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Showing posts with label Customer Service. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Customer Service. Show all posts

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…

Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Tale of Two Laptops: Sony VAIO and Apple MacBook Pro

“If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.”
Jeff Bezos

Our household purchased two laptops at exactly the same time in 2007. One was a MacBook Pro, made by Apple, and the other a VAIO laptop, made by Sony. Both cost around the same and were expensive machines because at the time they were the fastest and best available.

The journeys that these two machines took over the next five years could not have been more different in terms of the care they received, their utilisation, the amount each one traveled; and therefore the wear and tear that each underwent. Ironically, it was the Apple MacBook Pro that was used as both a home computer as well as a school workhorse and then later also as a work computer. For these reasons it was lugged back and forth between home and class for one year, and then to the office and back for another. As a result, the amount of travel time and use it underwent was likely three to five times that of its Sony counterpart. The Sony machine on the other hand was barely touched for its first year. Then for the next four years when it became a full time computer, it was not lugged from place to place and still rarely traveled in comparison to the MacBook, since it was used primarily as a home computer and only in the last year as a work computer. I would go further to say that the Sony was treated better than some people treat their children. To say it was handled with kid gloves would be an understatement; it was kept clean and well protected from dust and other harmful elements. On occasions that it needed to leave the house it was transported in a state-of-the-art Neoprene Laptop Sleeve with a dimpled interior that provides superior shock absorption and protects against bumps, dust and scratches. Needless to say the MacBook took many a journey in far less glamorous environs, ranging from being wrapped in a pair of jeans to traveling sans protection in a rolling backpack.

Now I am also willing to consider the fact that five years is a long time in today’s frenetic technology update-driven world, where people change smaller gadgets every few months and larger ones every few years. However, I will also state that the problems with the VAIO started early. In the first year the CD-DVD drive door came unhinged; then in the second year the laptop started to overheat to the point where it became hard to work on the computer leave alone place it anywhere near the vicinity of your lap. Having purchased an extra warranty I took it to the retailer and was told that I would have to leave it with them for six weeks because the problems were too serious for them to repair. They needed to send it back to Sony for repair. Turns out the cooling fan was busted, the battery needed to be replaced and of course they forgot to fix the CD-DVD drive door. Naturally, I was livid when they told me it would have to go out again, leaving me without my laptop for another 4-6 weeks - all this within the first two years with barely any use. Meanwhile, not a problem to speak of with regards to the Apple MackBook, which was now enrolled in a college and being lugged to class five days a week and handling a major workload at home during nights and weekends.

Over the next three years the VAIO continued its downhill slide; a slide driven quite clearly more by the shoddy workmanship than the way it was being used. One day late last year, for no apparent and without any warning, the DELETE button flew out almost taking my eye with it. Systematically, the rest of the VAIO started to fall apart, piece by piece - quite literally, as you will see from the pictures. The fan issue also came back with a vengeance, which leads me to conclude it was a problem that Sony was aware of in this laptop and applied the same solution again when it had gone to them for repair. A great company would have offered a replacement, acknowledging the problem, or at least offered an alternative. Sony did not.

Finally, last month I decided to take the laptop to the Sony flagship store and show it to a manager. Now, I want to be clear that I was not expecting the manager to magically offer me a brand new laptop. However, I did expect them to be outraged, embarrassed and even shocked at the condition of one of their highest priced VAIO products.

Having dealt with many companies and their customer service over the years, I see that there are basically two types of companies: those that care and those that don’t. Apple is an example of the former. Needless to say that the MacBook Pro had absolutely no issues other than requiring a replacement battery last year; about a year after the extended warranty had expired. The salesperson at the Apple store saw that the warranty had expired but still insisted on giving us a new battery at no cost. We had come fully expecting to buy one. The gesture was tremendous and the goodwill it created cannot be bought with the largest advertising and PR budgets in the world. Of course, we have told everyone about our great experience and will be buying many more Apple products.

Now contrast this with the experience at the Sony flagship store. The manager took fifteen minutes to show up after we were told he would be with us immediately. When I showed him the laptop (recounting the story I have above), it was like he stopped being a normal human being and turned into some robot reading from a company manual. He told me that the warranty had expired, which I already knew and had explained up-front, and that since I had bought it at a third party retailer, and not directly from Sony, it was effectively not their problem. I tried to explain again that I was not asking them replace a five year old laptop but wanted to know how a high-end product could look like this – no matter how gently or severe the use. It was not like I was a lumberjack or policeman using the laptop in all sorts of harsh environments and subjecting it to god knows what conditions.

Herein lies the difference between most companies and great companies. Had he simply apologized or even seemed to care remotely, it would have gone a long way for this customer. Also, it was clear that I was in the market for a new laptop, and therefore the perfect opportunity for him to ensure I remained a Sony customer. He could have simply offered me some small inconsequential discount off the purchase of a new Sony laptop, purely as a gesture for my trials and tribulations with his product. Instead, he just continued repeating mundane lines from some corporate training manual, about the out-of-warranty and third party retailer. Effectively, leaving this once fiercely loyal customer feeling like he was not even listening. Finally, in frustration I asked for the name of a Sony executive, and he ran off to get a business card.  When he came back he proceeded to add insult to injury by giving me a card for “Sony Technical Support” with a circled web address. He told me that I should email them about my problem and to see if they could help. I stood there completely aghast and then explained that I could have gotten that from their website, and wanted the name of their CEO or Head of Retail. Of course, he did not know any executives’ names, in the company of his employ, including that of his CEO. He once again suggested I go on their website. I left and decided I would share my story about how and why I stopped being a longtime Sony customer.

Unfortunately for Sony they don’t just make laptops but a whole range of products from TV’s to PlayStations. I have no problem with a problematic product, as long as the company takes the steps of fix it. However, I do care deeply about being heard, by the same company, during the far fewer instances that I am not opening my wallet to give them my hard-earned money.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Open Letter to Willie Walsh, CEO of British Airways

“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises, he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.”
Mahatma Gandhi

Dear Mr. Walsh,

I felt compelled to write to you one last time as I believe there is a dire need to remind you of your words from British Airways 2009 Annual Report, as your airline’s customer service continues to sink to new and hitherto unimaginable lows. “We will not let this crisis compromise our long-term goal – to create a world-leading global premium airline with a reputation for being the very best at meeting its customers’ needs.” Everybody makes mistakes but your staff’s attitude and lack of care, concern and pure arrogance after the poor experience we had is abhorrent and led me to make the decision never to fly BA again. However, BA again started courting me for my business a few months ago through numerous emails, letters and offers promising a new and vastly improved customer service and experience. It was this promise to woo back the countless customers’ it has no doubt lost over the last few years that prompted me to make one last effort to resolve the matter.

Once again I have had no joy from your Customer Service department. I corresponded via your website’s customer complaint mechanism, and initially Mr. B, from BA Customer Relations (as in 2006) sent me a response and then again there was complete silence when it came to actually resolving my issues. And this upon my supplying both clarification of the facts, and the supporting documents he requested; boarding cards and credit card statement, with e-ticket#, as proof of purchase (Fax dated: 2/2/2010).

In short, I never received what Mr. B himself promised me by way of apology in 2006, mileage credit to my wife’s account, nor did I get the refund/partial credit owed me from travel completed in 2005.

In summary our experience in 2005 is as follows: my wife and I were travelling New York-London-Dubai-London-New York with one full fare Business Class and one Premium Economy ticket. BA messed up our reservations causing us to miss our flight out of NY, then promised to upgrade my wife from London to Dubai, as there was no extra seat available in Business on the next flight, nor was my pre-booked aisle seat that I had on the original flight; so I too downgraded to economy from NY-London (and was promised a refund of the fare difference, which I was told would be automatically credited to my credit card within 60-90 days). Then your staff in London refused to honour the upgrade promise made to us by your staff in New York. Upon my seeking assistance from your London staff and getting the run around, frustrated, I finally asked who I needed to speak with in BA to help me, I was told, and I quote: “there is nobody in this airline that can help you.”

Sadly and truthfully, my expectation for resolution at this stage is virtually zero from both you and your airline, but I feel that in the end it is unhappy customers like me remaining silent that allow companies like British Airways to continue charging high premiums, while delivering subpar quality and service. Most importantly, our silence allows you to continue to treat your customers like cattle and take our business for granted. So consider this my way to stop turning my head and looking the other way, allowing companies like yours to continue the pursuit of profits at the expense of customers and everything else that matters. With this open letter, I am going to make every effort to ensure that the world is made aware of our less than poor experience and encouraged to do the same, through my personal blogs, Facebook, Twitter and all the various public and travel forums and discussions I actively participate in.

In my opinion British Airways, over the last decade has squandered its well earned reputation as “The World’s Favourite Airline” and become the “World’s Worst Airline,” and this from a customer who for years remained steadfastly loyal to your airline in the face of increased and better competitive options becoming available.


Mr. Vaish

NOTE posted on 4th December 2010: I got a response from BA one month after sending this letter, and responded ( and of course have heard nothing back.