Customer Service

TWC’s New Virtual Assistant Curries Customer Favor

Beset by customer complaints and struggling to get approval from the United States Federal Communications Commission for a US$79 billion merger with Charter Communications and Bright House Networks, Time Warner Cable on Tuesday announced a virtual assistant.

The new Ask TWC Virtual Assistant lets customers use a mobile device or computer to type a question in their own words, or choose from a list of common questions to get immediate assistance.

The type and volume of inquiries and their resolutions will let TWC constantly learn, the company said.

Customers in all TWC service areas can access the tool, said TWC spokesperson Judy Barbao.

The virtual assistant may direct customers to a specific location on the TWS website for an answer to their question, or it may offer the option to connect directly with an agent for an online, real-time chat, she told CRM Buyer.

“We continue to offer customers a variety of options for TWC support and assistance, including phone and online support as well as through our free My TWC app,” Barbao said.

Service With a Curse

The virtual assistant is in line with TWC’s new emphasis on customer service. The company earlier this month published an open letter to customers touting its improvements in that area.

It has launched several smartphone app-based features that will let customers schedule and monitor their service experience. It now offers one-hour arrival windows and same-day or next-day service appointments. It lets customers schedule service calls at their convenience, and it offers several self-service options, such as checking the status of equipment in their homes and paying bills online.

TWC desperately needs to improve customer service. Customer satisfaction with information services — which includes subscription TV, Internet, wireless and landline phones — was 68.8 percent in Q1, its lowest level in seven years, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

TWC ranked lowest of the low, scoring 51 percent.

Complaints against TWC posted on ConsumerAffairs give an indication of why consumers have been so negative toward the company.

After stringing him along for three months, TWC did not fork over $300 in promised rewards, Mehrdad of Canoga Park, California, wrote on Sept. 26.

Her medical office has had problems regarding contract and payment issues since it began using TWC Business Class for its Internet service in June of 2014, Erin of San Antonio, Texas, wrote on Sept. 24.

“Time Warner is the only company we can have here in this area or I would be gone from them a long time ago!” 20-year TWC customer Paige of Shelby, Ohio, wrote on Sept. 24.

The proposed TWC-Charter-Bright House merger has triggered fears of higher prices and lower levels of service, and Consumers Union and Public Knowledge both have filed petitions opposing the deal.

The FCC has written Charter Communications demanding all documents relating to competition in the provision of each relevant service in each relevant area. That includes data on competitors, attempts to win customers from other companies, and customer losses to other companies.

Technology Ain’t Enough

The TWC apps and services focus on customer self-service, which may not reduce complaints.

“Technology can help companies build great customer relationships, but technology alone isn’t enough,” said Martin Schneider, head of product evangelism at SugarCRM.

“A culture shift and a commitment to taking the customer’s perspective are essential,” he told CRM Buyer.

The right technologies are useful “if company management and those in customer-facing roles are committed to delivering a great customer experience,” Schneider continued, “but there needs to be a real commitment to a customer-focused business transformation.”

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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