Through its failed merger attempt with Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and its ongoing effort to gain federal approval to combine with Charter Communications (NASDAQ:CHTR), Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC) has been oddly quiet about its ongoing customer service woes.
Even though the company has had similar public scandals to Comcast, which has begun a massive overhaul of its subscriber interaction efforts, TWC has done very little. Yes, the company offered perfunctory apologies when it was reported that some of its workers were changing customer's name on bills to derogatory terms, but no major customer service changes were implemented.
In some ways that makes sense because in both the Comcast deal and the Charter one, Time Warner would be the junior partner. If the previous deal had come to be or the current one is approved, the TWC culture will be absorbed by its new partner.
With the Federal Communications Commision in no rush to approve the Charter deal, Time Warner Cable has finally decided to own its past mistakes and pledge to do better by its customers. A cynic would say this is a blatant attempt to curry FCC favor, but that does not change that the company is at least saying the right things.
What is TWC doing?
The embattled cable giant has decided to take responsibility for its interactions with customers in a lighthearted way. While pledging to make actual changes, the company is also trying to be in on the joke and make fun of its reputation while attempting to change it.
"We've seen where we're ranked in customer satisfaction surveys and we're familiar with the perennial jabs from the folks at Saturday Night Live," said TWC Chairman and CEO Rob Marcus in a press release. "We're telling our customers how we've made profound changes over the last two years to better respect their time, provide more value for what they pay us, and deliver the kind of experience anyone would expect from a leading entertainment and technology company. The many changes we've made are just the beginning of the new TWC service experience."
The company also has released an open letter to its customers, which it also published in a number of newspapers. In the letter TWC highlighted a number of ways it has been working to eliminate the need for customers to wait around for hours for a technician:
- TWC TechTracker: Launching companywide by the end of 2015, the service lets customers provide their preferred method of communication (text, email or phone call) for appointment reminders, and even make changes to their appointment via notifications received. The customer also receives the technician's name, identification number, and even their photo (via text or email) when the technician is en route.
- Service visit within 24 hours: If a disruption occurs with any TWC service that cannot be resolved remotely, the company will commit to sending a technician within 24 hours.
- Service on demand: With the My TWC app, a customer can request a call from TWC or schedule a call when it's most convenient to them. If a customer is ever waiting on hold, they can easily schedule a callback for when it is convenient for them. With "Ask TWC," a virtual agent helps a customer find the answers needed quickly. If additional help is needed, the app seamlessly connects the customer to a live agent. A video chat with TWC staff is also available.
- Self-service: The My TWC app also lets a customer check the status of TWC equipment in the home, pay a bill, and confirm or change a service appointment to the home.
Time Warner Cable is even accompanying the letter with a commercial which pokes fun at its reputation.
The timing of these ads is almost certainly an effort to win over the FCC, but it may also be an acknowledgment that the deal may not be approved. If that happens then there is no obvious suitor to step in and acquire Time Warner Cable. That means the company might have to go it on its own for a while and doing that means making an effort to appease its existing customers.
This is a defensive play by the company, but it's a needed and welcome one for its customers who should not have to wait for a merger to be treated better.
Daniel Kline has no position in any stocks mentioned. He hosted public access shows in a then Warner Cable studio when he was in high school and they were exactly as good as you imagine. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.