Why the many-months hiatus on this blog? Chalk it up getting a mortgage, finding a house, making it through a truly epic short sale, rehabbing the formerly abandoned place to something livable again, and then, finally, moving in two days before Christmas. None of that, however, compared with the stress, hassle, and aggravation of our attempt to gain phone and Internet service for that new house through Charter Cable.
Things started well enough. The Installer arrived on time (on Moving Day, no less, while the truck was being loaded at the other place). He was pleasant, competent, fast, and had the entire place wired and ready to go with a minimum of fuss. Then he discovered that the cable running from the node directly across the street to our house connection was bad and needed to be replaced. Before long, I was standing there with the Installer, a second Installer, and their Supervisor (Supervisor 1), who listened to me explain that being self-employed, the lack of an Internet connection is an actual livelihood issue for me. There are only so many days I can keep my business afloat from my wife’s office or the Starbucks Wi-Fi. Understanding this, they scheduled a truck to come that Saturday (in 3 days time) to pull the bad cable from the existing tube beneath the street and feed a new cable through, after which I could reschedule the actual Internet/phone service installation to get those up and running.
Everything seemed good, right?
Then Saturday came, and went, but no truck. Or word from Charter.
And then Sunday came, and went, but still no truck. Or word from Charter.
I called Charter that Sunday night and was informed by Representative 1 that the cable replacement had been rescheduled for the next Saturday (a week later). Not that she could be give me any information why that date had been rescheduled, or why we hadn’t been informed, or how the cable replacement and getting our service up and running could be expedited. She did pass me through to her supervisor (Supervisor 2), though, who unfortunately had no more information than she had. Except to say that despite what Supervisor 1 told me to my face, and in front of two installers, these were actually only “tentative” dates, and that the actual work could occur up to a week on either side, earlier or later. Not what I wanted to hear, obviously, though he did promise to email the dispatcher in my area and that either they or he would get back to me the next day with how we could expedite this process.
Of course, no one ever called back.
My wife, however, did receive a call from Charter (Representative 2), ironically enough to market additional services we could sign up for. As my wife explained, we couldn’t even get Charter to establish the services we had already signed up for. Representative 2 looked through our file, agreed this was an unacceptable (and bizarre) situation, and promised to forward the entire file to her supervisor (Supervisor 3), who would get back to us within a day with more information and how we could expedite this process.
Of course, again, no one ever called back.
Increasingly frustrated (and justifiably angry), I called Charter again a few days later and spoke with Representative 3. Unfortunately, Representative 3 chose this time to selectively enforce certain Charter privacy provisions—namely, the service order was actually in my wife’s name, and I was not officially listed as “authorized” for any information on the account, despite my having already dealt with Charter at the supervisor level (twice) about this issue and my own cell phone number being listed as the contact number for Charter to call. (Rules are rules, apparently, even if scheduled—and rescheduled—repair dates are only “tentative.”)
And of course, after making me hunt down my wife, get her onto the phone, and finally being “authorized” to discuss and receive information about this account, Representative 3 then told me that she had no information.
She did, however, pass me through to Supervisor 4, who at least waived our installation and setup charges. And told us that last Saturday’s scheduled cable replacement had been postponed because no truck had been available. (At last, actual information, and only on the third phone call made and the fifth person spoken to!) Supervisor 4 also told us, however, that our file had no record of Supervisor 3 ever looking at or receiving our file. And that there was no way to expedite replacement of those twenty or so feet of cable running from the node through that tube to our house. He did give me his Employee ID number, however, and his promise to follow through on this issue and keep us up to date.
As you can guess by now, Supervisor 4 never called back, either.
And of course, the next Saturday came, and went, with no truck. And again, with no word from Charter.
Still not having heard anything, from anyone, I called Charter yet again first thing Monday morning and spoke with Representative 4. According to him, no truck had been available this second scheduled Saturday, either, but even worse, no third attempt at a replacement date was even scheduled now. I gave him Supervisor 4’s name and ID number and asked to be put through to him, only to be told there was no way to transfer me to this man, though Representative 4 could try to send Supervisor 4 a note (somehow) to call me. And rather than put me through to yet another supervisor, Representative 4 offered me a chance to speak with a “senior rep.” Apparently, we didn’t even rate a supervisor at this point, which did not go over well this deep into our now multi-week ordeal. I declined and got Representative 4 to put in a call to dispatch instead, and to have them call me.
And surprisingly, for once, someone actually called back. Within two minutes my getting off the line with Representative 4. They said they were from “Escalations,” and that they would call me back as soon as a truck was available, and then rushed off the phone in less than a minute, giving me no actual person’s name or way to contact them ourselves.
Two days later, we still hadn’t heard a word. Not from Dispatch. Not from Supervisor 2. Not from Supervisor 3. Not from Supervisor 4. Not even from “Escalations.”
At this point, I tried calling Charter Corporate, hoping to at least reach “Escalations.” Twice. Only to have the automated system each time dump me into the regular Customer Service lines. Desperate, my wife and I even drove to the brick-and-mortar Charter office for our area. Maybe, we thought, just maybe, dealing with someone face to face might cut through the stonewalling.
Of course, it didn’t.
As we were told, face to face, by Representative 5, this was simply a sales and billing office. There was nothing he could do about our situation. There was also no brick-and-mortar location for Dispatch that we could go to. And there was no phone number for them (or, apparently, for “Escalations”) that we could call directly. But, “as a courtesy,” he could ask his supervisor to contact Dispatch and ask someone get back to us.
At this point, mind you, the phrase “as a courtesy” takes on a whole different meaning. Especially after two weeks to Charter Supervisors never calling back as promised, and Charter basically making us chase after them for any scrap of information and literally fight to become paying customers.
Don’t do us any favors, Charter. Seriously.
I don’t want to blame poor Representative 5 (too much), but this was the final slap in the face, and the last yank of our chain, that we were willing to put up with. After two weeks, we no longer even had a “tentative” date for the bad cable to be replaced, or a single name or extension number of someone who would actually follow this issue through and who we could contact for updates. Or who would just touch base with us every day or two to say he or she had no new information but was still on it, and that we hadn’t been forgotten.
Or taken for granted. As if never-ending patience on our part with their disorganization, lack of information, and shoddy customer relations, not to mention the hit to my own livelihood and work schedule as a result, were simply Charter’s due. In a nutshell, we had reached the customer service equivalent of Charter asking us to say “Thank you, sir. May I please have another?”
So, we went home and found another option. Then we called Charter to cancel our order. I won’t even give this Representative a number, because my wife spoke with several until one of them finally understood what we were trying to do, and that we couldn’t give them an account number because Charter had never actually established service for an actual account and so had never even given us an actual account number. Either way, Representative 6+ finally called up our ever-lengthening file, and then told us that instead of a truck not being available, Charter was actually waiting for a permit from the county to pull the twenty feet or so of bad cable out of the existing underground tube and then feed a new cable through that same, already-existing tube.
Even in regulation- and permit-happy California, that just seems odd. Especially since no one, not once, ever mentioned a permit issue, even as a remote possibility, until we were canceling our service order, two weeks after this “adventure” began. So even if that was the complete and honest truth (and paying no attention to the previous claims of “truck unavailability”), Charter had by this point destroyed any credibility that might have given us cause to actually believe what we were now being told.
By anyone at Charter.
I’ve worked customer service myself, by the way. And I know the real measure of a company isn’t that nothing ever goes wrong, or that mistakes never get made. It’s how a company responds to and corrects those issues. And Charter Cable failed, repeatedly, on this measure.
Goodbye, Charter. You had two willing, even eager, potential customers, but no longer.
UPDATE 1: This morning, several days after cancelling our service order, my wife received a call from Charter. Representative 7+, the poor guy, wanted to know if we could explain why we cancelled our service order with them, and had absolutely no knowledge of anything described above.
We don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
UPDATE 2: Three weeks after moving in, we finally have home Internet access. Serviceable, retro, DSL Internet. Courtesy of Verizon, which had their own issues, problems, and glitches but also gave us a single contact person who actually worked with us, who we could actually reach ourselves, and best of all, who actually called us back and kept us updated — and finally made something happen. Well done, Verizon.
Charter could learn a lesson from them.
UPDATE 3: Last night, a friend pointed me toward Charter Policy Resources, the FB page where Charter Communications touts its current merger with several other cable companies and all the great services and social good the new Charter provides. Seeing they had a Visitors’ Posts section, I commented that I agreed with their FAQ (that Charter does, in fact, need to improve their customer service) and included a link to this blog write-up of our experience.
Within an hour or so, the entire Visitors’ Posts section had disappeared.
UPDATE 4: Lengthy, detailed letter of complaint mailed to the CEO, COO, and VPs of Field Operations and Customer Operations.
UPDATE 5: Came home last night to a voice-mail message from someone at the “Charter Executive Office,” letting us know that they’re “reviewing the letter,” apologizing for what we’ve been through, and promising to try and “touch base” with us tomorrow about what can be done.
Ironically, not to mention conveniently and predictably, the call registered as coming from the 888-line for customer service, and the caller left no extension number, so it’s not like we can call him back ourselves. Though admittedly, given that the Customer Service line couldn’t even put me through to a specific Customer Service supervisor given his name and Employee ID number, it is tempting to call and ask to be put through to “[First Name Only] at the Executive Office”…
UPDATE 6: Just had a long conversation with an area Charter manager, who was very apologetic, stunned, helpful, and is (finally) our single point of contact after Charter Corporate came down on their local office following a certain letter they received. He promises to replace that node cable ASAP and make it up to us.
We’re keeping that DSL line until they actually do, of course.
Sweet, sweet victory…