Note: This entry has been updated as of March 31, 2007. The amended text is to be found at the bottom of the screen.
Dear Charter Communications,
The bad news is you suck. The good news? I think I can help. Allow me first to provide you with some background information and then I’ll offer free suggestions as to how you can make your technical support service more efficient.
Because you are a near-monopoly in my area for high-speed internet I have to subscribe to your service if I want to look at the innerwebs. Yes, I have the option of paying a gazillion dollars per megasmurf for a satellite-based connection, but since I can’t begin to afford that, I pay you. In return you provide me with shoddy service and technical support that is pisspoor at best.
Here is where my help comes in.
When I call your line and am finally connected to you, I have likely spent the last five minutes of my time fighting my way through a response-driven automaton that requests that I perform such seemingly pointless tasks as unplugging the modem, turning off the computer and confirming that the modem you sent me has in fact worked in the past. After nearly every response I then have to answer the same question again because the fembot on the other end of the phone asks stupid things like I think I heard you say you’re having trouble connecting to the internet. Is that right?
Additionally while on hold I likely had to listen to ads for high-speed internet service, the very service, mind you, that I’m calling to complain about. The ads add insult to injury because they talk about what high quality service Charter provides and even goes so far as to call that service an “always-on connection.”
If the service were truly always on, I wouldn’t be calling.
So you see, before you ever answer the phone, my frustration is being elevated even further by the automated prompting and solicitous teasing your company subjects me to. That being said, here are a few things you can do to not irritate me more.
DO NOT ASK IF I WOULD BE INTERESTED IN PURCHASING A FASTER INTERNET SPEED.
If your company cannot even provide me with cheapest speed for which I now pay, why do you think I would be willing to pay you even more money for a service that I imagine would be equally as unreliable?
LIKEWISE DO NOT ASK IF I WANT TO PURCHASE CABLE TV FROM YOU.
Again, even if I were interested in cable television, which I’m not, why would I purchase it from a company that can’t even get my internet up and running?
Am I making sense?
Do you see where I’m coming from?
DO NOT ASK IF I WANT TO PURCHASE THE SO-CALLED WIRE PROTECTION PLAN OR WHATEVER IT’S CALLED.
I have called to report my internet being down who knows how many times, and each time a technician comes out to discover the problem is on your end. I resent whole-heartedly the fact that you try and play on my supposed insecurities or lack of intelligence in order to get me to purchase some $6 monthly junk fee so that in the rare instance when my internet connection isn’t working because of something I’ve done you will come and fix my mistake.
If I had paid the $6 fee for the 48 or so months that I’ve had your service I would have paid for your CEO’s orthodonture bill three times over by now with no benefit to me. Conversely if it should happen that someday my internet connection isn’t working because I pummeled my modem with a sledge hammer or something I would therefor have to pay $35. You do the math.
DO NOT TRY TO MAKE IDLE CHITCHAT WITH ME WHILE YOU’RE JUMPING THROUGH THE HURDLES YOU HAVE TO GO THROUGH IN ORDER TO GET A TECHNICIAN OUT TO MY HOUSE.
I am pissed when I call, and you asking about the crying baby in the background or what my local weather’s like surprisingly doesn’t make me any calmer nor does it make me want to be your new friend. Asking me things like whether I use the internet for business or pleasure will only result in making me angrier. When I call you, I’m not using the internet for business or pleasure. I’m not using it because you won’t provide me with the always-on service you tout. My internet isn’t on. That’s why I’m calling.
One agent actually had the audacity to ask me how my voiceover internet phone service (i.e. Vonage) was working out for me. First of all this question reaks of a segue into asking if I’d be willing to purchase some phone service from you for an additional fee and secondly, I have no problems with my current telephone service provider except when my internet connection is down. In other words, my phone works until you mess it up.
I am not necessarily opposed to purchasing additional services from you, but before I do so, I’d like to see the one service you do provide me with operate continually for at least six months. Does that sound unreasonable to you?
IF I ASK FOR YOUR OPERATOR I.D. DO NOT RESPOND BY ASKING ME DID I DO SOMETHING WRONG?
One of your agents was kind enough to explain to me that because you are not permitted to give your last name to me for security reasons, you are then required, when asked, to give out your operator ID. I have worked in a call center so I understand the hesitancy in doing so, but the fact is you have to do it. If you refuse, I will immediately call back and ask the agent who answers for the operator ID of the last person with whom I spoke. I will likely preface this request with something like The last person I spoke with was so helpful that I’d like to write a letter telling the VP of sales what a good job he did. So taken aback was I with his outstanding service that I neglected to get his operator ID. Would you be so kind as to give it to me? Thanks.
Granted, that’s usually a ruse, but I have written such letters in the past to express my gratitude for exceptional customer service. Regardless, if you were the paranoid ninny who wouldn’t give me her operator ID, I did call back to get it from one of your next-cube neighbors.
Now for a few kudos . . .
On the past two occasions I’ve had to call because my internet service is down (both calls were made in the same week), a technician came out to my house the same day of my call. Before when I would call I was told to wait for as long as two weeks before someone would come out to the house. And even then that person could only diagnose the problem. I had to wait even longer for someone else to come out and fix it.
This newly implemented prompt service could simply be an improvement in your company’s inner workings, but I can’t help but wonder if it’s because my customer profile shows I’ve previously filed a complaint against you with the FCC. Regardless, thanks for the speedy service.
I do however wish you would send someone out to my neighborhood to bury the cable you currently have stretching across three driveways into my lawn. The makeshift repair job your crew did has already been disconnected once. I’m tempted to blame some hoodlum kids waiting for the bus because I’m crotchety that way, but truth be told it could be the result of any of the three next-door neighbors pulling out to go to work in the morning. For all I know a squirrel is the culprit, but it wouldn’t have happened if you made the necessary repairs.
I swear that doohickey R2-D2-looking thing down the street where you have all those bootleg wires coming out is reminiscent of the communications device that E.T. jerry rigged using a Speak & Spell and some dental floss. Is that actually dangerous or just ghetto? ‘Cause either way, we don’t roll like that around here.
In closing, I just want to state that I don’t think the biggest dumbasses out there are your customers; they’re your stockholders. Sure, I continue to pay you for a crappy product which is pretty stupid when you think about it, but if your company continues its current standard of service once regional monopolies are busted up by encroaching competition, Charter sales will plummet and so will your NASDAQ rating. I’m no doomsdayer. This just goes without saying.
Once this happens, Charter Communications will go the way of Betamax and meanwhile I’ll still be trying to get my blog fix via some clothesline and 1980s children’s toys.
With any luck Drew Barrymore will show up and offer to take me trick or treating.
3/31/07 — Because my headache with Charter continues, I have decided to keep a running log of progresses and setbacks I encounter along the way. Here’s a brief rundown of today’s events.
I received a bill in the mail for $90.29, a whopping $40 more than my usual bill. Closer inspection showed a $35 charge for cable television service for which I do not subscribe and the price I normally pay for internet service increased by $5. I know from personal experience having worked in a call center that these types of issues are best handled one at a time, especially if the customer service rep isn’t a native English speaker. I got the impression from this rep’s accent that indeed he was not.
No worries. I don’t care if a guy has an accent. I just want my problem solved.
I spoke with Michael who freely gave me an operator I.D. He was polite, efficient and easy to understand. He claimed that the $35 was a one-time service charge because of the technician who came out to half-ass repair a broken cable along my street.
OK, half-ass was my wording not his.
When I explained to Michael that I had been told I would only have had to pay the $35 if and only if the wiring problem was inside my house (which it was not), he put me on hold, came back and removed the service charge.
That was nice, but I still had lots of issues with my bill.
I pointed out that my previous bill had been for only $50.29 and most recently I was being charged $54.99 for the same service. Michael again put me on hold and returned saying I was sent something in the mail about an upcoming increase in my monthly service charge. Because I had received no such notice, he not only said he would reinstate my $49.99 plan but also give me three months of a promotional deal at only $39.99 per month. This would take effect on my next three billing cycles, i.e. the bills I would receive on or around April 27, May 27 and June 27.
Already let me just say that Michael has provided me with far better assistance than most of the previous people I’ve spoken to at Charter put together. And that’s a shitload of people. Then again if Michael worked for a company that better handled its billing and service provision, he wouldn’t have to deal with people like me on the phone.
Anyway, I still had some concerns about my bill. The front of it looked like this:
Mind you this was after a bit of scribbling on my part, and I edited out my personal info and such. I don’t need you weirdos trying to hunt me down.
But notice the charge for cable television and the increase in charges for internet service. Incidentally I love the little blurb that says Expect More from Charter.
Trust me. I do.
A lot more.
But the back of my bill looks like this:
I’d like to say it sheds more light on the whole matter, but really it just confuses me further. Look at the $5 fee. You know what that’s for?
You’d think by looking at it that I rent a cable modem from Charter, but indeed I don’t. I own the modem outright. When I asked for further clarificaiton on this charge, Michael informed me that this was a fee I pay . . . are you ready for this? . . . because I don’t order any other lines of service from Charter.
In other words, they charge me for internet service, and on top of that they charge me more money because Idon’t order anything else from them. You might think they’d just roll the fee in to my one service fee, but they don’t. They write it out plain as day.
Well, not exactly plain as day. They try and make it look like it’s for a legitimate service, i.e. modem rental, when in fact it’s nothing more than a penalty fee. To further confirm this, I asked Michael if I were to cancel my Charter services (trust me in that I’ve thought about it on multiple occasions) would I be expected to then return the modem?
“Certainly not,” he said.
While Michael provided me with more help than I expected, he still was unable to provide an answer to my next question. Frankly, no one else at Charter has either. That is: What happens if I receive my next bill one month from now and at that time Charter’s maintenance team still has not come out to my house to repair the jerryrigged contraption in my neighborhood with a cable that stretches across three driveways?
So far my answer has been that once they do come out, I can call and get a credit for the time the service was down. As I understand it, this means they expect me to continue paying for lack of service with the expectation of getting back the money I already paid once the service comes back up.
As ludicrous as this sounds, I might be okay with that if I were truly going to receive a credit dating all the way back to when the service was down. But something tells me that when that time does come and they do bury the cable in the neighborhood, I’m going to call back for a credit dating back to March 21, and they’re going to tell me I’m out of luck because I already paid the bill for that billing cycle.
I don’t know this for a fact, but I do suspect, and I’m going to let you know if and when it happens.
I am thankful for the help I received today, and I likely will write a letter expressing my gratitude and restating what was said to me for purposes of clarification. After all what people say to you on the phone means nothing. It’s what they bill you for that counts.
Incidentally does anyone know what happens if I write to the governement agency they list as the franchise authority in small print at the bottom of the page? In my case they said it’s my county commissioner’s office though they didn’t capitalize the name of my county. There is no excuse for that.
Gwinnett is great, y’all.