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Time Warner CEO: best service is when customers don’t need to call

(Opinion) While Time Warner Cable may not be able to make your customer service dreams come true, here is how to insure your clients never have to call customer service at your company.

customer service

customer service

Time Warner’s attitude toward customer service

If you’ve ever said to a friend, “so I called Timer Warner last night,” you all let out an exasperated sigh and there is probably a universal eye roll, because the truth is that their customer service is horrible. It’s the very reason they’re continually ranked as one of the worst customer service experiences in America.

Former Chief Operating Officer and Chief Finance Officer at Time Warner, Rob Marcus has been named as the next CEO, and despite rumors that the company is about to be taken over and reorganized, he is making bold statements as to what his new position means for the company.

“Putting the customer at the center of everything we do” Marcus stated, adding that “the best customer service is when the customers don’t need to contact us at all for service.”

What does this all mean?

I’ll bet you a dollar that by this time next year, customer service will still suck at Time Warner, despite Marcus’ polished statement to the contrary, even if they are not taken over. Why? Because when you hire and train people to be on the front line but don’t empower them to be empathetic or make decisions, your customer service will still suck.

But let’s say Marcus is right and that he can fix the problem. He can’t, but let’s just say that he can. Imagine their service improves to the point that you never even have to contact the company for help, be it on the phone or web.

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What does this mean for your company?

Marcus’ lofty goals may not become a reality at TWC, but it can become a reality at your company. Over the holidays, do a complete audit of all of the following to make sure consumers are having a perfect experience and never having to call because they’re confused, upset, or lost:

  1. Your website – click every link to make sure it works, try every feature and make sure that it works AND is intuitive – if a 70 year old couldn’t make it work without explanation, it’s too complicated. Make sure there are no broken images, that content is useful and relevant, and your contact information is extremely obvious.
  2. Your phone system – whether it’s just you and clients call your cell, or if you’re running a larger operation, act like a customer and call. See if the phones work properly, how long it takes to get a call back, whether or not the call back is operating on the proper script, and that an answer is forthcoming, courteous, and fast.
  3. Your emails – is your auto-responder working correctly? Does your newsletter have an opt-out function and it is offering what consumers are looking for? Do you and yours respond within the hour or make promises that you keep? Is the tone correct?
  4. Your offices or store – is everything tidy and easy to get to? Is it laid out intuitively? Can people accomplish their goals without being frustrated? Act like a customer and walk through as if for the very first time – pretend you’re a 19 year old who has never been in your office before and roll your eyes as much as possible to find your weak spots.
  5. Your technologies – if customers are required to use an app to do any portion of their business with you, test it out right now. If you’ve gone paperless, make sure all of the features still work, or read the site to make sure you fully understand the offering and aren’t shorting your customers. If clients have to use a third party app to communicate with you, test out the app and research alternatives in case there is a better offering out there today.

Every single person in your company from the janitor to the C-suite should be empowered to make decisions and tell customers what they can do, not just what they can’t. All employees must be trained to be empathetic problem solvers, or your customer service will suck as much as Time Warner has admitted theirs does.

You too can create an experience that is focused on the consumer without their ever having to get upset and call your customer service division, or worse, call and yell at you personally. Marcus may or may not be able to make this work at TWC, but you can most definitely make this a reality at your own company.

Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.



  1. rolandestrada

    December 19, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    It sounds like what Apple has been doing for years. I don’t think this guy is breaking any new ground here.
    Cable and cell providers remind me of an joke bumper sticker from back in the day when AT&T was the only landline phone company. The bumper sticker had the Bell logo and read something like “We’re the phone company. We don’t care – we don’t have to”.

    It’s great that a new CEO would want to better the company’s customer service. However cable companies hopefully have larger customer problem looming. Customers are tired of paying huge cable bills for the pleasure of watching 10 to 15 Channels. Their customer service sucks but so does their product. I look forward to the day when cable companies are mostly relegated to being bandwidth providers and I pick and choose which channels I want to pay for. That day will come and the cable companies will kicking and screaming the whole way.

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