TWC: Thanks For The Tips, But This Is Just A Marketing Tool

Kevin wrote to us about a friend who took up a Time Warner Cable rep’s Twitter request for advice on improving customer loyalty. What followed was an amusing exchange that made it clear TWC was tweeting up the wrong tree.

@jeffTWC: Please RT: working on customer loyalty programs and would love your ideas/input – raffling an iTouch on Thurs to constructive suggestions

jchristenbury @jeffTWC I have a whole handful, where do I send them?

jchristenbury @jeffTWC I want to choose and pay for the channels I want. (I know this is not a TWC decision but TWC has the clout to push it)

jchristenbury @jeffTWC I want the CS reps to listen when I tell them I have already rebooted my computer and its not on my end. #customerloyalty

jchristenbury @jeffTWC I want a bill that I can understand that doesn’t have cryptic misc. charges. I want to know what the charges are #customerloyalty

jchristenbury @jeffTWC I want Higher internet speeds. the US has the lowest speeds of all.

jeffTWC @jchristenbury Thanks for your tips here — but we’re not really addressing industry problems with this, just creating a marketing tool

jchristenbury @jeffTWC These ARE things that will increase customer loyalty.

jchristenbury @jeffTWC Gimmicks only get you so far. Take care of your customers.

JeffTWC gets a gold star for telling an inconvenient truth about what his job really is. Too bad we have to take it away for his initial claim that he was actually looking for “constructive suggestions.”

Another Reason Why Time Warner Doesn’t Get It [jchristenbury’s posterous]
JeffTWC on Twitter

Comments

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  1. pop top says:

    Why ask for any ideas or input if you’re not going to even use them? It seems like a waste of their time and money.

    • Ben King says:

      @squinko: Perhaps they’re asking for more abstract suggestions.
      -I want to be able to set my TV to automatically order me pizza.
      -I want to be able to deliver the punch lines in my favorite episodes.
      -I want unicorns to be real.

      • JeffMc says:

        @Ben King: Wouldn’t a “customer loyalty tool” be something like buy 11 months get one free or some sort of point system like air miles?

        The way I read it he asked for one thing and was bitched at for industry wide problems that had nothing to do with what he asked for.

        • wee0x1B says:

          @JeffMc: You think TWC piss-poor cable speeds, CS reps who blindly and ruthlessly follow their (often misleading) scripts, and a bill a human can comprehend are “industry-wide”? TWC can change all of those things.

          What they are looking for are gimmicks to hook customers, regardless of offering lowest common denominator service. That’s what you mean when you say “industry wide problems”, you know. If TWC offered services that greatly outclassed Cox or the others, you couldn’t pry customer away with a crow bar. THAT’S what the guy was talking about.

          I for one would love to choose what channels I get. Gone are the 18,000 useless sports channels. Gone too is the women-pandering programming. But a la carte programming will never happen, because they make more money bundling one or two good channels with crap like the Nashville Network and the Fishing Channel.

          • locakitty says:

            @wee0x1B: I remember when a la carte was how you got your channels. I miss those days. I wanted Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, both were in higher tiers than say C-Span and CNN. Neither or which I wanted, but I was willing to pay the extra $1 for those channels.

            Why can’t we go back to that? I would probably get cable and a tv again if we could do a la carte programming!

        • Ben King says:

          @JeffMc: Sorry, let me take another crack at this.

          -After 6 months, I want to be able to set my TV to automatically order me pizza.
          -After 6 months, I want to be able to deliver the punch lines in my favorite episodes.
          -After 6 months, I want unicorns to be real.

        • nursetim says:

          @JeffMc: But, fixing those issues he brought up would build a loyal customer base, who in turn would talk to their friends about how TWC is a cable company that really does care about it’s customers.

    • jc364 says:

      @squinko: Probably because some higher-up person at TWC said, “We should be on Twitter.”

      The result is that the company is using a tool that they really don’t understand.

      • FLConsumer says:

        @jc364: TWC staff use a lot of tools which they don’t understand. Such as phones, trucks, CATV tools, and computers.

    • ennTOXX says:

      @squinko:
      actually almost sounds like TWC wants to hear from people what they want to push, not actually listening just looking for something to post as if they are doing what customers are asking for.

      otherwise, all of those suggestions work IMHO with any business structure

  2. burnedout says:

    He was looking for marketing suggestions, not a way to actually make their business better. So sad. They might rope in new customers with gimmicks, but they can’t keep them with lousy service.

    • SacraBos says:

      @Matt Woodcheke: Nice double meaning of
      “tool” there. Well done!

    • mariospants says:

      @burnedout: Exactly, what part of “@jeffTWC: Please RT: working on customer loyalty programs and would love your ideas/input – raffling an iTouch on Thurs to constructive suggestions” are people not getting?

  3. Skeetz says:

    Sooo they want customers to be their marketing firm? Tons of ideas and the cost being a single itouch, yes?

    Well they answered their own question. Just keep offering people free stuff.. it’s cheaper than fixing the infrastructure and retraining reps and fixing bills to make sense.. we’ll just take it as hush money and blog super nice things, honest!

    • mariospants says:

      @Skeetz: Well, I’m not sure if it’s customers they were after. With Twitter, you find a lot of people and organizations are looking for expertise and advice from a specific subset of people. Likely TWC was hoping to reach marketing gurus.

  4. OmniZero says:

    They are all great suggestions. Too bad they are super-ceded by profit profit profit.

    If only there was an ISP who at the core wanted better technology for people instead of making pure profit.

    The US is behind in internet and a lot of other cool stuff.

    • Etoiles says:

      @OmniZero: To be fair, businesses are pretty much always in it for the profit, and I can’t blame them. (It drives me crazy on game developer, particularly MMOG, message boards, when you see the players become totally incensed that the company is trying to make money. No shit, sherlock!)

      On the other hand, though, providing better technology and service than the competition would BE a route to profit.

    • Yossarian says:

      @OmniZero: Perhaps you could start such a company. A technologically progressive ISP not interested in profit would be very appealing to me as a consumer. At least until you went out of business and I had to find another one.

      • OmniZero says:

        @Yossarian: Who says I would go out of business? If I have all the customers why would I go out of business? I’m not so ignorant to know that you NEED MONEY to have a business. I just feel like some companies extort as much money as they can, instead of relaxing a bit and not trying to get all the money they can all at once.

        • XTC46 says:

          @OmniZero: profit is needed to expand. YOu want better technology, you need to pay more now in order to pay for the expansion, thats how it works.

          • ChristopherDavis says:

            @xtc46 – thinksmarter on twitter: Profit can be put back into the business (which is what you’re describing), or put into the pockets of the shareholders and corporate management (which is what TWC would prefer, apparently). Healty companies will often mix the two, paying steady dividends of a portion of their profit while still investing in new technology, developing better products, and the like.

            Profit is not inherently bad. Short-term profit at the expense of a continuing operation (because the managers are being paid for good quarterly numbers) can be pretty bad.

          • Saisu Mimen says:

            @xtc46 – thinksmarter on twitter:

            Whoops. We DID pay the cable companies BILLIONS in the form of taxpayer dollars in order to upgrade the infrastructure … And what did these companies do with all of your money, you ask? They pocketed it and never upgraded jack squat.

            [www.tispa.org]

            The US invented the Internet and yet when it comes to broadband speeds, we’re the laughingstock of the world. Hooray corporations.

    • wee0x1B says:

      @OmniZero: This has been tried. The town of Wilson, North Carolina was getting complaints about crappy service. So they built a fibre infrastructure and asked the two local ISPs to use it. They refused, so the city created its own ISP called Greenlight, Inc.

      When the two ISPs (one of whom was TWC, not surprisingly) heard about the better service offered by the municipal ISP, they went to the state legislature to try to block it.

      More info here:
      [www.zeropaid.com]

      I appreciate your desire for a utility (which is what net access really is, these days) which has the good of the customers at heart, but it’s unlikely to happen, ever.

    • Megalomania says:

      @OmniZero: Behind in the internet as far as widespread infrastructure; in terms of backbone the US is still pretty dominating.

  5. robdew2 says:

    Evidently “TWC” is Time Warner Cable? Not The Weather Channel?

    /doesn’t have time warner

    • Stephen White says:

      @robdew2: I too was wondering what The Weather Channel did wrong…

      • anduin says:

        @Stephen White:
        is it weird that canada has faster internet than the US ? my normal internet costs $40 and I dont have to get cable with it if I don’t want. And its either 5 or 7 MB connection, I can’t remember but I love downloading at 1mb a sec off almost any site :)

        • kstagg says:

          @anduin: Not really fair to compare internet connections of a country of 300 million people (US) to one of about 30 million (canada).

          I’m thinking it’s easier to manage a smaller populace’s internet connection than it is a nation ten times its size.

  6. Nighthawke says:

    Shock tactics, shooting straight from the hip, cook’em in their seats with your ideas, that’s how you do it.

  7. Matt Woodcheke says:

    Yeah, there’s a marketing tool at work here alright.

  8. Jon Mason says:

    The billing one could easily be a customer loyalty issue – charging a single clear price for each service including all fees and taxes that is the same from month to month, and not making me have to call up and get changed to their latest “deal” every 6 months to keep a reasonable rate would make me much more likely to stick with my cable company.

  9. consumerfan says:

    A customer loyalty program is a process which rewards customers for spending money on the company’s products or services.

    For example, supermarket discount cards, gift cards, air miles or any special offer. It specifically doesn’t mean changes to the product and service itself, since it’s marketing.

    The OP’s suggestions are typically submitted to management (and normally filed in the round cabinet for posterity) whereas marketing have a budget to boost sales and revenue of the product as is.

    • Skaperen says:

      @consumerfan: How about rewarding customers that spend money on the company’s products and services with … now hold your seats tightly … with better products and services.

      I don’t care for any f*****g discount cards, gift cards, air miles, or other offers. I want good products and services. Don’t go spending money on marketing things unrelated to the provider’s core business. Focus on the CORE BUSINESS. Learn to do it better.

      • Blackneto says:

        @Skaperen: Amazing, someone that thinks like I do.
        I don’t care about those things, as well as working for a rebate. Just tell me the price and if i like it i’ll pay it. I’m not going to jump through hoops to get a deal from any company I’m spending money with.

  10. Vanilla5 says:

    *rolls eyes @ iTouch* – there is no such product, jeffTWC…unless you’re touching yourself.

    Anyway – good on jchristenbury for telling it like it is.

    • Wombatish says:

      @Vanilla5: A lot of people call it that, it’s really not a huge deal. I mean, technically “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” is the right name for the fairy tale (Actually, “Snow White and Rose Red”, but that’s taking it back to which story you want) but nobody freaks out when people call it “Snow White”, especially after the Disney movie came out.

      And while you didn’t freak out, I’ve seen way too many others actually do so.

      • Vanilla5 says:

        @Wombatish: Nah, I don’t freak out – it’s a common mistake people make but I’ve also seen the same mistake made in new stories, which is part of the reason it bothers me so.

        (I’m looking at you CNN.)

  11. Xerloq says:

    Looking at the guy’s Twitter page, it appears that he’s trying to emulate ComcastFrank. He’s even got a nice banter going on with ComcastBonnie.

    • ComcastBonnie says:

      @Xerloq: Jeff is a cool dude, we talk because we can :) I’m sorry to see his tweet was received the wrong way. Hopefully, this turns into a learning experience for all involved! We all have bad days :)

  12. alstein says:

    I have no sympathy for the cable companies. Government would actually do a better job.

    • superberg says:

      @arstal:

      *GASP* YOU’RE A COMMUNIST!!!!!

      Don’t you know that if the government ran the internet, we’d never have gotten past dial-up??????????????

      /neocon

  13. Travis Estell says:

    After my promotional rate was up with TWC, not only did they raise my rate (as expected), but they actually charged me a 17¢ “service change fee” (or something like that) the first month of the new rate.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      @Travis Estell: I’d rather pay 2 more cents a month as part of the regular bill than pay a “We’re billing you more now fee”.

      I hate random/hidden fees. I HATE them. Just charge me the amount it costs to provide the service.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I’m not sure what the point of this post is–he was specifically asking for ideas for a “loyalty program,” not general ways to increase customer loyalty. It doesn’t matter if the ideas were good or not (personally, they all seemed good to me) they just happen to have nothing to do with what was asked for.

    • Skaperen says:

      @AdineJemagee: Providing better service would be a very good loyalty program. Instead of trying to market the idea of customer loyalty to customers who are the victims of lousy service, why not market it to the corporate executives who are the cause of lousy service?

  15. CreativeLinks says:

    Just wondering what kind of suggestions they were looking for to award the iTouch.

    “I think TWC charges way too little money for all of the great services you offer. Have you thought of raising your rates and profit margin?”

  16. Elginista says:

    I think a lot of companies (my own included) are jumping on the Twitter bandwagon without any real thought about what to do with real, incoming tweets. All the industry best practices are starting to say, “You should Twitter! Twitter is good!” so it’s getting built into marketing objectives without any real understanding. Our Director of Corporate Communication still refers to blogs as “WEBLOGS” (all caps, always in quotes) in emails, and she now heads up our social media strategy. Sigh.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Ah yes. The age old industry ploy of pretending to listen to your customers and doing what you please anyway. If your customer “thinks” that your listening to them they might be more loyal.

    Its really just a shame that most Americans are spineless self interested idiots that don’t have the balls to drop the services of bad companies. Its also really a shame that most American companies realize this and capitalize on it.

    • Alexander Saites says:

      @AmoretteTyndareus: Many of these media conglomerates have near-monopolies in the areas they provide service. Even if there are other companies, they usually suck just as bad. The only way to drop the services of bad companies is to drop the service completely. If our decision to stick with a crappy –albeit existing company– rather than cutting off service altogether makes us spineless, than I’d certainly like to see you in the same position.

    • Skaperen says:

      @AmoretteTyndareus: It’s hard to drop the services of lousy companies when they are a monopoly. This is why the only real solution is to create a competitive market.

  18. atarisuicide says:

    Hahahahaha, this is totally awesome.

  19. almightytora says:

    Twitter, a “marketing tool”? NEVAR!

  20. Tiber says:

    I know a great way to help with your consumer loyalty program! Don’t use your near monopoly status to try and force crippling bandwidth caps that consumers that would make them buy higher tier plans that are actually worse due to the caps! Then don’t use obviously BS marketing speak to try and tell us it’s good for us!

    Hey TWC, I can offer you other advice for a modest fee (and I’ll use the same standards of modesty you use when deciding how much to charge your customers).

    As a side note, does anyone else find it funny that the guy trying to improve marketing would make such an obvious gaffe that would lead to them getting flamed on major sites?

  21. maddiesdad says:

    One of their trucks almost knocked me down in Manhattan today, trying to bully through the crosswalk.
    I wasn’t mad, just surprised to see a technician actually rushing to get somewhere!

    • Skaperen says:

      @maddiesdad: This was at lunchtime, right?

    • superberg says:

      @maddiesdad: Back in ’01, I was a Cable Tech for AT&T Broadband. They used to load us with 6-7 jobs per 4-hour block of time, with little regard to how far apart they were. In Northbrook, one of the cities I worked, it could easily take 20 minutes to get from one job to another.

      Some of the techs are lazy, no doubt. But just as many are overworked, or were just a few years ago.

    • jc364 says:

      @maddiesdad: haha, Skaperen beat me to it.

    • nybiker says:

      @maddiesdad: Were you in the Times Square or Herald Square area where there is now the oasis of calm (as in no cars)? Maybe he was racing to get across town and the new car-free area was in his way?
      BTW, if you were in one of those areas, as I haven’t had a chance to get there yet, are the seats that people are using provided or are people schlepping their own beach chairs?

      • maddiesdad says:

        @nybiker:

        Nah 59th and Lex

        Haven’t been there, and still have absolutely no desire to be in that part of town for any reason, although I’m all for car free streets.
        The city provided them as far as I know

  22. ldnyc says:

    I actually won last week’s TWC iPod touch drawing on Twitter (they can call it what they want, I’ll call it by its correct name) from them. It’s en route to me,

    @jchristenbury maybe doesn’t understand what a customer loyalty program is so what he tweeted to TWC – while all excellent ways of earning loyal customers – wasn’t really relevant to what they were asking for or what they are involved with as marketing people.

    They were looking for ideas/input about customer loyalty programs -think cards like your local grocery store or pharmacy or frozen yogurt place offers. Last week they asked (on Twitter) “Tell me your fav/best customer loyalty programs and why!” I replied: “CVS is my fav. I don’t need to carry the actual card, the coupons are targeted and relevnt and the cash back rewards are generous.”

    2 days ago I was notified that my name was drawn and I’d won the iPod touch. Doesn’t make me curse TWC any less every time my internet connection slows to a crawl for no good reason or when my HD channels start looking like jigsaw puzzles :) But I’ll take their free iPod touch!

  23. enderx says:

    Even the handful of reps from major companies are using twitter/facebook/myspace to monitor shit, and sure, a handful of them will get help, but you have to be a retard to not see this is a marketing ploy.
    the more people they can reach quickly, the quicker they can advertise/capitalize.

  24. ennTOXX says:

    i’m not sure what’s worse
    having to ask stranger/customers how to improve what they should be able to determine on their own
    or
    giving away an iTouch for something that some already gets paid to do.

    seems like TWC has no hope on this one

  25. ennTOXX says:

    @AmoretteTyndareus:
    kinda true, just that sometimes you don’t have any other options regardless of how much you hate the service, something is better than nothing in certain instances

  26. clickertrainer says:

    Shoot. I read “TWC” as “The Weather Channel”!

  27. bbb111 says:

    To everyone who says that a company offering better service would be successful:

    Unfortunately, the general public doesn’t work that way. Most people are swayed by slick advertising and teaser rates without investigating the fine print. [Consumerist readers are not typical consumers.]

    I was working at a small local ISP that provided good service, competent phone support, no upsell, no ads, no “business partners” or any of the annoying moneymakers. Plus, we did not require automatic payment; you could pay-for-play – stop paying and after a warning the account was frozen [and not deleted for two months in case it was a mistake – no e-mail would be lost].

    So, about 20 percent of our customers were VERY loyal – the rest would be constantly changing jumping to whatever promotion the big players offered.

    The other factor is that with the constantly changing internet environment, we were forced to update servers and software frequently – we didn’t have enough customers to support this and had to shut down. When we tried to grow, potential investors didn’t like our business plan of good service and hiring locally – they felt we wouldn’t make enough money.

    Many other small players suffered the same fate.

  28. wickedpixel says:

    I don’t see anything wrong here. TWC said “working on customer loyalty programs and would love your ideas/input”. Customer loyalty programs are things like:

    -for every 4 PPV events you order, get a 5th free
    -pay your bill on time for 1 year, get a $20 service credit

    Although service improvement will improve customer loyalty, those aren’t the kinds of submissions TWC was looking for. jchristenbury didn’t RTFT. Nothing to see here. Move along.

  29. Bs Baldwin says:

    SO TWC was trying to outsource their marketing for an itouch?

  30. tape says:

    “but you already ARE a marketing tool, why do you need to create more?”

  31. nacoran says:

    I have a friend who works for TWC. He says the same sort of things happen with employee suggestions.

  32. zlionsfan says:

    I don’t think Twitter is necessarily the best place to get ideas for a project like this.

    The problem as I see it is that “customer loyalty program” means at least two very distinct things.

    One seems to be what they were referring to: programs that are typically seen in places where you visit frequently and buy while you’re there. (A better analog for TWC’s idea might be GameFly’s program: they reward you based on the time you’ve used their service, but don’t really have reward levels for, say, buying X used games or whatever.)

    Another is what my previous employer did: programs that involve measuring and managing loyalty among your customers. That sounds like what the friend had in mind. “Hey, here are some ways you can improve loyalty among your customers.”

    But it’s really hard to distinguish between the two in a sentence or two. If the TWC rep had been told to say “reward programs”, it would have worked better … but then we wouldn’t have been able to take a few more shots at Big Cable …

  33. Skater009 says:

    lame ass TWC

  34. Anonymous says:

    I wish Time Warner wasn’t the only choice here in Maine, but TWC has a monopoly on cable services here. In one of the poorest states in the country, we have to pay $25 a month for basic cable (broadcast networks, two shopping channels, two religious channels, TV Guide channel, Weather Channel, and C-SPAN). A package including the interesting networks will run you about $70 a month. If you want to add digital phone and cable internet, your “special discount package” runs about $100 a month. It’s no wonder so many people use satellite TV (which runs between $25 and $60 a month, depending on service level) or do what I did and ditch the cable completely. I bought an indoor VHF-UHF antenna for $50–less than one month’s cable bill–and between broadcast channels, Hulu, and other web streaming TV sites, I get everything I wanted without the 100 channels of crap I never used but still had to pay for. Cable TV, and TWC in particular, has a lousy business model based on being the only game in town.

  35. Michael Hightower says:

    The problem is that the idea of a “customer loyalty program” was not understood by jchristenbury. JeffTWC is not asking for ways to improve TWC’s business as a whole, but rather how to develop a customer loyalty program. This Jeff dude is a small worker bee in a very large organization working on a very small part of a very large system.

    For jchristenbury to think that JeffTWC would actually have the clout to say, “Gosh, higher broadband speeds, great idea! We’ll implement it tomorrow!” is short bus material. What Jeff actually wanted were things like, “Free roses for your sweetheart on Valentine’s day,” or “Discounts at Jiffy Lube if you go to the TWC homepage,” blah blah blah. In other words, stuff that a guy like Jeff might actually be able to push through.

    And, seriously, asking for ala carte programming via Twitter? I mean… Really?

    You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to call up McDonald’s marketing department and ask tell them that they should be marketing tastier food. And then I’ll get all snarky and act like a dick because THEY DIDN’T GO DO IT! What’s WRONG with McDonald’s!?