warner Cable lineup! 
We're pleased to announce that we've reached an agreement with CBS that will return their blacked out channels to our lineup immediately (including Showtime, TMC, Flix, Smithsonian, and the CBS broadcast stations in NY, LA, Dallas, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Denver, and Pittsburgh). 

As in all of our negotiations, our main goal was to hold down costs and retain our ability to deliver a great video experience for our customers. We're pleased that we successfully achieved both. 

We hate that these fights have to happen—and that our customers get caught in the middle—but they do allow us to negotiate deals that provide better outcomes for our customers. We appreciate your patience during this time.

Thank you, 
Time Warner Cable 

Time Warner’s email almost makes it sound like we should all be grateful to them; that we should be rejoicing and jumping up and down with joy for their seemingly valiant effort that to resolve this matter in our best interest. Forgive me, but I am neither grateful and the emotion that is fills me is not joy. They go on to say that their goals were always to hold down costs and to deliver better experiences for their customers - really? Because my experience over this past month, and frankly for a number of years before that, has been nothing short of abysmal. In fact, the only reason I am still a Time Warner Cable customer is purely due to lethargy. And about holding down those costs; I already pay through the nose for basic cable; which includes hundreds of channels I have no desire to and will never watch. Finally, the email mentions that sometimes “customers get caught in the middle.” If you read the entire paragraph, it sounds like Time Warner is not only admitting to willfully and purposefully placing their customers in the middle of their mess but they actually are trying to justify this by saying that it allowed them to negotiate a better outcome (for their customers!). In effect, they are saying they have absolutely no problem with holding us hostage, and inconveniencing us, just to help their own bottom-line. Of course, if I am mistaken about this I expect to see some savings in my next cable bill. Forgive me for not holding my breath.

By no means is CBS blameless in this whole matter. In my book, they are equally to blame. Leaving their loyal viewers to suffer while they negotiated healthier profits for themselves, which will no doubt lead to even bigger bonuses for their executives this year. If you have any doubt about their love for we the customers, who provide the ratings that allow them to charge premiums to advertisers, you need look no further than the first few lines of CBS CEO Les Moonves’ letter to his employees. He talks about the “pain it caused to all of us;” a fact he feels more important to mention ahead of the tremendous inconvenience it caused millions of CBS’s viewers. Viewers who were not able to watch live sports or any other programming for more than four weeks (Read full letter: “CBS and Time Warner Cable kiss and make-up...” - Business Insider).

If a company truly cares about its customers, they always strive to put their customers’ needs ahead of their own. And they go out of their way to ensure that customers are not inconvenienced or harassed, even if it sometimes mean making less money in the process. Quite honestly, this is a decision senior management makes in every company.  About whether they want to focus on their customers or simply pay lip service to them. It is a choice. It is not something driven by circumstance or extraneous situations because even when these situations arise, if you decided your customer is the most important asset, then you proceed and resolve the matter accordingly. Customer service is demonstrated through actions not words. Talk is cheap. CBS and Time Warner could have continued their negotiations without holding their customers hostage. But they realised it was much easier to do that to achieve their means than not.

It is truly amazing that in a world where every company on the planet is clamoring to build deeper relationships with customers, because they have fundamentally understood that brand loyalty comes from trust and delivering great products and services (and not competing on price), CBS and Time Warner seem to be taking bold strides in the opposite direction. Their myopia is even more amazing given that they operate in an industry that is badly in need of a massive transformation in the way they do business. Many of their non-traditional competitors are rapidly decimating the old, top-down and one-way street minded ways of delivering programming and closed-minded ways of doing business. These new companies are re-defining the entertainment model by following one fundamental principle – give customers quality and value, and they will even pay a premium for it. Give them the same old shit and turn a deaf ear to their cries, and face the dire consequences. For now, the sheer size and monopoly that these companies have, along with general consumer apathy, will keep their coffers ticking. But their window for changing their ways is rapidly closing. Just ask the music and publishing industries, which also chose to ignore the prevailing winds; and we all know how well that turned out. 

At a time when more and more people are looking to cut the (cable) chord, Time Warner and CBS just gave us another great reason to shake our apathy and go ahead…

1 comment:

  1. I just had this discussion over a dinner party and I do not see a difference between this corporate situation and pan handling on the street--everyone is trying to make a buck and they are going to get it one way or another from you or another "consumer/customer"

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