With more than 16 million customers in 29 states, Time Warner Cable is one of the nation’s largest internet and cable TV providers. They’re also one of the most maligned, with frequent appearances on consumer polls tracking the worst customer relations experiences. It’s possible that reputation could change after the recently announced merger with Charter Communications, but it's too soon to say. However, we do know that many of the company’s employees really aren’t trying to get on your nerves. Take a look at what a few current and past Time Warner Cable representatives have to say about marathon calls, little-known services, and the one fib they wish you’d stop telling them.
1. THEY’D APPRECIATE IT IF YOU’D STOP LYING TO THEM.
Evan—like all of the employees we spoke to, he preferred not to use his last name—spent 18 months as a call center representative for Time Warner in Ohio. His number-one customer beef? Your attempts to fool him. “I ran into my share of customers who said they did the troubleshooting steps, but obviously didn’t,” he says. Callers with wireless modem troubles are usually tasked with unplugging the device for 30 seconds to reboot it as a first-line solution. It often works—but people often lie about trying it. “With the tools we use, we can see if it’s been unplugged or how long it’s been down,” Evan says.
2. THEY’RE NOT THE GEEK SQUAD.
Lloyd, who works for Time Warner in Texas, says customers can sometimes mistake him for an electronics concierge. “It’s common for people to ask for help with sound systems, game consoles, routers, and computers,” he says. “It’s always a little uncomfortable, and I've helped more than I haven't, but it's really not our job. Sometimes while I'm explaining how a sound bar works, I am thinking to myself, 'This is what I am doing instead of having lunch.’ It makes me want to cry, and that is not hyperbole.”
3. THEY CAN HANG UP ON YOU IF YOU’RE A POTTY MOUTH.
Despite assumptions that a call center operator always has to hang in there to resolve a problem, Evan says that’s not quite true. “If you feel uncomfortable because they’re being verbally abusive, you can hang up. You just have to tell the manager, ‘Hey, this is what happened.’” While Evan rarely invoked that right, he did handle plenty of angry customers. “You try to calm people as much as you can.”
4. THEY’RE AFRAID OF BREAKING YOUR STUFF.
Technicians who need access to the backs of televisions, outlets, or coaxial lines can sometimes find themselves challenged by piles of dirty clothes, massive pieces of furniture, or decorative accents. In the case of the latter, employees could find themselves in debt. “Every time a cable guy moves your belongings, he thinks to himself, ‘Is this when I lose my job?’” Lloyd says. “If something breaks, he's financially responsible. I can't simply refuse to move the furniture though, because I literally have to do it to do my job.”
5. TECHNICIANS HAVE A FEUD WITH CALL CENTERS.
According to Tedd—an installer who began working for Time Warner when his local cable company was absorbed by them four years ago—call center reps can create inaccurate expectations for customers. “Customer service reps often try and tell a customer what their problem is and what the tech will have to do when they get there, which is bad,” he says. “If a customer has a TV issue or internet issue and the CSR tells the customer that it’s just 'the box' and it needs to be replaced, then the customer thinks it should be a simple visit.” These mismanaged expectations can create extra irritation.
6. THEY DON’T WANT YOU TO CALL BACK.
According to Evan, call center operators are measured on a variety of metrics: customer service polls, their availability to take inbound calls, and whether they’ve successfully resolved a customer’s issue in a single call. “It’s what they called ‘first resolution,’” he says. “If you fix a problem or send a tech out and the ticket is closed, [management] will look to see if the customer calls back within a week. They wanted as close to 100 percent [of no callbacks] as possible.”
7. THEY WISH YOU’D THROTTLE YOUR EXPECTATIONS.
According to Tedd, advertised internet speeds are only as good as the equipment they’re being fed through. “So many customers have unrealistic ideas of what their internet should do versus the equipment they have,” he says. “So many people call in for slow speeds, especially now that we have our Maxx speeds, and when they are told they have 300Mbps internet, they expect to see at least 300 on a speed test coming off of an 8-year-old Linksys router.” Most speed issues, he says, aren’t modem-related, but a product of an old, slow router or computer.
8. YES, THEY GET FREE CABLE. JUST NOT FREE EQUIPMENT.
It’s a couch potato’s paradise: all the cable channels you can imagine, plus free internet and phone service. “As employees, we got HBO, all the foreign channels, everything,” Evan says. “But we had to pay to lease the cable box and modem.”
9. WHEN THEY’RE LATE, IT MIGHT BE A CUSTOMER’S FAULT.
Tedd says appointments can get backed up for a variety of reasons, but one recurring issue is customers using him as a sounding board. “What is really irritating is when people want to just rant about how bad a particular customer service rep was, or how long they have had the problem, or how much they hate Time Warner Cable. I completely understand these issues but there is nothing I can do about it. And honestly, I don’t even mind hearing some complaints, but I cannot tell you how many times I have been late to my next appointment because a customer would not stop complaining about the company.”
10. CALLS CAN LAST A LONG, LONG TIME.
Depending on the issues that came up, Evan took anywhere between 10 and 40 calls per day. There’s no time limit placed on them, which means some calls can take an hour or more to resolve. In one instance, he spent six hours on one customer’s billing hassles. “It was spread over two days,” he says. “And it was a lot of silence, with me doing stuff on the back end.”
11. THEY CAN HELP YOU BLOCK ROBO-CALLS.
Even though the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) appears powerless to stop companies from auto-dialing residential numbers using “spoof” (fake) numbers, it’s a little-known fact that Time Warner can intervene on your behalf. If you have their digital phone service, you can request they activate Nomorobo, a free program that scans incoming calls to see if the number has been subject to complaint. If it’s on the “naughty” list, it won’t get past one ring on your phone.
12. THEY CAN WIN PRIZES.
Evan’s call center would sometimes get visits from premium channel representatives as a way of boosting employee morale. “There would be teams, and the team who got the highest customer-satisfaction rating in a two-week period would win a Game of Thrones DVD.” Operators could also get a little something if, in addition to resolving your technical issues, they managed to tack on additional service to your account. “That could make us one dollar.”
13. STOP ASKING FOR FREE CABLE. IT’S NOT GONNA HAPPEN.
Forget about trying to slip your tech a $50 in exchange for unlimited HBO. “It's very hard to give customers free cable because most channels are encrypted and require a cable card,” Tedd says. “People do mention it sometimes but I really couldn’t give away free channels even if I wanted to.”
14. THEY REALLY DO WANT TO HELP.
Despite the endless flow of complaints filed online, all of the employees we spoke to resisted the idea that anyone is actively trying to make your blood pressure rise. “When you're on the internet and in comment sections it looks like everyone hates the cable company and everyone has problems with their service,” Tedd says. “But most of the homes I go to haven’t had issues in years. And most customers seem to generally be pleased with us. The technicians are almost always going to be on your side because we actually do want to fix your issues and leave you happy because that benefits us, too.”