Archive for February, 2014

Time Warner Cable Customer Service

February 25, 2014

                                                                                                                                                                February 25, 2014

To anyone interested to know about Time Warner Cable, Internet and its service:

We are living in an era where internet has become essential utility such as power.  A company hears from folks who are either exhilarated with its products / services or deeply-deeply disappointed. My recent interactions with the company in the past week have been beyond disappointment. Nobody in the organization think they are part of Time Warner. People in Billing says, they are billing they can’t do anything else, the one in the order department has nothing to do with anything else, the person in sales (yes Sales!) said is in Sales and has nothing to do with orders. Of all one would think, Sales is one organization that is eager to make up for the loss elsewhere.

My saga started with changing ownership of an account for our business from one entity to another. I started with Billing. The person started it on the right note, asked me to complete the ownership change document, sign it and send it and that they would start the process. That is where the right note ended. I noticed that the modem is lost during a move and I wanted the person to initiate a technician visit so the person could bring a modem to install. I was told that the order process has to start and then “scheduling will get in touch”. My repeated attempts to reach through phone and email asking for the next steps went unanswered. After two days, I started calling the toll-free number, like every company they asked me enter the account number, I entered, then asked me to enter the zipcode where the service is requested so they can transfer me to the appropriate location. So, I entered the zipcode, a very nice person picked up immediately and started with what is my account number (really?), explained the whole story, then he said he has to transfer me to the right location because he is in North Carolina and doesn’t have access to my account. The transferred call ended up in the Sales department. The sales person was not happy and said the Billing department need to look at this on the new charge for a technician visit. He is in Sales and he can’t do anything and transferred me to Billing.  It ran for 15 minutes and disconnected itself. Started this process again, called the toll-free number this time I chose not to enter the account number as it is a waste of my time, the same sales person picked up the phone and said he spoke to me few minutes back and immediately transferred me to Billing, some-one picked up and not sure what they heard, transferred me back to Sales! After all this, I mustered enough courage, patience and called the toll-free number and this time it went to Billing. I explained the person not to transfer me anywhere and see if he can do anything, after listening to it, he said the person who started the order two days back sits in the same office and that he will talk to that person. He came back after ten minutes and explained that the whole order, need to be canceled as I need a technician visit because the charge is not listed in the order. I told him that this is exactly what I wanted the person to do two days back, now that two days is wasted.  The person promptly followed through, redid the paper work and sent me the document to e-sign. I did that and received a confirmation of the order and again the word that “Scheduling will get in touch” as Billing doesn’t have control over Scheduling (Can you believe this?). My repeated attempts asking the person to provide me the “Scheduling contact” so I could get in touch rather than having to wait for it as I already lost three days. No response whatsoever.

I waited for one more day and called the toll-free number again. This time too, I ignored the account number request. This time a person in technical support picked up and said the person who did the order should have scheduled the technician visit and that he doesn’t have control over scheduling. I asked him for suggestions about how I can get the service installed in the next two days. The answer was “Scheduling will get in touch” within the next 48 – 72 hours but in general it will be earlier. Altogether, I lost FOUR hours of my productive time not to include the time lost and unable to meet the deadline and setup internet connection for my business.

 

This is the status for a business trying to accomplish something so we can continue with our business. Not sure what is the fate of residential customer. If I were to do this to my customer, I won’t have any customer left. Looks like Time Warner is racing to the bottom and they are very good at it from what I experienced. Not sure what Comcast saw in this business that enticed them to offer to purchase. Probably, Misery needs company?!

I’m appalled at the state of the business and no employee that I dealt with in the last few days had any sense of purpose or pride in what they do and that they are there to help their customer. They don’t even see they are all part of ONE company. Pathetic!, To say the least.

 

Good Luck to everyone involved,

 

How to safeguard your cash register?

February 15, 2014

There may be many cogs in a business operation and every one of them is important and needs to be safeguarded. The most important of them is the “cash register”. The threat to cash register existed since the inception of commerce. People invent new ways to protect it and it seemed for quite a while this risk is mitigated with the introduction of credit cards and the online payments. However, in this 21st century, the folks from the medieval times are back again in the virtual world and now they have a new name “hackers”.

There are many reasons and ways for the businesses to protect sensitive data.  I will concentrate on online businesses and on only one item – how to efficiently process and secure customer credit card data and conform to all regulations and not be liable.

Currently, organizations have a wide range of choices to process credit cards as they sell widgets and to charge the cards on a monthly basis to process recurring payments.  There are many ways to process cards, there are thousands of payment processors offering all sorts of discounts on volume, type of cards etc. To process recurring payments, you need to store credit cards. The moment you store credit cards on your infrastructure, no matter how secure you are, you are setting yourself to be a Target (no pun intended).

I set out to review the choices available in the marketplace for a payment processor that enables charging your customer credit cards both one-time as well as recurring payments without forcing your customers to have an account with them, conform to regulations and be PCI compliant.

I reviewed Amazon (Devpay, FPS), Google Wallet, PayPal and Stripe. At the outset Amazon and Google can be discounted as it forces the customers to have an account with them i.e they are allowing you to charge their customers and not the other way. There are enough middle men and I don’t like having one more between you and your customer. With PayPal, you can do both. i.e if you want your customers to pay with their PayPal account, you can do so or you can use PayPal Payments Pro (Direct Payment) which lets you pass the credit cards from your website shopping cart to PayPal behind the scenes through APIs and provide a seamless experience of your customers not having to leave your website. PayPal also offers subscription / recurring payments wherein you can setup certain customers to be billed at regular intervals and a fixed amount to be charged. PayPal also offers something called “Virtual terminal”, which lets your employees to login to a PayPal website to charge customers cards manually. They also offer a device to enable MOTO customers and physical credit card processing as well.

Stripe is a very interesting new player in the market place and does all we want in a clean straight forward fashion. With Stripe, you can create a customer profile with a default credit card and they would return an ID. Every single time, you want to charge that customer you just mention that ID and the amount. You can setup recurring payments as well. You need to create a recurring plan with a said amount and set the plan in specific customers’ profile. It will charge the customers at the specific plan in a recurring interval mentioned. If the amount you charge monthly or at regular intervals varies, then you can still charge the customers you want to charge by sending the ID and the amount, it’s that simple.

Both PayPal and Stripe offer authorizations, process refund of a specific sale (partial or complete), charge pretty much 2.9% + 30c a transaction. If you have higher volume, you can strike a discount with any of them.

Here is a simple comparison of PayPal Pro Direct and Stripe.

PayPal Pro Stripe
Your Customers need to have an account with No
fees 2.9% + 30c 2.9% + 30c
Recurring payments Yes Yes
Stores Credit card only for recurring pay Yes
Charge cards without sending card info everytime No Yes
Encrypt Card info while sending No Yes
Virtual Terminal Yes No
You will be PCI compliant No Yes

if you have your own website with web pages to collect credit card information; don’t want to store credit cards; Want to charge different amounts at regular intervals; don’t want your customers to have an account with other vendors; be PCI compliant and need a processor to process your credit cards, then I would recommend Stripe.

If you don’t want to go through the pain of designing your own web pages to collect credit cards, then you should consider all mentioned processors PayPal, Amazon and Google.

Here are some quick, direet references.

https://merchant.paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/?cmd=_render-content&content_ID=merchant/erp_overview

https://developer.paypal.com/webapps/developer/docs/classic/paypal-payments-pro/integration-guide/WPRecurringPayments/

https://developer.paypal.com/webapps/developer/docs/classic/paypal-payments-pro/integration-guide/WPWebsitePaymentsPro/

https://stripe.com