Sunday, September 11, 2011

Charter got it all wrong, starting with the porn

I am pretty funny about customer service.  I appreciate really good service. Somehow, that isn't what I attract, despite my continuing affirmations.

For the first time, I had Charter Communications at our summer place.  I was excited to have access to be able to work, write, and upload my pictures, all from the comfort of my beach.

But working with Charter was painful.  Awful.  Really, really bad.

It started with the installation.  The technicians informed us that 1) they weren't judgmental, and 2) they had to confirm that they were installing the Triple X package.  I didn't know what that was. (I am so naive sometimes)  It took a few minutes for me realize what they were saying.  They had an installation order for the porn package.  Took a couple of conversations and a call to the customer service center to sort out that we wanted TRIPLE PLAY - you know, phone, cable and Internet  - NOT TRIPLE X - you know, PORN.

For the first two months, my bill was wrong.  I kept track.  Five hours to resolve the mess.

I had a couple of calls to their customer support when I had no cable signal.

They wouldn't honor the original price (that I had in writing).  They insisted that they had the right to raise prices at any time since I didn't lock in a price by buying their 2 year upgrade.

After the first month, they raised the cost of renting the modem $2.

We are seasonal users.  We are at the cottage in the summer and pretty much not there in the winter.   Charter wanted $45/month to keep our account active.  No access - no Internet, no phone, and no cable.  Just $45  a month, over $300 off-season, for the privilege of keeping an account open with Charter.

So we turned everything off and turned in the gear.   And awesome office hours.  9-5:30, Monday through Friday.

Their business model is outdated.  This area has over 3,000 seasonal residents and Charter is dictating services based on what is convenient for them, not for their customers.  They have a monopoly in the area and by definition, there is no other option.  Here's hoping that by spring of 2012, another business model emerges or other options become available.

I will concede that the porn part was pretty funny.  At least I got a laugh at their expense.


Bob said...

Don't you just love these cable companies that have monopolies?
My nemesis is Comcast. They are now haunting me with the Condo that Nancy and her siblings bought for their parents. Her parents have been in the Condo since August 23rd and still their service is not fully operational.
Every phone call results in another excuse. The latest one is that the internet is still connected at their old house somehow but their TV service was transferred to the Condo. We can't even get a date for when it will be corrected.

Eileen A. Brodie said...

Because watching people in various jobs exhibit a real lack of care is so disappointing, I find myself on a mission to applaud anyone I see doing a "pro" job. At whatever job, getting engaged and doing it well serves both sides of the counter: at a minimum, the server's shift passes faster if they embrace a good process. A sense of pride, (what a concept) is there to be earned.

Polarizing the exchange by treating customers as "shills" is good for no one, & bad for business. Being remote and incompetent, terrible. Next time you see excellence, compliment the person you observed.

Deirdre said...

Bob, you and Paul share a Comcast experience. He has gotten fabulous service when contacting Comcast via Twitter. If you need the contact, I would be happy to forward,

Eileen, that's my next post! My killer Dell died (on vacation) and from the call this AM, it has all exceeded my expectations. And I got an upgraded hard drive. More on that later.

I wished only for options. Monopolies tie our hands.

Abby Catron said...

Hi Deirdre,

We came across your blog and appreciate your sense of humor to the situation. However, this is NOT the kind of experience we'd want any of our customers to have and are terribly sorry to see the outcome. There are a lot of areas for opportunity here and we'd like to take a look at the account so that your feedback can be put into action. Please send us an email at with the name, address, and/or phone number associated with the account. Be sure to put "CharterAbby - Blog -" in the subject line so that I can keep an eye out. If you consider our service in the future, my team would love the opportunity to show you a better customer experience.

For more info on Charter's Social Media Team please see our webpage:

Thank you,

Abby Catron
Senior Social Media Specialist - Charter

Tim McDonnell said...


It is nice to see that Abby at Charter has reached out to you and hopefully there will be a satisfactory resolution. Your post is interesting, funny and frustrating all at the same time. I have been a customer of Charter for a many years and I am usually ready to pound my head against the wall when I get off the phone with their customer service department--especially on the cable side. On a positive note, the last several times I have called, I have gotten a US call center so I could at least understand the person on the other end of the phone.

My biggest frustration with Charter is that every year your "deal" expires and they raise your rates by some ridiculous amount when at the same time they are offerring new customers a greatly reduced rate. There is no reward for loyalty--of course that ties in with the monopoly and the way cable contracts are awarded by the local municipality. What is even more annoying is that when I call to voice my displeasure and elevate the call to the right level of supervisor, I always get my rate reduced back to where it was or even lower. Of course, that is only after I take an hour or more out of my day to make the calls and sit on hold.

Their business model is broken. Think for a moment how happy I would be if I opened my bill and it said that the rate for my "package" was staying the same or going down without me having to do anything! I would be doing cart-wheels down the street and telling everyone who would listen.

Most companies do not empower their front line customer service people to take care of these seemingly simple issues so I have developed a strategy for getting to the people who have the authority. This also allows you to avoid speaking with "Bob" in New Delhi or Manilla.

Here are the steps:

1. Go to the company website.

2. Find the most recent press release. The press room for most companies is in the Investor Relations area of the website.

3. All press releases have the name of the PR person, their contact information and most times their direct dial phone number.

4. Call the PR person directly and tell them the problem. The PR people always answer the phone. They may not solve the problem directly but they will get you to the right people who can help.

It works every time. I call a wonderful woman named Anita Lamont at Charter's St. Louis office every May when they jack my rate up. Let me know if things don't work out with Abby and I will get you her number.

Good luck!

Deirdre said...

Thanks Abbey, I will reach out to you today. The issues that I have are systemic but will certainly give you a shot at them.

Tim, thank you. This is the best "how-to" list of dealing with these cable companies. Just didn't wish I had to. I may follow up with Anita. Thanks so much.

Anonymous said...

Tim, great advice for dealing with any company with outdated business models (which is my book reads terrible customer service.)

Deirdre, hope it works for you. I know you will keep us posted!

Tim McDonnell said...


I just got off of my annual call to Charter Communications because my bill went up without any notice. I will say one thing for this company--they are consistent. Every year my price goes up at the end of my "promotional rate" and every year I call and deal with two to three people in a very frustrating loop of customer service reps who ask the same questions over and over. Ultimately, I get to the correct person (today that was Shun) and eventually, my new rate for the same service is lower. In today's case lower than what I was paying last year?!?!?! The thing that I will never understand and that the people I spoke with today did not understand is why I have to go through this every year and why Charter chooses to do this to their customers.

On the front of my bill there is a panel entitled "Charter News". This month I see the VERY IMPORTANT announcement about Wrestlemania XXVIII! Here is an idea--Why not print a notice in this panel:

Dear Valued Charter Subscriber,

Your "promotional pricing" is expiring; but because Charter values your brand loyalty, you can continue to receive the same package for the next XX months for the new low rate of $XX per month. This is Charter's way of saying thank you to our valued clients! If you would like to take advantage of this offer, please email . . .You get the picture

How many people do you think I would tell about a positive customer service experience like the one I propose above? Instead, I will continue to tell people how frustrating it is to deal with a company that does not understand customer service and the value of loyal customers.