Blog 2

Service provider:  Shaw Cable

Type of service: Cable

Date: Initial interaction was September of 2011, has continued until present.

Price: Approximately $85/month

Overall Satisfaction: 2/7

Chapters covered: 2 – 4

Topics covered (page numbers in textbook): Services Gap 1 (37); Services Gap 4 (44); Zones of Tolerance (54-56); Explicit Service Promises (63); Word of Mouth Communication (64); Escalating Service Expectations (71); Reliability (89)

Likelihood of Return: 6/7

Since we have already purchased the Shaw Cable boxes for our house (approximately $250 each) we are somewhat tied to Shaw because the switching cost to switch to Telus would be prohibitive.  If it were not for this high switching cost then the likelihood of return would be much lower; in fact, it is likely that we would have already switched to the other service.


This encounter began with the purchase of two Shaw 500GB PVR’s in September of 2011.  Since there was a widely publicized switch to digital cable going on we knew that it would be necessary to switch to the new system at some point.  This initial purchase at London Drugs was smooth; however, the activations took much longer than expected once we got home.  As we would soon find out, this was just the beginning of a long process with Shaw


Given the length of time that these issues have been going on it is hard to fit all of the problems that have occurred in so I will attempt to give a basic understanding of some of the service failures that have taken place in our time dealing with Shaw Customer Support.  These problems began with the initial setup of the PVR and have continued until the present day.

Service Gaps

There have been more than a few service gaps that we have experienced in our time with Shaw.  The first service gap that we experienced was with overpromising (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2013, p. 44), they have promised that you “Won’t miss a thing” in fact, it is currently their top ad in Google when searching for their PVR products.  We have missed several recorded shows because the software on their systems has multiple failures within it.  It has deleted shows; failed to record shows; often can’t play back the shows it does record and occasionally it will not even display live TV.  I have to say that in my eyes, this is very far from “Not missing a thing” as we have missed several things.

Another service gap has been that of inadequate service recovery.  We have been dealing with this problem in some form or another for almost two years and so far Shaw has offered us:

  • A single HD Shaw on Demand movie rental (Maximum value: $7)
  • When that wasn’t enough, they raised the bar to two movie rentals (Maximum value: $14)
  • Various refunds, none of which have even come remotely close to matching the level of inconvenience we have faced, but more on that later.

They have completely failed to make any amends and many of their frontline service employees do not have the authority to use the appropriate recovery mechanisms to solve the situation (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2013, p. 37).  It is this lack of authority that makes dealing with their company a constant exercise in frustration.  Frontline employees are not authorized to give anything above a free movie rental; I cannot imagine that this satiates very many customers’ needs.

Shaw has failed to live up to their own explicit service promises.  When a customer pays a monthly bill it is expected that they will be able to have access to the services that they are paying for.  When the system that is designed to provide the customer with that service continually fails then there needs to be more attention paid to resolving that problem in a timely manner; the excuse “we don’t know what could be causing these problems” wears thin very quickly.  Many of these explicit promises to resolve this problem have fallen by the wayside over the time that we have been dealing with the company (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2013, p. 63).

Tolerance for Failure

Initially our zone of tolerance for this failure was quite small, we had dealt with Shaw before and usually the problem was resolved to our satisfaction so we expected this to carry over to this problem as well (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2013, pp. 54-55).  The zone of tolerance also varies depending on which member of the household is dealing with Shaw at any given time.  For example, my zone of tolerance is extremely small when dealing with problems involving technology because I have a strong working knowledge of the systems so I know when they are trying to pass something off as acceptable when it clearly isn’t.  However, when other people who have less technological expertise deal with Shaw they have a much greater zone of tolerance because they do not know what standard this company should be held to.

As these failures continue to build over time so do customer’s expectations of the service (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2013, p. 71).  As there has been more and more failure in this interaction the expectations for resolution have continued to escalate.  If the problem had had adequate attention from the beginning then these expectations may not have been raised so high.  Meeting these continually rising expectations is very challenging and at this point it is highly unlikely that Shaw will ever be able to meet these expectations.  If we were to switch cable providers at some point down the line then these expectations would also be likely to normalize with the switch of service providers as it would be seen as a fresh start in the eyes of the consumer.

Standardized Expectations

There have been long standing customer service standards that were established in the cable industry more than 15 years ago, they are as follows:

  • System Reliability Measures: These are calculated as actual system working time expressed as a percentage of total operational system time possible. Currently, the standards require that the systems be 99.9 percent reliable.
  • Standards of Operation: The standards require 8 hours of continuous office operation per day, 24-hour repair service turnaround, 20-second telephone response times, and that telephone system busy statistics show that the system is working to capacity only 3 percent of the time.
  • Customer Service Standards: These require that 90 percent of installations requested be completed within 7 days; 99.9 percent reliability; 90 percent of outages are repaired within 4 hours; and that no more than 3 percent of customers require service per month.

(McKie, 1992)

It is clear that Shaw has contravened many of these standards as they are not 99.9% reliable; in fact, 70% would probably be generous.  Their telephone response times have varied from 30 minutes to multiple days and sometimes it is the completely wrong department that returns the calls, resulting in even longer response times.  I also somehow doubt that they are working to capacity only 3% of the time given the standard response is that they are experiencing higher than normal call volumes.  Finally, they are expected to have 90% of outages repaired within 4 hours; it seems that we have fallen into the other 10% more often than not.

All of this information brings into question the reliability of their service.  “Of the five dimensions, reliability has been consistently shown to be the most important determinant of perceptions of service quality” (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2013, p. 89); unfortunately reliability is not one of Shaw’s strengths as their cable, hardware and service have all proven time and time again that they are completely inconsistent in their service and are unwilling to accept blame for their service failures.

Costs to Shaw

This bad experience has cost Shaw much more than would be readily apparent to management’s eyes; this is because of word of mouth communication.  When people continually experience poor service they become increasingly likely to tell their friends, co-workers and other people that they interact with about these poor experiences.  This communication carries particular weight with these audiences because it is coming from a first-hand account of dealings with this company.  Since cable is an industry that is “difficult for customers to evaluate before purchase and before having direct experience” (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2013, p. 64) with the product these word of mouth experiences carry a particularly heavy weight in this industry, something that Shaw seems to have little concern for.


In 2000 only 9% of consumers used digital television; in 2005 25% of consumers had made the switch and by 2010 46% had made the switch to digital cable (Washington & Miller, 2009).  These statistics show us that digital television adoption is growing significantly over time and Shaw must develop their service systems in order to meet the increasing demands of consumers for this service if they want to remain one of the top competitors in this market.

Works Cited

McKie, D. A. (1992). Quality Issues In Customer Satisfaction Studies Of Cable Television. Journal of Advertising Research, 6-8. Retrieved from

Washington, K., & Miller, R. (2009). Consumer Use of Media. Entertainment, Media & Advertising Market Research Handbook, 22. Retrieved from

Zeithaml, V., Bitner, M., & Gremler, D. (2013). Services Marketing. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.


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