Archive for October, 2007

Did you say “technical support?”

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Here’s what I learned yesterday: That if I want good service from Time Warner Cable, I need to pay more than the standard fee — which only gets me mediocre service.

It is a measure of my chronic naivete that I assumed all of Time Warner’s Web-access customers were equal in the eyes of God. I thought that when trouble arises, everyone is treated with the same regard. Silly me. It turns out that some of us are second-class citizens. We’re in steerage, and when the ship hits the iceberg the toffs get the lifeboats and we get scrap pieces of wood to cling to.

I know this because my online access hit the iceberg Monday morning. No amount of rebooting could get me back on the Web, so I called the customer-service number for help. First I spent twenty minutes on hold. Then I had a painfully protracted conversation with a computer-generated voice that would, for instance, instruct me to “say technical support” if I needed — you guessed it — tech support, only to then ask, “Did you say technical support” after I’d just said “technical support,” like it told me to. After that extended (and fruitless) who’s-on-first exercise, I finally got a human on the line. I told her that my computer was working fine and that the cable itself was working fine — I’d turned on the television to make sure — so by process of elimination, the problem had to be in the modem I’d been issued. She put me on hold, then came back to tell me my cable service was fine, so it must be the modem.

Me: Uh, yeah. That’s what I just said.

Her: We can have a service technician there between eight and noon Wednesday morning.

Me: That’s two days away. I work from home and I need online access.

Her: Maybe you should upgrade to business class, then.

Me: What would that get me? The modem would still be punking out on me, right?

Her: You’d get same-day service calls.

There is was. My woes were an opportunity for up-selling. We weren’t talking anymore about the faulty modem Time Warner had given me. We were talking about the great service I’d get if I paid Time Warner more money. Surely I would be happy to do that, now that I’d experienced the mediocre service. Who wouldn’t want good service?

There is a lesson in this for authors like me. We should consider offering two levels of books. The regular retail price would get you a book that has typographical errors, smudged ink, paragraphs out of order and key plot points mysteriously left out. If you bring the book back to the store and complain, you would be offered a premium edition of the same book. It would be flawlessly edited, gorgeously printed, and have all plot twists and turns intact. Who wouldn’t want that book, especially after you’ve suffered through the bad version?

In fact, authors should consider having Time Warner handle the production and distribution of those flawed books. It’s got a track record of mediocrity that’s hard to beat.