Customer service rules

2 Universal Rules of Customer Service You Should NEVER Break

In one move, Shaw Cable broke two universal rules of customer service relationship building.

The Story

My dad recently signed up for Shaw Cable’s plethora of TV options. The PVR, the HD, the Movies on Demand, the blah blah…so he’s getting used to dealing with not only the new technology but the new service departments that go along with them.

He’s a big UFC fan and the family was really looking forward to an upcoming night of fights (Hey, fun rhyme). My dad did what he needed to do to order the pay-per-view, subscribing through the cable box and ordering system, only to realize he’d rather have it in high definition. It’s a bit more money but he felt like splurging. So, he signed up for that as well. But, that begged the question, would Shaw Cable notice that he had signed up for both formats, automatically cancelling the first order in favour of the second one? It’s not like he could watch both. Maybe Shaw would think he was ordering different versions for different TVs in his house? Weird, but it could happen I guess.

So rather be safe than poorer, he called Shaw customer service to explain that he’d like to cancel the first order.

Ideal response: “Thanks for contacting us. Of course we’ll cancel the first order. This event will look great in high definition. Good call. Thanks for your business. Enjoy the fights.”

Actual response: “We’ve noticed you’ve done this before so I’ll do it one more time for you but next time we’ll charge you.” I’m sorry, what now?

Where it Went Wrong

Scolding and threatening your customers is never a good tactic.

Here’s two things you should know about my dad…

  • First, he’s a pretty smart guy and he knows how to operate Shaw’s pay-per-view ordering service. This isn’t something that would be a regular thing.
  • Second, he had paid for a product/service that he hadn’t received yet. He wasn’t calling after the fact to correct a mistake, he was finalizing the transaction between business and customer.

So my dad asks for an exchange of service that actually puts more money in the pocket of Shaw Cable, and he gets a threat and a condescending tone. Here’s the takeaway Shaw: this was a missed opportunity to do right by your customer and support them in how they want to use your product and service. Though he’s not a big fan of change, if they had tried to charge him, as they threatened to do next time, he not only would have canceled his service with Shaw (that’s months of lost revenue, including future UFC pay per views.  Thanks “no contract”) but he would have told everyone he’d ever meet to go with a rival company. Is that the kind of relationship you want with your customers, Shaw Cable?

The Broken Rules

In one statement, the Shaw Cable operator broke two tried and true universal rules that will only hurt their relationship building with their customers:

  1. Platinum Rule: Treat Others How They Want to Be Treated – and no one ever wants to be talked down to and threatened.
  2. It’s Cheaper to Keep Customers than Acquire New Ones – does the amount it would have cost to cancel the first order outweigh the cost of a damaged relationship with your customer, or the loss of them as a client? Hint: No.

As a business, you should be working with your customers, not against them. With the amount of competition out there, companies need to be very aware that their customer relationships are everything. It should never be an “us vs. them” thing because the customer has all the power in their wallet. Build a positive relationship with your customers or they’ll use that power to go somewhere else.

What are some customer service rules you think should never be broken?


  • Myth Wright

    Only problem is many services to come with a contract, especially telecoms. Once they have the contract you are merely an annoyance.

  • I have a Shaw cell phone and when my contract was just about due I received a call from Shaw wondering if I was going to renew. The person who called was so nice I almost felt compelled to forget the last phone call we had from them. We had spent a month in Mexico and neglected to arrange payment for a bill that would come due when we were away. Within a week of arriving home I was on the line with this b–ch from Shaw who berated me about the missed payment. She was so rude and obnoxious that the conversation stayed with me for days. This was the first time we had ever been late with a payment…total oversight on our part but…needless to say no new contract with Shaw.

    • Shaw does not provide cell phone service anywhere yet, nor does it require contracts from customers for any of its products or services. Are you Sure you were Dealing with SHAW?

    • SHaw doesnt have cell phones or contracts, your probably thinking of telus…

  • Hi Russ,

    Thanks for sharing your dad’s experience. I hate when things like this happen. Front line reps are supposed to be empowered to make things right whenever needed, but getting alignment to that message, well, that’s a challenge. And then it’s the customer who suffers in the end. For a customer with a single cable box, it’s physically impossible to watch both orders at once, and any agent should be able to see that and turn around the billing. I’m going get some messages out around the office and try to get everyone on the same page before the next UFC.

  • Doug – I wasn’t even aware Shaw had cell phones but being yelled at is never “good service.”
    Jay – Empowering should be an opportunity for staff to really help the customer, not patronize and lord power over them. Thanks for taking the time to respond Jay. Most of my experiences with Shaw have been positive ones but I couldn’t let this one slide.

  • Sorry to hear this.  We have been a loyal Shaw customer for over 20 plus years but no more.  After an agonizing wait of 53 minutes on hold to be told that the business dept was not in on Saturday.  I am now without NFL Sunday ticket as the CS Dept is unable to override our business status.  But I only agreed to internet being classified as a business.  At no time whatsoever did I agree to all my residential services being classified as such.  Anyway, so fed up as we have had many issues which have remained unresolved by Shaw Cable.  Now we are with Bell which already has proven themselves as superior as the download speeds are significantly faster and “yes. Virgina there is customer service!!!”

    • Bells top dl speed they offer is 25mpbs, shaws is 250mpbs, the rest of what you said i agree with.

    • DezsoDezso

      Yea make Bell a mega giant, that will help us for sure.

  • Dave Forsyth

    Russel, His Dad & Shaw Cable
    I’m probably your dad’s age & I just got off the phone with Shaw customer service. It took them 43 minutes to answer the phone. I said to ‘Sarah’, “Imagine if everyone you called took 43 minutes to answer their phone!” Think about that! Why is Shaw so different from everyone else? Of course, it wasn’t Sarah’s fault (something we should all remember) – it’s Shaw management; the guys who make the big bucks!They bought Mountain Cable in the Hamilton area & thought they could add all that revenue without investing in additional staff to handle the change-over of services. That’s management 101. Where were their heads?Now Shaw Cable has 392 complaints on – (including mine from a few minutes ago) & it will take a generation or a corporate name-change to recover from the anger they’ve stirred up.Generally, there’s only one cable company in any given area (great idea if you want to abuse your customers) so it’s difficult to just drop your service but make people angry enough and they’ll find a way. I actually know a guy who put up a tower with 3 digital antennae and he gets free TV – not because he’s cheap (well, not entirely) but so he doesn’t have to deal with Shaw Cable. With a basic cell phone package & an alternate internet service, he avoids Shaw altogether.And, it wasn’t that much of an investment, when you consider that I’m paying Shaw about $2160 a year for internet, phone & TV.C’mon consumers – fight back. Call or write to the CRTC. Cable companies only exist because consumers complained to the CRTC that Bell had a monopoly. Now it’s time to make the opportunist cable companies accountable.PS – Mountain Cable (before the takeover by Shaw) was one of the most competent and customer oriented businesses with which I’ve ever dealt. Congratulations to the late MOUNTAIN CABLE! I miss you!

    • DezsoDezso

      You are so wrong about why cable company’s exist, read up on why and how was crtc born to begin with.
      Shaw pretty much invented cable in Canada!
      You guys are so jumpy to complain about a service provider, any one of you have ever sent a complaint for a network or a station, programming pretty much suck most of the time, running old shows over and over agin, 90 minute move plays for 3 hr cause all the commercial.
      Most of you work for a living, any one of your company sells its product less than its cost to buy?!

  • Hi Russ,

    It actually does cost shaw when you order a pay per view whether you cancel it before it starts or not, as soon as you confirm the order the company bills your provider who ever it is not matter what.

    I do agree the rep should have explained this or done a better job explaining but I dont think they were that out of line, I think as customers we need to take more responsibility for our own actions and not depend on the provider to take care of our mistakes.

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