On Hold

by Ben Perreira

Americans spend a decent amount of our time with customer service people on the phone rather than by finding information online because the phone is still the most efficient way to get answers.


I present a tale of two companies: Wells Fargo and Time Warner Cable.

In the blue corner we have TWC, my cable and internet provider and the only cable option in my neighborhood. Their customer service over the phone is terrible. They require my life story to be entered digitally before I can talk to a rep then I must repeat said life story for each subsequent rep.

In the red corner we have Wells Fargo, my bank since I first made a deposit and far from the only option in my neighborhood. On the contrary, I can walk to a Chase branch. Wells Fargo’s customer service over the phone is exemplary for a few reasons:

  • Dialing “0” then stating my problem gets me to a live representative.
  • Their reps are generally friendly and use my first name, rather than butchering my last name or calling me “sir” repeatedly.
  • I don’t have to repeat my address, social security number, phone number or account number. Once I’m on the call it’s all there.
  • If I have an issue that requires a specialist, my rep will connect me to that person via 3-way.

Both companies seem somewhat committed to solving my problems. I tend to get what I need more often from Time Warner Cable; they are more likely to make billing concessions to allay my doubts in their services. But my satisfaction is much higher with Wells Fargo.

What this means for the business is that Time Warner Cable is squeezing its margins (at least on my business) because of its poor customer service. What a price to pay for something that can only bear the slightest incremental cost increase, if any.