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Time Warner Cable Internet – How a company can ruin a good service with bad support

By Andrew Pollack on 09/13/2013 at 07:15 PM EDT

I’ve been a cable modem customer with Time Warner since the product was first offered here nearly 20 years ago. Overall, with the exception of one huge problem, I’ve been happy with it. It’s been more reliable than I ever expected and they’ve steadily improved the network’s performance as the standard evolves. As long as nothing goes wrong, the service is great – if a bit pricey.

That’s where the problem comes in. If anything at all DOES go wrong on their end, they seem to be almost totally unable to deal with it in any kind of reasonable way. By midafternoon today I have to say I’d reached a point of near “phone-rage” (a cousin to road rage) and my generally nonviolent leanings were very much being tested.

In the storms yesterday, some kind of surge took out the service. That happens and shouldn’t have been a big deal. This morning, since it wouldn’t come up, I went looking for a network status page on their website (using backup DSL connectivity) but couldn’t find anything (that’s because no such thing exists, apparently). Here then, is the path from recognizing a problem through to resolution.

1. Look for a network status page on the provider’s site. Fail.

2. Chat with a rep online with the goal of finding out if it’s down long term.
TWFAIL: No such information is available.
TWFAIL: Rep is unable to determine a problem with my equipment.
TWFAIL: Rep cannot schedule an appointment until next week.

3. I then attempted to diagnose the problem myself, using another old cable modem that wouldn’t really connect, but would allow me to see network status between my site on the TW mother ship.
APWIN: I determined that the connection between my office and their network center was perfectly fine.
APWIN: I discovered that the rented cable modem was damaged and would only make Ethernet connections at 10mbs Full Duplex (my network is gigabit switched Ethernet and my upload speed is 50mbs so that wasn’t going to fly).

4. I drove to Time Warner, bringing the broken cable modem.
TWFAIL: They had no high speed modems in stock that didn’t have built in firewall and wifi (which won’t work on my network)

5. I checked on my mobile browser, and then went across the street to Best Buy and purchased a new one instead of renting.
APWIN: I was able to get exactly the same model as I had had.
APWIN: I copied the MAC address of the new modem to big print I could see while driving, and headed home.

6. I called TW to register the new purchase, and reached “Employee Idiot# V450162”.
APWIN: I was ready with the new MAC address
APWIN: I warned # V450162 that the last time I’d had to replace a modem it took several hours to get it configured correctly because they had to provision the right number of external IP addresses for me. He assured me this was taken care of.
TWFAIL: It took idiot # V450162 more than 20 minutes of hold time to provision this new MAC address.

7. I finally arrived back here, plugged in the new modem and…..
APWIN: Correct diagnosis – the new product worked (sortof)
TWFAIL: They had not correctly provisioned the modem. Only the first device connected to it would get a public address, no others.

8. I called back again, and this time I talked to SUPER IDIOT #V485664.
TWFAIL: Idiot #V485664 told me the problem was on my end, with the purchased product since they couldn’t configure a modem that I’d purchased. While this sounds possible, it’s not, and I told her so. Cable Modems don’t work this way. They conform to a standard (DOCSIS3 in this case) and every time they boot they confirm and if need be re-download the latest firmware directly from the provider, complete with all of its configuration.
APWIN: I told this to idiot #V485664 (calmly)
TWFAIL: Idiot #V485664 disagreed and told me to call Motorol

9. I called Motorola and quickly got through to a helpful and intelligent person.
MOTOWIN: When I explained the issue and the long line of idiots I’d been talking to, they provided me documentation to prove that what I was saying was correct.

10. I called back Time Warner ….again. This time I spoke to HandsTied #V417989.
TWWINish: HandsTied #V417989 listened to my ranting story, understood exactly what the problem was, but had no power to make the needed change (the one I’d ask the first idiot to do hours before). She would transfer me to 3rd level support.

11. HA! You thought I was getting somewhere! Nope. After 10 minutes of dead hold time, another support person came on (by this point, my eyes were crossed and I stopped collecting idiotnumbers) .
TWFAIL: After nearly 20 minutes of the same stupid questions, this idiot told me she wasn’t actually 3rd level support. I’d been mis-transferred or something. Could I hold a bit?

12. I was –FINALLY—transferred to 3rd level support. Let’s call this one “DeterminedButLacking” (DTB for short).
TWFAIL: DTB listened to me, but flat out didn’t believe me. He spent well over an hour going through the same stupid diagnostic information.
TWFAIL: DTB exhausted things he knew, and still didn’t listen to me. Instead, long periods of silence ensued while he “checked all the settings” throughout the system “everywhere”.
APFAIL: I stuck with DTB as calmly as possible for way too long, only occasionally suggesting that maybe he could talk to someone else there who might, possibly, know something else.
APWIN: I finally broken down and went into a fairly detailed explanation of the technology involved and told him very very clearly exactly what the problem was, and that I was very sorry I didn’t know their system enough to know exactly where the change was, but if he would please, for the love of God, find someone who did know I would very much appreciate it.
TWWINish: DTB finally gave up and decided to give me a case number and call back. Which he did, 20 minutes later (I suspect he finally went and asked someone) and admitted that YES, it was a configuration problem on their end that that YES, I’d been pretty much right for the last 6 hours.
TWFAIL: DTB couldn’t actually make the change, nor could he give me any kind of an ETA. All he could do was put a request in queue for the GRAND HIGH WIZARDS with a PRETTY PLEASE (priority) tag on it.
TWFAIL: DTB explained that they call me back when they’d resolved the issue.

13. Knowing what the problem was, and knowing that when they did make this change it wouldn’t take effect until I power cycled the cable modem, I waited until 5pm and did just that.
TWWIN: The wizards did in fact get around to making the change some time during the day.
APWIN: By not waiting for the call back, I was now back up and running.
TWFAIL: Still waiting for that call back.

I really feel like sending these people a bill for MY time, since I’m the one that had to diagnose the broken modem, I’m the one that had to tell them what was wrong, and I’m the one that had to tell them what needed fixing.

There are  - loading -  comments....

re: Time Warner Cable Internet u2013 How a company can ruin a good service with bad supportBy Craig Wiseman on 09/14/2013 at 11:40 AM EDT
Yeah, that sucks profoundly. The problem is that because there's no
competition, no provider is really any better.

I could right much the same about AT&T in the past and Cox .right now.

One question recurringly goes through my head, though.. what the hell do these
support people DO? There's an endless supply of them, and they can't diagnose
or troubleshoot themselves out of a wet, closed shoebox. Corporate America's
model is to fire/layoff one or two more person than they actually need, so what
productive thing do these folks do when they are not screwing me over?
re: Time Warner Cable Internet u2013 How a company can ruin a good service with bad supportBy Craig Wiseman on 09/14/2013 at 11:40 AM EDT
right?!?! ** edit ** "write".
re: Time Warner Cable Internet u2013 How a company can ruin a good service with bad supportBy Ray Bilyk on 09/15/2013 at 11:13 AM EDT
Boy, does this sound familiar... I hate having to provide support to the
support people...

I'd send the bill... and keep documenting all of this publicly. Do it here,
plus other forms of PUBLIC social media...

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