Friday, March 7, 2014
By Ray Routhier firstname.lastname@example.org
(Continued from page 2)
Tim Ryan of Lisbon sits in front of his television with Dish Network service last month. Ryan canceled his Time Warner TV service in favor of the DISH network after eight years as a Time Warner customer. He said price increases and rigid customer service representatives – who shut his service off after he missed his bill deadline by a day – convinced him to drop the cable provider.
Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer
“It depends on when they added a service, whether they have other promotions rolled in,” said Plucknette-Farmen.
When asked if it might seem unfair to give promotional pricing to folks willing to take time to switch from cable to satellite and back again regularly, or who complain about it or threaten to switch, Plucknette-Farmen said “we treat our customers on an individual basis.”
If Time Warner and other cable companies don’t change and become more responsive to customers, it’s very likely customers will find new technologies that will lead to new TV or Internet habits. And those habits may lead them away from traditional cable/Internet providers like Time Warner.
Mike Dugay, 66, of Portland gave up his Time Warner TV service recently after feeling fed up with price increases and the sense that he was paying for much more than he was getting. He said “young people” told him how to find what he wanted to watch on his computer, so now he watches his favorite shows – news and network series – on MSNBC.com or Hulu.com.
“I don’t watch as much TV as I used to, but I find I don’t really miss it,” said Dugay.
COMPETITION AND CHANGE
Most cable and satellite companies use a raft of promotions and discounts to lure or retain customers. But that may be part of the reason Time Warner and other major cable companies are distrusted and viewed as acting like monopolies, said Bruce Temkin of the Temkin Group, a Boston-based market research firm specializing in customer service.
In the 2013 edition of his company’s Temkin Customer Service Ratings, nine of the 10 worst-rated companies were TV or Internet providers, out of a total of 235 companies listed on the survey of 10,000 people. Time Warner was rated 234th of 235 on the list for customer service.
The top-rated companies for customer service included the insurance carrier and banking service provider USAA and retailers Ace Hardware, Costco and Dollar Tree.
“Think of some of the ridiculous price models (cable companies) use, allowing new customers to get good pricing but not offering the same to their existing customers,” said Temkin. “When they negotiate like that with individual customers, it creates a structural mistrust that’s hard to overcome. When you behave like that, there’s no way anyone can trust you.”
Tim Ryan of Lisbon wanted Time Warner to trust him to pay his bill one day late, something he had done before when he was a customer of Adelphia, before Adelphia was purchased by Time Warner around 2006.
But Time Warner did not let Ryan, an education tech at Freeport High School who gets paid every other week, pay his $150 bill a day late. He said he asked Time Warner if he could pay his bill a day or so late, as he had done with Adelphia, but was told he could not.
So over a period of about five years, he had his Time Warner service shut off four or five times, each time for being about a day or so late, Ryan said. He said because of his pay schedule, especially in the summer, he couldn’t avoid being a little late sometimes.
“When I had Adelphia, I’d tell them I have to pay a day late, on my payday, and they’d make a note of it,” said Ryan, 48. “With Adelphia, you could go in the office and they’d know you. With Time Warner, I just got sick of paying the high prices, getting 200 channels I didn’t use, and then having to deal with their customer service.”
Enhancing the idea of cable companies as monopolies has been the long-standing practice of selling channel packages, when most customers find they never use all the channels. It’s a practice that some have compared to being forced to buy 100 grocery items at the supermarket, even though you only want to use 20 of them.
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