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A lesson in Poor Customer Service (aka Charter Communications)

COW Blogs : walter biscardi's Blog : A lesson in Poor Customer Service (aka Charter Communications)
So here in this section of the Atlanta area, our cable provider is Charter Communications. About 4 months ago we dropped their TV service that we’ve had since about 1998 because their HD picture left a lot to be desired. Specifically, we had about 12 HD channels and of those, only 2 were sharp on any given day. The others were a mess of very obvious compression artifacts. And at one point we had Charter install what was supposedly an HD DVR but it was obviously some really REALLY bad analog DVR that did some horrible upscaling of SD material to make it look like quasi HD. The standard HD receiver was far superior to the “HD DVR” and we had that DVR removed almost immediately.

So we switched to DirecTV after discussing the lack of HD programming and poor picture with a fellow colleague in television production. He told me that not only did DirecTV have about 100 HD channels, but they were all clean HD signals. He’s been with DirecTV about 10 years now so I knew he was pretty happy with the service. He was right. The HD signals are clean across all the channels, including the “On Demand” channels. And the dual recording DVR is absolutely fantastic. My favorite features so far? The customer service has been outstanding when I’ve had to make a call. The ability to program the DVR with my iPhone when we’re out and remember something we want to record. I LOVE that feature!

But this is a lesson in poor customer service Walt. So far it just sounds like you got tired of your service from Charter and made the switch to DirecTV. End of story. Well, here’s where it gets interesting and what follows is without a doubt the absolute worst customer service I have ever experienced.

While we dropped the cable TV service, we did retain the high speed internet service from Charter. I’m paying for 20mbps, have been for years, but due to bandwidth issues that have always dogged Charter, we rarely get speed over 8mbps. So I finally got fed up with this and Charter sent a technician out here to look at the lines. This was at 5:00pm on a Friday evening.

He did a few things, then went outside to look at the cable connections. Our speeds jumped to 20mbps on the download. Well that was interesting, but of course I know that every time we re-set our modem, our speeds jump right up, only to settle back down to about 8mbps within the next 24 hours. But at least while he’s there, the speeds are good. We say goodnight to the technician and head out to a dinner engagement.

9:30pm we turn on the TV in our family room. No satellite signal. It’s a clear night, nothing to interfere with the signal. So I go up to the bedroom. No satellite signal. Grab a flashlight and walk outside to the cable connections. The digital splitter that was installed by DirecTV to connect the satellite dish to our TV’s has been removed and the four cables are just sitting there. The Charter Communications technician removed the DirecTV splitter and then stole it from our property. This is incredible.

Call Charter Communications help line immediately. There is no supervisor available, no one to help us at this hour. The operator says she will file a “damage report” and a supervisor will call back in 24 to 48 hours. But call back in the morning to see if I can get in touch with someone at that time.

I call back on Saturday morning at 8am. The operator sees the damage report in my file, but we have to “follow protocol” and wait for a supervisor to call me back in 24 to 48 hours. I cannot be put through to a supervisor by this operator. There are no plans to send a technician to my property until the supervisor calls me back. She tells me it was an “honest mistake” by the technician. An honest technician would inform the customer that he/she removed a splitter from the outside of the house so you now have 4 TV cables just hanging loose out there, is that ok?

I call back on Saturday afternoon around 3pm. Once again I’m told we have to “follow protocol” and no one has called back.

Sunday afternoon at 1pm I go to Home Depot and pick up a digital splitter and reconnect the DirecTV signal myself.

It is now Tuesday morning at 8am and have not received any phone call from any supervisor at Charter Communications. We’re heading towards 96 hours waiting on that 48 hour phone call to discuss the theft of personal property from my house by a technician working for Charter Communications. Nevermind that the technician had no right to even be touching any of the TV gear.

I would call the police and report the theft, but it is really worth it over a $12 part. Charter certainly doesn’t seem to think so.

So if you really, REALLY want to lose a customer, simply follow the example outlined above. And if you want to check out DirecTV’s offerings, they’re still running killer deals like the one we have.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Nov 10, 2009 at 5:11:11 amComments (3) business, cable tv, customer service


Yes, it could be worse...
by Ron Lindeboom
I can't remember who owned the local cable service here before Charter bought it from them, but they were simply pitiful. Think poor service on steroids. I was so glad when Charter bought it from them. Like you, I have heard horrible stories of Comcast, as well. But after deregulation, all phone companies and cable companies basically lost the meaning and will to bother with customer service.
Looking forward to U-Verse
by walter biscardi
Well, with any luck we'll have a better experience with the new U-Verse service AT&T is rolling out locally. Some friends already have it and love it. On the internet side they're up to 18mbps with 24 coming soon. AND it's a direct fiber line to the house so no bandwidth sharing with the hundreds of neighbors.

On the TV side (which we're not getting right now) they have a DVR that actually records 4 channels at once. We could have used that recently, but since we're happy with DirecTV at the moment, we're staying with them. Have not had any issues with them other than the original installation. When we went with the National 800 number to set up the appointment, they never showed. Then my brother in law set us up with a local DirecTV dealer and that has made all the difference. Did a great job with the setup and then when I noticed the cables were dragging on the ground instead of being tidied up, the technician came right back out the next day to clean it up and even ran a different cable so it would reach properly.

Yes, Customer Service is definitely a thing of the past in most companies. Charter finally called us about 3:30pm yesterday, about 80 hours after our first report. They were going to have a resolution within the hour. It's now almost 8am the next day. Yep, you guessed it. No return call, no resolution.

I guess it could be worse, I've heard even greater horror stories with Comcast......
Ask Kathlyn about AT&T sometime...
by Ron Lindeboom
We tried three times to get them to come and hook up DSL as a back-up to our Charter internet.

Twice they left without successfully hooking it up, left the equipment, made no attempt to come back -- they only came back when we kept calling asking when they were going to get it working -- and they started the bill for over $300 when we had nothing.

We had to fight with them repeatedly over a period of a couple of months to get the charges rescinded. They did not want to but were quite happy to keep charging us for nothing.

We got rid of Dish Network (who now owns DirecTV, also) when their system kept going out and we had to get them out repeatedly to reset and recalibrate the system. Finally towards the end, they set-up a phone system that walks you through the most frequent issues and helps you get things back to normal. It was far better than waiting for the truck.

Sadly, as you say, customer service is a thing of the past.

Professional Video Editor, Producer, Creative Director, Director since 1990.

Credits include multiple Emmys, Tellys, Aurora and CableAce Awards.

Creative Director for Georgia-Pacific and GP Studios, Atlanta. Former Owner / Operator of Biscardi Creative Media. The show you knew us best for was "Good Eats" on the Food Network. I developed the HD Post workflow and we also created all the animations for the series.

Favorite pastime is cooking with pizza on the grill one of my specialties. Each Christmas Eve we serve the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a traditional Italian seafood meal with approx. 30 items on the menu.

If I wasn't in video production I would either own a restaurant or a movie theater.



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