TWC Refines Customer Experience in Advance of Charter Merger

DonohueSyracuse, NY — Seconds after a Time Warner Cable employee holding a tablet computer greeted me at the entrance of the new “experience store” here on Monday, my name was displayed at the top of a large screen listing subscribers who were upgrading to new 5G wireless routers and super DVRs containing six tuners.

The customer service center, located in the former New York Central Railroad passenger station, was completely revamped earlier this month. Subscribers can now test drive apps like TWC TV and Phone 2 Go not only on mobile devices, but on a large HDTV featuring a touch-screen interface.

While Charter Communications hopes to close its $55 billion acquisition of TWC later this year, TWC’s retail marketing push in Syracuse — where it faces stiff competition from Verizon’s FiOS TV and Internet — shows how it is continuing to boost subscriber acquisition and retention efforts.

“Despite the many merger-related distractions, our team has delivered with single-minded determination,” CEO Rob Marcus told analysts Tuesday morning, after TWC reported that it gained 54,000 net video subscribers and 281,000 broadband customers during the fourth quarter.

TWC’s focus on subscriber growth could help it poach subscribers from AT&T. In addition to competing with AT&T U-verse systems in several major markets, including parts of California and Texas, TWC and other pay TV distributors face competition nationwide from AT&T’s DirecTV subsidiary. But with AT&T still working on training its sales reps and field technicians to handle products ranging from mobile phone service to satellite TV, it could face increased pressure from cable MSOs.

“We are still going through the sales process of training our reps who never sold broadband when they sold satellite before or who sold broadband but never sold satellite before,” AT&T CFO John Stephens told analysts on Monday. “All of this is going to take some time,” he added.