• July 1, 2008
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

Darth Vader Kills the Road Runner

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Memo from the desk of Marshall Lager, July’s Chief Midstream Horse-Changing Officer:

One of the things businesses -- especially the subscription-based ones -- rely on is that customers won’t make the effort to switch to a competitor when problems arise. Sometimes it feels like it’s the only thing they rely on. I know: My wagon’s been hitched to a falling star for a long time now, and I’ve finally unhooked myself. And since revenge is a dish best served in print where everybody can read it, this month I’m flipping the bird at the bird -- Road Runner, that is.

I’ve had four or five service appointments with Time Warner since signing up for its Road Runner Internet and cable TV offering in mid-2007 -- all of them Internet-related. Each time I was told a different story about what wasn’t working. First, the cable was too long and the signal was degrading over the extra distance. Then it was a splitter that was installed for no reason outside the apartment -- with nothing connected to it. Next, my modem was bad.

One time, I got two different stories on the same call -- first my router was conflicting with Road Runner, causing some sort of mystical Internet Protocol loop that left me unable to connect, then the problem was a weak signal (but I’d have to move my bookcases before they could fix it).

A weak signal. After cutting out 10 meters of extra cable. After removing a pointless splitter. After claiming their hardware wasn’t compatible with my Linksys router -- probably the most popular brand there is. After walking in and discovering that the connection was, in fact, working. (It came back to life shortly after I called for service. Convenient, no?)

Nothing was ever fixed. I haven’t been able to work from home effectively or do anything that required a reliable Internet connection in months. The last (and I do mean last) service appointment came after a complete service interruption in April 2008 -- not just Internet, but TV as well. Time Warner "promptly" rolled a truck to me one week after I requested repair. The reason for the latest epic fail? My line was tagged as running to a different apartment, and when those people terminated their service -- wisely, I say -- mine was cut off instead.

The repair took three minutes, after which I had nearly 30 minutes of uninterrupted Internet access -- just enough to send a message that I was back online -- and then it crapped out again. On a follow-up call to have my bill credited for the week of lost service (since I can’t get anything for months of unpredictable service) the rep tried to upsell me to a "triple play" combining cable TV, Internet, and phone service. I said that if my phone would be anything like my Internet, I wouldn’t even be able to call for a pizza; he recommended I go to one of Time Warner’s payment centers and try to get a different brand of cable modem.

The problem with Time Warner Cable is simple: They’re using the wrong mascot. The Road Runner might be cute, but their operation is much closer to Wile E. Coyote. So, by the time you read this I will have switched to another character, or at least a company that uses its voice. If James Earl Jones is still pimping Verizon, that means I have Darth frickin’ Vader on my side -- the cool one, not the whiny one. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to see the Road Runner’s spindly blue neck crushed by the Dark Side of the Force, and hear Mr. Jones utter, in his best menacing basso profundo, "I find your lack of service…disturbing."

Contact Senior Editor Marshall Lager via email at mlager@destinationCRM.com, unless you’re using Road Runner. In that case, smoke signals will be accepted.

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