Time Warner vs. Amazon.com — Now here’s a contrast in customer service

twc.jpgIt took me three days to stop fuming, and I’m still not over the fact that Time Warner Cable betrayed me last week. My newspaper TV listing on Jan. 23 was clear: Kent State vs. Akron, 7 p.m., TWC, Channel 23. The game was sold out and certain to be a madhouse. I opted to watch the most-anticipated basketball game of the season so far in the comfort of my home.


TWC didn’t carry the game on Channel 23. I found out later, after two complaining emails, that the game allegedly ran on Channel 79. Who knew? Certainly no one who reads the local paper.

I don’t routinely surf the 700+ channels on my digital dial or I may have tripped across the game. And I still don’t know if the error was Time-Warner’s or the Beacon Journal’s. I asked TWC to look into it and let me know who goofed. The rep said he’d do that, but I’ve not heard a peep. So, today, TWC learns that I’m not just a customer, I’m a customer with a blog — and I know how to use it!

images-13.jpgContrast the Time-Warner fiasco with my Amazon.com experience a day earlier. I was shopping online at the Amazon-Borders site and attempted to use a $25 Border’s gift card my son had given me for Christmas. The site wouldn’t accept the card, so I sent an email to customer service asking for help.

Two hours later, a rep sent clear instructions. My order went through, but the email confirming my shipment two days later showed no gift-card credit. Arrgh!

I sent a second email. Again within two hours the rep responded, apologized for the mistake, and said there was no record of my gift card number. “But you’re a loyal customer,” he wrote, “and we trust you.” Amazon deducted $25 from my bill. End of story. I still have the valid gift card, but I don’t plan to use it. Screwy, isn’t it? Borders got the $25, and Amazon took the loss to keep me happy. The least I can do is applaud them on a blog that deals with issues of reputation and trust.

A few months back I wrote a post about the “weakest link” for most companies — the link of the customer interface. While customer service doesn’t report to public relations, it has the most lasting impact on how people perceive those companies. It affects what we say to our friends, and what we write in our blogs and post to our social networks.

Amazon showed me why it’s among the most respected companies in the world. Time Warner Cable showed me it’s the plodding dinosaur we all know it to be.

Reputations are built on performance. Let’s hope the PR professionals among us never forget that.


5 Responses to Time Warner vs. Amazon.com — Now here’s a contrast in customer service

  1. Mike says:

    I hope you didn’t mention to TWC that you are indeed a blogger. There’s a decent chance they’d respond with a friendly, “we don’t participate with non-traditional media outlets.”

    (For those who might not be familiar with the reference: http://tinyurl.com/2qh8l9)

  2. Rob Jewell says:


    You are absolutely correct about the importance of customer interface. Developing and maintaining strong relationships with customers (and students?) becomes a priority only when it is viewed as a responsibility for everyone in an organization, from top to bottom. In that regard it’s the same as ethical conduct. Some organizations get it. Some don’t.

    And this might be stretching it some, but I believe Time Warner represents a lot of the unfavorable qualities that we associate with old media: slow to change and still viewing customers from the standpoint that it is the only game in town.

    I’m sure that someone has looked at the relationship between reputation and stock price, recognizing that there are plenty of factors that influence a company’s market valuation. But how’s this? Time Warner is at $14.96 a share; Amazon.com is at $77.60 a share. Hmm.


  3. Bill Sledzik says:

    After a second “What’s up?” prompt to my contact in customer service (I sent it Saturday morning), he wrote back to tell me the media had been notified that the game was on Channel 79. I’d love to see the news release, but I’m not gonna push it. Maybe that’s what happened.

    Of course, had TWC been monitoring the newspapers and seen the error, it could have placed a crawl on Channel 23 to let us know where to find the game. No, I don’t think TWC should be help accountable for the errors in the newspaper. But it should be accountable to its subscribers — and I don’t see much of that in my area.

  4. Bill — now you know the pain of monopolies in cable tv. TWC tried to stop ATT UVERSE, so did COMCAST, so have others around the country. But now I pay $45 less for phone, hdtv (20 stations instead of 7) and high speed (3X faster, thanks) than I was paying under TWC.

    Cable just sucks at such a molecular level…

  5. Allison says:

    I loathe Time Warner and its blantant disregard for customer service. It was great when I lived in Kent. What happend when I moved 45 minutes north? Last week, they showed up during a “service call” with not one, but two defective DVR HD receivers, then made us wait seven more hours, only to hand us another box that was defective. I’m this close to canceling and going with AT&T or DirectTV — maybe they understand and value their customer’s time. Although, as a consumer, I should take my business elsewhere because obviously they aren’t going to change. Why can’t everyone have customer service like Nordstrom?

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