Ideas on People and Performance, Team Building, Motivation and Innovation

Nothing Made Sense – Charter Spectrum Customer Service

I was not intending to blog again today. But this is insane! And I have to vent about customer service — emphasizing the cuss part of that more than the service part, of course.

(Addendum – Read what I added to the bottom because the circus clowns called Charter Spectrum continue to shock and amaze… New text will be in purple.)

Addendum to the addendum – Amber was an outstanding customer service rep who handled the followup call to install the TV nicely. But she also added $10 to the bill because of the SC taxes and stuff, something that I asked specifically about with Shannon, the rep mentioned below — who said the total would be $88. Paying $1000+ a year for TV and internet DOES put all this out of the reach of many in our society, too. Sad that everything has to be for-profit in the US. Estonia has free internet for its people…

Let me lead with Joseph Heller’s quote, “Nothing made sense and neither did anything else.”

Charter Spectrum Service Quality Image

The hour begins with my cellphone ringing. An unknown 877 number. I answer. Long pause and a guy comes on to tell me that my Charter Spectrum account is overdue and they are going to turn off my cable service. I actually have a bill on my desk and was going to call them about this, but calling is always an interesting Square Wheels process given their “automated customer calling direction systems” are so user unfriendly, so good they called me.

He tells me that $48 is overdue.

I ask him if this account was not already set up for Auto-Pay, the automatic deduction from my credit card. Oops. It is!! It has been set up to be paid automatically.

And, it is actually going to automatically pay tomorrow — and it was set up over 6 weeks ago. (Actually, it was set up in October but they screwed it up and needed to set it up again.) “So,” I ask him, “what do we do right now?” He says no action is needed. (Ha! Keep reading!)

Charter (now trying to operate as Spectrum because the name Charter carries so much negative service quality baggage, I guess. Note that I have blogged before and done illustrations to complain about them!!) also sent me a letter that my promotional rate on my internet was going up from $40 to $60. So, While Charter on my mind, I called them.

For $27 more, I can add a DVR and their TV service. I talk about this with Shannon. There is also a $37 service call fee that I did get her to mention. So, I ask her to waive that and she looks at her current promotional offerings and then tells me that because my account is (still) being dunned even though she sees that it IS set to auto-pay tomorrow, I will need to call them back!!!

I am also smart enough to think to ask WHEN I should call, because they will not handle anything until auto-pay happens and the account is reset. I HAVE TO CALL THEM AGAIN, go through the whole automated menu, get another rep, explain all the stuff again, etc. They do NOT have my main phone number listed on this account so I have to give all the address info, etc. Seriously, I ask. Yes, she says.

(This is one of those situations where artificial intelligence and robotics are most certainly more capable than some human being trying to operate within a “customer service billing system” that totally sucks. A somewhat intelligent robot with systems access should do this easily — they will not allow their people to do intelligent things, apparently throughout history given Charter’s sterling reputation for absolutely horrible customer service.)

So, I made a note to call them tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully one call. Hopefully some installer who knows what he is doing.

And then, maybe the equipment will work reliably. They replaced 4 or 5 other DVRs over the course of a year the last time I had that service.

Charter Spectrum Customer Service. Can four words be considered an oxymoron? And why do we give them a monopoly over this service? Why isn’t the internet run by the government and free to all citizens like it is in so many other developed countries? Estonia has free internet, for god’s sake…

The Square Wheels are everywhere. Some companies are really good with their customer service and their service quality management systems. But Charter / Spectrum is a monopoly and they got you because the government allows them to get you. Pretty awful.

And something even training cannot improve, since the issues are systemic to how they choose to run their business. This is one company where I look forward to artificial intelligence and smart robotics replacing how they do the job now.

Addendum – Well, I have not made that second call to Customer Service yet today to add the TV and see if they will waive that installation fee. It will be interesting.

But these clowns DID call me again with their call director 877-number, with me answering and then waiting while they decided to connect me to someone after 4 or 5 interminable seconds.

That clown representative then told me that auto-pay was scheduled for today, and nothing else, like that was good customer service.

I relayed some recent customer history and some quite candid thoughts about their service quality (using the CUSStomer Service language they so deserve) and actually asked him about the actual benefit to this call for me, as in the fact that I had a similar call from them 24 hours before (see above for details!).

But I DID ask to be transferred to Customer Service and they put me, not directly to a service person, but back into their Call Director, which actually did recognize my phone number and which then automatically gave me my account information, including the balances and past due amounts that Charter Spectrum is simply so fond of sharing.

I eventually got a representative (not representing me but representing them), and he did NOT get the phone recognition so I needed to give him all the account verification information (address and secret  security word and all that) AGAIN.

Since they had my cell phone in my account, I wanted them to change that to my landline so that when I call from my desk again later today, it would recognize who I am (maybe). We will see if that works when I call them again later this afternoon.

HOW can any company work so hard to be so absolutely awful. Their systems and processes can so easily be replaced by artificial intelligence, which I hope happens soon to them. They also wanted me to take a customer service survey after my call. It would be about the rep, of course, and not the company because they do not seem to be very focused on the customer experience overall and only want a hammer to hold over the head of their people. At least that is how it appears.

The Clowns. That is what they should have renamed the company,
Clown Cable Systems.

And, just imagine them operating with an, “If we suck, it’s FREE!” kind of service quality guarantee like many companies do these days. Just imagine…

(Installation call set up – scheduled for 20 hours after today’s call to purchase the TV / DVR. I also asked for a NEW DVR box, since the refurbished ones of the past each seem to last about 2 months before their catastrophic failure – 5 replacements in one year last time I have Charter TV… Also funny is that the call goes into Spectrum, but completing the rep service quality survey gets a thank you from “Charter” and not Spectrum.)

Lastly, I am framing up a novel about the implementation of AI and robotics and the human factors involved in implementation and the thought I just had was that my main character, Brad, will get a HUGE insight into something he can do differently as he goes through an installation experience like mine with SPECTUM Cable Clowns, something that he can see he needs to do differently to impact his people and performance issues…  Not quite sure what it IS yet, but that will be the catalytic moment for a key insight… Got an idea? Share it in the comments.


For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

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Also published on Medium.


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  1. In an article in Strategy & Business, I read this: “Amazon is doing that, too. The New York Times reported in December that Amazon is now experimenting with a retail concept dubbed Amazon Go. It has built an 1,800-square-foot store in one of its office buildings in Seattle that should start operations next year. Open at first only to Amazon employees, it will be stocked with drinks, snacks, and prepared meals. One thing it won’t be filled with is many retail employees. The store will be outfitted with technology — a smartphone app, scanners, sensors — that will enable people essentially to load goods into their bag, then walk out and pay without stopping at a check-out lane.”

    If they can do that with warehouse distribution, how long before all of those awful “customer service systems and processes” at Charter get replaced with something that allows intelligent decision-making and a smooth flow of accurate information?

  2. Angie

    Their customer service SUCKS!!! When they have no answer for your technical question they send you to the terminate services dept. WOW…such CLASS & high quality phone support staff!

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