Comedian Eugene Mirman has published a hilarious open letter to Time Warner Cable that pretty much defines the genre. I saw him read it live here in New York recently and my heart just sank because a) it’s really, really funny, and b) he’s got a pretty good point.
Here are a few choice excerpts:
On April 23rd I moved and had an appointment with Time Warner Cable to come and install cable, Internet and phone service and no one showed up. When I called, I was told my appointment was entered wrong and moved to May 4th, without anyone calling me. No big deal, why would a company check with someone to see if they are home on a Wednesday afternoon? Of course they are. Everyone is. Name one person who isn’t home on a Wednesday afternoon? You can’t. It’s impossible, because everyone is home. It would be a waste of resources to call and talk to him.
We botched his install, and miscommunicated with him about it to boot. I really wish that this hadn’t happened, and I really wish it never happened, but we can’t hide from the truth: this is neither the first nor the last time that we’ve miscommunicated with a customer, inconvenienced them tremendously, and screwed up what appears to be a very simple task. I’m sorry this happened, and I’m sorry every single time it happens.
Eugene wished a serious of hilarious plagues on our board, too:
To give you an idea of how much I dislike your company, I have come up with plagues I hope God smites your board of directors with. I know He’ll only do this if you enslave the Jews, but considering you might have a monopoly in NYC, you sort of already have:
1. Awkward. Every board member’s cell phone ring loudly announces their weight and also the day they’ll die.
2. Bathroom. The constant feeling that you have to go number two, but completely forgetting how.
3. Improv. Your first-born will want to be a short form improviser.
4. Popcorn. Your second born will smell like hot buttered popcorn. It’s not that bad at first, but eventually I bet it will be maddening.
I’m not on the board, but that fourth one would really kill me. I hate the smell of buttered popcorn, to me it smells like feet in a locker room. And I’m already suffering from a version of Eugene’s plague. The otherwise pleasant, professional and kind woman who sits across from my office microwaves a bag of popcorn for her afternoon snack, accidentally cramming my nostrils with a waft of burning cancer. If my window opened, I might be able to air my office out — but I might also just jump.
Missed installs and clumsy customer communications are issues that have plagued us for too long. They’re not unique to us, though — all of our peers and competitors struggle with the same problems, and not just in the United States, either. We have over 47,000 employees servicing 13 million customers.
And I’m not going to sit here and claim that everything goes right every single time, or that it’s possible to have a perfect service record when we handle that much volume. But we are working very, very hard to overhaul our customer care efforts in order to minimize the inconvenience and hassle that Eugene and other customers experience.
Here are some of the steps we’re taking:
1) Coaching — Right now, one becomes a call center supervisor by doing an excellent job as a call center agent. However, taking customer calls and managing the people that take customer calls are two very different skill sets. We are investing in better process and training for our call center supervisors so that they can teach the right behaviors to agents.
2) Tools — We’re constantly investing in better tools for our support agents that will help them improve their ability to fix and diagnose issues. As we continue to come out with more and more products, it gets harder for our agents to memorize specs. It’s essential that agents have easy access to learning resources so they can quickly help people over the phone.
3) Self-service — We’re working to open up these same diagnostic tools so that customers can use them directly to self diagnose and repair without having to call.
4) Troubleshooting — Reviewing the troubleshooting process so that agents more frequently fix problems without having to send a truck requiring customers to be home and miss work/their otherwise fulfilling lives.
5) Incentives — Paying more to an agent based on their resolution rates and individual ability to satisfy customers.
Ultimately, improving our customer care is the result of a lot of small tweaks applied constantly over a long period of time. We’re doing all of this now, and we’re sticking to it until it pays off. We’re getting better, but we all want these improvements to take less time.
Perversely, I can’t recommend Eugene Mirman’s work enough. I’ve seen a fair bit of it on Youtube since I saw him read this letter live, and I’m a big fan. His bit about Delta Airlines is really great, but you really can’t go wrong.