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Putting Lipstick On A Pig: Time Warner Merger Goes Ahead

by Colin Shaw on May 24, 2016

It’s official. After two years of working on the deal between Charter and Time Warner Cable, Inc., Charter officially owns the most hated brand in cable provider brands, for $55.1 billion. Charter will phase out the Time Warner Cable brand, as well as Bright House Networks LLC, over time.

Here’s the thing:

Changing the name doesn’t change the service.

Changing the name doesn’t change the leadership or the customer centricity of an organization. So changing the name will have no effect. It’s like ‘putting lipstick on a pig’. It will still be the same leaders, people and poor culture that has led Time Warner to have this unenviable reputation.

Charter’s CEO Tom Rutledge agrees that changing the name isn’t enough to change the problem. In a recent interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, he said, “Obviously, just changing the name of a company…it’s not a solution. You’ve got to run a good service operation. And we do at Charter, and we are getting better every day.” So here’s my challenge, did the previous people know this? Sure they did, they just didn’t care.

This merger will not be good for the customers. Why? In the short term, the two companies will become more internally focused than they already are. People worried about their jobs, management will be obsessed with cost cutting, eliminating the duplication of departments and switching out all those service van logos! In addition, the merger reduces the competitive field, which is never a great thing for customers.

Being better, however, is what this brand needs to be. Time Warner has performed badlyon the American Customer Satisfaction Index for years, scoring just 51 out of 100, representing the worst overall rank of any industry.  I am a  customer of Bright House. After 18 months of attempts to fix my service, I finally demanded compensation for all my lost time and productivity due to shoddy broadband service. In their estimation, my loyalty came to a fat total of $23.29. Needless to say, they failed to address my frustration at feeling undervalued by them as a customer. They are not a customer-focused operation.

It isn’t just cable companies. Telecoms continue to fail to focus on the customer. I have both worked for and consulted with Telecom companies for over 20 years. In my experience, customers come a distant second to what is good for the organization.

Two specific examples of the lack of customer centricity in Telecoms come to mind. The first occurred when I worked at a major UK Telecom company. I remember complaining at a meeting that no-one did anything anything about the appalling Customer Satisfaction we provided despite it being measured in regular surveys. There solution? Stop measuring it, it was a waste of money as they weren’t going to do anything about it anyway! The second happened at the end of my tenure when I saw the budget for the next year. Not one initiative on the budget was focused on improving the Customer Experience. Everything was focussed on cost cutting.

As Customer Experience consultants, we see this kind of behavior all the time, in many different industries. When an organization focuses on internal issues—like cost-cutting and improving profitability—instead of the customer, the demonstrated lack of customer focus from the leadership spills over into the behavior of the rest of the employees. I’ll bet most of you can guess what that means for the Customer Experience.

If Charter Spectrum wants to effect real change, they have to change the way they view their customers. Instead of looking for ways to get more margin in their interaction with them, they need to look for ways to get more delight from their interaction with them. Moreover, they should do this anytime between 8 and 5 p.m.!

A leopard doesn’t change its spots. Nor does a cable company change its operationally-focused ways. Renaming your company with a bad reputation doesn’t fix it; it just hides it. Now it’s simply a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

What do you think? Will the merger fix the experience for Time Warner Cable and Bright House customers? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you enjoyed this post, you might be interested in the following blogs:

Hypocrisy Revealed of Major US Company

Comcast Needs a Culture Shock Not More People

Why are Telecoms So Bad at Customer Experience?

Read positive accounts of how companies improved their Customer Experience in our latest ebook: Unlocking the Hidden Experience.

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Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s leading Customer experience consultancy & training organizations. Colin is an international author of five bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

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Colin ShawPutting Lipstick On A Pig: Time Warner Merger Goes Ahead