Why cable, Internet and TV customer service sucks

Illustration by William V. Cigliano

Illustration by William V. Cigliano

Random outages that disrupt our Internet connection, interrupt a favorite television show or drop an important phone call. Agonizing calls to customer service representatives, whose promised fixes don’t materialize. A long wait for an Internet connection, erratic phone bills and surprise TV fees.

These customer service issues attract enough static from our members that Internet, phone and TV services annually rank among the most complained about categories on Angie’s List.

Nationally, Internet service ranked as the No. 2 most complained about category on the List in 2011, while phone services ranked No. 8. All three ranked among the top 10 in 2009 and 2010, according to member reports. And out of about 500 Angie’s List members responding to a recent online poll, 54 percent report having a poor experience with one of these services, with most complaining about technical difficulties, poor customer service and billing or fee issues. In addition, nearly 40 percent report spending more than $200 on their monthly bill.

Yet despite the issues, we continue to go back for more. According to the Federal Communications Commission, more than 5,300 cable TV companies served 60 million customers in 2011. Satellite TV providers DISH Network and DirecTV claim nearly 24 million customers. More than 1,800 companies nationwide offer broadband, according to the National Telecommunications Information Administration. And the International Association for the Wireless Telecommunications Industry (CTIA), a nonprofit representing the wireless industry, reports more than 331 million wireless subscribers in the U.S. in 2011.

Can you hear me now?

Angie’s List member Betty Woodward of Deltaville, Va., says she continues to pay Verizon $140 a month for her landline and cellphone even though she gave the company’s Danville, Va., location a below average rating for poor service. “I only get [cellphone] service when I stand out in the yard,” she says. “Verizon is the best of the worst because we live in a ‘dead’ area for cellphone service. We use them simply because the service area for them is better than for most. But I’ve talked to customer service many times when problems come up and that’s where most of my frustration comes from. Their agents don’t always know what they’re talking about.”

Verizon corporate spokesman Tom Pica says the company tries to meet the needs of customers by offering a variety of ways to report problems. “We encourage our customers to take advantage of all the customer support available to them from our network of Verizon Wireless stores to our online experience,” he says, noting that there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all option. Pica declined to specifically address Woodward’s issue.

How to get the best deal

Experts say consumers need to do their due diligence before signing a contract and understand exactly which cellphone services, TV channels or Internet broadband speed they need. “Start the process by doing your homework and use every means possible to find out information about companies that provide service in your area,” says Regina Costa, spokeswoman for CTIA. “Obviously, people who have had experiences with this can post it on Angie’s List. Word of mouth is very important.”

Costa says consumers should focus on price, reliability and quality of service when comparing telecommunication companies. “The best price might not be the best deal if the service doesn’t work very well,” she says. It’s also important to thoroughly review the contract before signing it. “Your rights are right there,” says Patrick Deignan, spokesman for the Citizens Utility Board of Illinois, a nonprofit organization that represents the interests of residential utility customers. “As boring as it sounds, read the fine print before signing. At the end of the day, you are your own best consumer advocate.”

Who’s got your back?

Consumer protections vary among states when it comes to Internet, phone and TV service providers. “For the most part, they aren’t regulated,” Costa says. “Or they’re regulated by the FCC, which doesn’t offer a lot of protection.” If the provider fails to address your problem, Costa suggests calling the public utilities commission, state attorney general or the local franchising authority (the government organization authorized by your state to regulate Internet, cable and satellite TV services).

Consumers can also file a free, informal complaint with the FCC. Customers not satisfied with the response of an informal complaint may file a formal complaint for $200, which starts a legal process that requires them to appear before the FCC. “The more of these types of calls they get, the more likely the states and FCC will take action,” she says. Calls to the FCC were not returned.

Costa points out that consumers hold little negotiating power when it comes to what’s included in the contract, so understand what’s in it. “You should demand, when you’re signing a contract, information on being able to cancel the service if it doesn’t work properly, and if it doesn’t work as advertised,” she says.

Member Stephanie Guttman of Tallahassee, Fla., learned how nonnegotiable some service contracts can be. After a doctor diagnosed her sister with cancer and she moved to hospice, Guttman called an 800 number for DirecTV to cancel the service. “They refused,” she says. “They kept referring to the contract and said ‘when she dies, come back to us.’” Guttman says repeated letters and phone calls to the company proved fruitless. “A contract that you cannot get out of for any reason seems absurd to me,” she says. “It’s not realistic and it makes me question their business ethics.”

Guttman says she finally posted a negative report on Angie’s List, and complained about DirecTV’s policy on Facebook. Within 30 days of those postings, DirecTV terminated the contract and credited her sister’s account. “I feel confident, with all the efforts I made, it wasn’t until I posted online that the problem got resolved,” she says. DirecTV corporate spokeswoman Meghan McLarty says supervisors typically waive service agreements and cancellation fees when a customer enters a hospice or a nursing home, but the agent who handled Guttman’s original call did not follow proper procedure. “We apologize for the inconvenience we may have caused Ms. Guttman or her family during this difficult time,” she says.

Deignan says social media often produces a more immediate solution. “Never underestimate the power of bad PR,” he says. “Your Twitter and Facebook posts tend to attract the company’s attention a lot faster than a phone call. If you’re having a real problem with a company, put it on their Facebook page. They’re going to want to address it quickly and help you resolve it.” Deignan also stresses the importance of being polite and persistent, regardless of how you seek resolution. “Being loud and rude doesn’t help.”

Mind your manners, please

Member Ray Lattof of Davie, Fla., says representatives who answered calls to AT&T’s 800 number are the ones who need to learn how to be polite: They hung up on him twice when he called to dispute unauthorized long distance charges on his landline phone bill. “I was utterly dumbfounded,” he says. “AT&T is such a worldwide business conglomerate. You just get a sense that the company has no priority on customer service at all.”

AT&T corporate spokeswoman Susan Newsham says AT&T places customer care high on its priority list. “We have apologized to Mr. Lattof for the inconvenience, answered his questions and found him a long-distance plan that better matches his needs,” she says. “Additionally, customers can get access to other support options by visiting [our website].” For instance, U-verse customers can utilize an interactive application to troubleshoot any problems, she says. “AT&T is committed to its customers, but if issues occur, please visit [our website] to get in contact with a support representative.”

Lattof, who filed an F report on the company’s poorly rated Miami location, says he’s still upset that AT&T charges him $4.77 a month for long distance calls as part of its minimum usage plan. “I will continue to be stuck paying a minimal charge for long distance, even when I make no long distance calls — and that is downright thievery,” he says.

Member Beth Holmes of Henderson, Nev., says she’s happy with her bundled Internet, TV and phone services from the highly rated Las Vegas branch of Cox Communications. “We use them because they have the best rating on Angie’s List,” she says. “We have no complaints.” The Atlanta-based company offers cable, broadband Internet and phone services to 6 million homes in 19 states. “Our goal is to be a friend in the digital age, helping our customers get the most value from their services,” says Scott Wise, Cox’s vice president of customer care.

The devil’s in the details

But Costa and Deignan recommend reviewing bundled packages with a critical eye before purchasing from any provider. “They usually start off at a really attractive price. Then they skyrocket, so be prepared,” Deignan says. Costa agrees. “You have to dig a little bit beneath the surface,” she says. “For instance, the quality of broadband service might not be as good from your telephone service as it is from your cable company.”

Member Kathy Frenklach of San Francisco says she bundled her Internet, cable and phone services through Comcast to reduce her monthly bill to $178, but she’s unhappy with the overall service she’s received from the Santa Clara location. “On weekends, I often cannot access on-demand movies,” she says. “When I call for help and give the error code as requested, the representatives can never help me with the problem.”

In response to Frenklach’s complaint, Comcast contends it’s made an effort to thoroughly educate its representatives and technicians. “We know that customers want things to be easy,” says corporate spokeswoman Jenni Moyer. “We’re making sure our agents have the tools and the training. The technician today compared to a tech 10 years ago is like comparing the Commodore 64 with an iPad. We’re continually working on making the experience better for the customer.” However, mistakes are inevitable.  “Our goal is to get it right every time, but things happen,” she says. “And when they do, we want to quickly turn it around and fix it.”


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How to connect to better Internet, TV and phone services in Indy

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David Hazen credits Angie's List with motivating Bright House Networks to finally fix his service problems. (Photo by Brandon Smith)
David Hazen credits Angie's List with motivating Bright House Networks to finally fix his service problems. (Photo by Brandon Smith)

In the Indianapolis area, Internet service ranked as the No. 2 most complained about category on Angie's List in 2011, while phone services ranked No. 3 and TV services came in at No. 8, according to member reports.

Comments

I got rid of cable 10 years ago based only on the quality of content to cost ratio, which was to wide to tolerate. It seems the ratio has grown, so I am still pleased with my choice. The new disappointment in my life is the cell phone. Expensive, burdensome, low battery life. I feel used and suckered for having it. Time to think about chucking it.

The thing is cable company knows people are suckers and don't want to give up the cable so that's why they charge so much, if everyone says no to cable like i did there wont be these high prices presently, i have antenna TV which i get the same channels that i was paying 25$ per month for FREE. basic TV that's all i need the american people are just weak and lazy just to put up an TV antenna and are too accustomed to stupid shows that have no redeeming values ..and wine they have to pay these BIG monthly bills to these scum company's

I was recently scammed by our local Cable company. I was told by their representative that because I was a college student that if for whatever reason that I needed to cancel they would waive the early termination fee. I called multiple times that I was unable to connect to their internet service. After three visits from a technician and the last one said that the unit itself was missing components, I had papers and assignments due that day! So, I told them to cancel. Second month came and I received a bill so I called again and they tried to offer this that and the other trying to get me to keep the service and I told them politely again to cancel the service. I got yet another monthly bill so for the third month in a row I called again and this time was angry and told them to cancel the service. We went through the same rigamarole of whats wrong with the service can we fix it to where I would keep the service. I finally lost my temper and they asked me to not be rude and asked me to drop off the unit at a local FED EX store which is one of their designated sites to which I promptly complied. I got a bill for almost $600. When I called they stated that they never received the receiver box and that their representative was incorrect about the way the early termination clause worked even though I was very specific and asked if there was a time limit involved with the cancellation policy. I wouldn't recommend them to anyone. If you decide to go with a local cable company for a bundled service, be sure to call the company to ensure every aspect of the contract don't just trust that the "recruiter" they send to your house to sign you up knows what they are talking about. Keep a log when you call them, be sure to include the date, time, and the person you talked to, and what the conversation was about as well as what was promised to resolve the issue. It will save you a lot of headache and money later.

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Your situation is infuriating. These companies seem to turn us into a bunch of mini benefactors only we are just ordinary people with relatively small incomes compared to the people who are really the benefactors

My solution to aggravation with cable television was simply to stop watching TV. I couldn't justify paying for channels I never watched and commercials. Now I have more time available for more enjoyable activities and be relieved that I don't have the irritations and expenses cited by other commentators.

I have been working in customer service for the last couple of years. Good customer service is what you make of it. While you may have time to sit on the phone and whine for a hour remember that the person handling your issue over the phone doesn't. Don't assume that the person answering the phone is an expert and knows everything. While some customer service reps may know more than others , remember they receive very little training. That would explain why you get different answers when you call in. Usually the people that can answer your questions or help with your issues are the ones that don't take phone calls. As for billing disputes, you as a customer are responsible for your bill. Charges should not sit on your bill for months without you knowing and then you call customer service and want the bill retro adjusted. When you call in hollering and using profanity, remember that the person on the phone will and can do everything in their knowledge and power to help. Nothing constitutes getting upset over something that is probably your mistake to begin with. Keeping a calm demeanor , will get you anything you want. Believe me , supervisors are not always available. They call in sick too. A back up is not always available either. Don't assume that the person you spoke with left remarks on the account. Most call centers have calls that come in back to back to back non stop for hours on end. So rushing off the phone makes it difficult to note your account as a another call comes in immediately afterwards. Explain your issue clearly. If you don't know , more than likely the person on the phone wont be able to help you. Lastly , if you are having problems with your cell service and you call from the device. What can we do for you ? You don't go and get your car serviced while your driving it do you ?

By your ignorant response it's evident you shouldn't be in customer service. I've been in cs for 6 years and what cs is about is integrity and resolving all concerns to build a long lasting relationship. The company I worked at told us we could never tell a customer "I don't know." We had to find an answer. You don't have time to listen to their "whining"? They are PAYING you their hard earned money for a service and when you are welching them it's called a racket. If a customer is confused then it's YOUR fault for not clarifying it for them. When people call in they ARE calm, they don't become angry until they talk to rude, flaky service agents like yourself. I recomend working on your social skills.

Maybe your bosses and your bosses' bosses should spend a lil of that bonus money they give to themselves on hiring more people and training them better :D

These companies are subsidized 20,000 dollars for each new employee they train. They go through employees like water because the companies are subsidized to forever hire and train. And then they treat their tele-reps like utter garbage. It's all about numbers numbers numbers, metrics. If you work hard and miss the metric by 1% you might get some micromanaging idiot standing on your desk screaming at you. If you have to pee, tough luck. You're treated like you're in kindergarten. If you're 20 seconds late back to your desk, tough luck, you get a point deducted. Calls are misdirected to the wrong departments all the time and those calls go against the reps all-important metrics and can be cause for termination. They're asinine corporations with rules for 5 year olds and a revolving door subsidized by the federal government. What could possibly go wrong?

I have studied Customer Service issues for nearly 20 years and here is what I found out. Lousy customer service starts at the top. It is a clear and concise corporate strategy. The reason being is that sure we may loose some customers, but in the end we probably did not want them as customers in the first place. CEO's and senior executives will deny this but I have seen it in action. When I was hired to help a large insurance company improve it's customer service, I told the senior leadership that they would have to be involved everyday...they wanted nothing to do with it. When I asked them if anyone in the room was involved in customer service, no one raised their hand. I turned to the CEO and said he needed to fire everyone in the room, because if you are not involved in customer service, you are of no value to the company. Point made

These companies only get poor ratings because the customers do not understand how any of it works or understand how to use it properly. If your internet is slow its probably because you have spyware and viruses all over your network. If your TV signal is poor is probably because you have 10 splitters in your basement running all over the place. If there is a bad storm there is a good chance you may lose service get over it. If you live out in the middle of nowhere your cell coverage will not be very good and why would the provider spend all that money for a tower for 3 people?

The best comments here addressed old infrastruture and RF signals. I have a home network with 6 wireless capable PC's and other devices. My neighborhood is an old neighborhood but it is so connected when you look out back every home or neighboring businesses have roof top satellite dishes, hardwire cable and phone connections, wireless utility metering. My alley way looks like some place in India or Mexico, wires strung every where. I eventually had to upgrade to commercial grade AOSS in my house to communicate with all my devices. It let me know retail routers are like top-shelf whiskey after pours. Now I can see all the wireless crap surrounding my house.

they have the rudest and most inept customer service associates in the world, they dont want to be bothered with your problems and get nasty with you when you keep telling them they have yet to fix the problem.

I think most of the bad service is in direct correlation to the lack of training the customer representatives receive from their companies. These are mostly lower salaried, young individuals who don't stay in their jobs very long. I could never understand why a company would pay such poor wages to those on their front lines, but they almost always do. If you are lucky enough to actually speak to a technician, then you may get your problem solved, or someone on a management level for a billing issue. Then of course, most folks out there simply don't know how to use the equipment they have, and will complain because of it. Communications technology isn't a perfect science, and things go wrong. It is equally incumbent on the user to know how to use what they purchase. Customers are often wrong too!

TV sucks also. Not really worth paying for. Best thing now is to use an antenna to bring in local HD stations and get streaming movies off the internet. That's all ya need.

You are totally right, Joe. That is what we do in my house and it works out just great. A wire from a second older computer to the TV and I can watch almost anything I want for very little cost. (I only pay for Netflix) Try it people. You really don't need all those channels.

The worst customer service I've had is from Verizon: could not keep same phone number (FCC violation), not getting credit for returned equipment, billing problems, and more. The Verizon representative told us, " it's not my problem". Being on hold for 45 minutes to 2 hours was typical. I filled complaints with the FCC, and the BBB in New Jersey with no luck. Finally we joined a class action lawsuit, and WON. This is back in 2005, and Verizon is still trying to collect the termination fees!

Ray you can get free long distance with Google Talk in the U.S.A.

The one that I hate to call is at&t the company really need to look at this problem,if you get someone overseas better take the phone and get into bed,once I was on four hours about my bill finally got a lady from the good old USA and got a answer. Lets get these jobs back home .regards buffention2

I think the only way to guarantee that these companies respond to consumers fast an accurately, it to let each sede (consumer & client) use their strengths. Yes, the companies, can have their contracts, but every contract should have the following caveats: 1. For each reported issue that the company cannot or will not fix within 24hrs, customers are allowed to dock $5-$10 from that month's bill (nothing gets a company to respond faster than threatening the bottom line!) 2. For non-performance, not performing as advertised, or for more than five reported issues within a two month period, customers are allowed to opt out of the contract after 3months. That give the company enough time to correct the reported issues, and the consumer gets some fair timeline they when they can bank on either getting their issues addressed, or being able to get good service elsewhere 3. Companies cannot raise rates for consumers already in contract. New rates only affect new incoming consumers 4. Pay for what you use: Companies are very happy to charge you if you go one minute/KB over your service plan. Fine, but the reverse should also be true. For whatever you don't use this month, consumers should also have the remaining minutes/data allowances carried over to the next month, or service plan cost reduced for the month. Failing to implement these or substantially similar common sense consumer protections, consumer will continue getting a raw deal ad perpetuum. And yes, companies will still continue to make gobs of money every month. If they charged consumers just $10 per month for all services combined, they would still do very well. I know this for a fact, being a Telecom engineer for the last 12 years, from planning, design, installation, and test & turn-up. What say you, Angie's list? Willing to flex your lobbying muscle to try getting some of these adopted by the Internet/Phone/Cable companies? :)

On the reverse, let companies charge customers the amount it cost for the company to investigate each reported issue that is determined not to be caused by said company but customer's ignorance. Companies would be rich.

This piece completely misses the real reasons why you get poor customer service while calling for help. That's OK though, you wouldn't truly understand unless you actually worked in that industry as I did. First off, a big part of why you get poor service because the wages and working conditions in call centers are terrible. At one point, the pay was actually decent for the work performed, but hourly wages have actually fallen lower than where they were in 2000 for the average worker. Back then, you could expect to make about $10/hour. Today, get a job at one of the BPOs that companies turn to for their customer service needs and they only want to pay you around $8/hour, which hardly even pays the bills given how much prices have gone up on just about everything. If I'm working 40 hour weeks and still having to sell off or pawn my own property for gas money, then you are not going to be dealing with someone who has any desire to go the extra mile to help you figure out some toy you just bought that costs more money than I made in a week. Acting shocked that I don't own the latest iWhatever won't help. Diseases spread around call centers rapidly due to shared workstations, close proximity to other workers, and attendance policies that refuse to allow employees to take the time off to recover from illnesses. Think you like dealing with anyone while being sick? Try dealing with rude, uneducated customers that scream at you for crap that is NOT your fault for 8 hours a day while you are coughing up blood and your supervisors are more concerned with keeping bodies in the seats so the numbers look good to the client than the health of the employees working under them. Think you can just take the day off because some know-it-all doctor tells you that you should? Sure, try it. It's a great way to guarantee that you will never be considered for advancement within the company, and HR will still fire you even with a doctor stating in writing that you are contagious and unable to work. Of course, that assumes that you can even go see the doctor. One local call center that handles AT&T's DSL tech support does not hire it's employees directly, but instead adds a staffing agency between them and the employee. This staffing agency does not offer adequate health care coverage, and what it does offer costs $70/week, which is their way of saying "We don't want you to have health insurance so we're going to make it impossible to afford". I actually had to quit and go on medicare in order to be able to have surgery to deal with health problems CAUSED by the working conditions in this call center. Of course, only part of the blame can be placed on the sweat shop like conditions that one must endure while working in these hellholes. Another rather large part of the blame falls on you. Customers are abusive, rude and stupid for the most part, blaming their ISP for every single thing that goes wrong with their computer even though once you get the truth out of them it's blatantly obvious that they caused the problem to begin with. Maybe if companies at least started treating their workers like human beings and customers dropped the attitude where they think every rep they interact with is a verbal punching bag then the customer service you get wouldn't "suck" so much. Nobody will ever be getting any help out of me again though, I simply refuse to work in that industry ever again.

I don't bundle my services, so I pay more, but I demand quality. I've had DirecTV for television for five years and it has worked like a charm. Not a single service call for repair. I have the whole home system and most of the latest equipment. The picture and programming are excellent. My only calls to customer service have been to upgrade equipment or occasionally reset a receiver that has not been turned on for a while. Now I can do the reset on the internet. I've had Time Warner Cable and they are terrible. Everyone on my street, except for one neighbor, has satellite and the neighbor who has Time Warner has had 8-10 service calls since I moved here five years ago.The repair truck is always over there. Plus, TW blocks copying of HD shows on their DVR. You cannot transfer to your DVD recorder from the TW Moxie box. I've had two phone lines with Vonage (voice, fax) for about six years. No complaints there, either. Only equipment failure was the Vonage router failed after five years and I had to go buy a new one at Best Buy.. Vonage credited me for this purchase on my bill. The only frustrating thing about Vonage is their tech support is obviously in India and although they give good technical answers, they are extremely difficult to understand. I had to ask several of them to repeat themselves multiple times because I couldn't understand what they were saying because of their thick accent. When you call sales, you get an American. I still use Time Warner for broadband internet, because it's the best available in our area. The only other choice is AT + T fiber. TW offers up to 50/10 speeds and AT+T only goes up to 24/5. Plus, you have to purchase the AT+T equipment and pay for install for $250.00 total and sign a one year contract. No contract with TW and the install was free. Only complaints are they take two days or more to send a tech out and they continue to harass me by phone about adding cable TV. Only two significant outages since I moved here, but a bunch of short term bounces in between. I wish we had Verizon FIOS here for internet, but we're not wired yet for it. I may consider a cheaper VOIP like OOMA or Magicjack Plus if the quality and features compare. The one thing that Vonage has that others don't seem to have is a flat rate global calling plan. They let you use up to about 60 hours per month before they squawk about abusing the plan.

Presently, Korean broadband is at LEAST 4 times faster than ours and costs around HALF as much! By the end of this year, Koreans will have internet 10 times faster than ours. 200 times as fast as your typical 5 Mbps DSL connection sold in the U.S. There is a reason for this. It's called GREED! #1: South Korea: Average Internet Connection Speed: 17.5 Mbps #2: Japan Average: Internet Connection Speed: 9.1 Mbps #3: Hong Kong: Average Internet Connection Speed: 9.1 Mbps #4: Netherlands: Average Internet Connection Speed: 8.2 Mbps #5: Latvia: Average Internet Connection Speed: 7.8 Mbps #6: Switzerland: Average Internet Connection Speed: 7.3 Mbps #7: Ireland: Average Internet Connection Speed: 6.8 Mbps #8: Czech Republic: Average Internet Connection Speed: 6.7 Mbps #9: Romania: Average Internet Connection Speed: 6.4 Mbps #26 USA: 5,812 Kbps Average Internet Connection speed

If you want to test how manipulative and frustrating AT&T's tactics are, try to discontinue one of the services in a bundle (TV), or try to discontinue the whole bundle. They make it impossible. First, after asking you the usual identification questions, they put you on hold. Then, after ten or more minutes (due to unusually large number of calls!), someone actually speaks with you, asking the exact questions you've already answered to the first operator; then they place you on-hold, again. Then they make you wait another ten or more minutes, only to repeat the whole process of asking the same questions and placing you on hold, again. Then suddenly the call is dropped, and you have to start all over again. After seven attempts, and months later, I decided to wait it out, no matter how long it takes. I was determined to drop AT&T like a bad habit. And so I suffered through the delays, elevator music, and repeated questioning for 45 minutes. When I finally spoke with a supervisor and asked for the service to be discontinued, the supervisor asked to place me on hold, again, until she connected me to the "right" department (disconnection department?). By now my blood was boiling. So I asked the supervisor if I can ask her something, and she said sure. Her's what I said: Please note that this is a formal request to discontinue my TV service as of today, May 26, 2012, then I hung up. Well, AT&T continued to charge me for the full service, and a few days later (NOT on the due date of autopay), AT&T charged me for a full service for 68 days of service, including 49 days of future service. This is outragous!

Please send a compleint to the FCC , is free and that will help others, the same hapen to me , and I send a compleint to FCC.

Customer service is a joke when it comes to large call center environments. You're paying high school graduates $8/hour to rack up as many calls and turn the stats up for their supervisors to show management how many calls were handled in an hour. These kids could care less. Between calls they are trying to "text" their Facebook pals and can't keep track and discern what the customer is trying to tell them. Since originally subscribing to internet service three years ago (only two choices least AT&T be one of them) my service charge has gone from $43/mo to $58/mo and keeps climbing each billing by cents on the dollar without any explanation. Now I have at least two outages each week with the new provider TimeWarner. All about the almighty dollar. As many have stated...I'm stuck and have no other choice. I will NEVER go back to AT&T.

"Yet despite the issues, we continue to go back for more. According to the Federal Communications Commission," We "go back for more" because we don't have a choice. How many cable companies do people get to choose from , ONE. And the FCC just keeps rubber stamping this monopolized system.

Finally, the one person here (on all the comments) that has it right! well done LGgeek. This is EXACTLY what it is, a MONOPOLY! we have NO choice. Only 1 cable provider in my service area. if I don't like the service, I pound sand. (getting satellite and DSL is not a viable option). so I'm stuck and they know it. so, the other question is... why are they so vague and shifty on their websites? they provide Little to No info, and the info they do provide does not really address the questions. why don't they list the services and associated costs (like AMAZON selling an item)? why do they just keep telling you "please call our service reps for more info" BULL. I don't want to speak to someone that is slinging me a sales pitch, I just want to read about a service or feature, and BUY IT. why can't I do that?

I couldn't even read much of the article or the comments.....it's stressful to have a computer, cell phone (I choose not to have cable, thank you). Just scanning the article and reasons why customer service sux and then a bit of the comments. Yes, it's all awful. Plain and simply awful.

My cable company is awesome. They set appointments and keep them. They call me before they show up at the door and they are always professional. What does suck is the spoiled mindset that says the cable company has to figure out the problems with the wiring someone else likely put in your house. Crappy cable splices done by amateurs and multiple splitters tend to degrade cable signals. On top of those already ridiculous assumptions, you have internet service with 99.5 plus availability. When the internet goes down for many possible reasons, you have instantly angry consumers who insist that their service be restored yesterday. This article should have been about airlines or anachronistic home phone services that seek to charge you ridiculous amounts for simple services such as caller ID. I called the phone service that services my mother's house to change the name on the bill from my deceased father to that of my still-living mother. It had been left in his name for 4 years after his death, so I figured it was time to get it fixed. The phone company told me it would cost $46 to change the name on the account. I told them to leave it as is. I then asked what it would cost to add caller ID; something my mother wanted. The reply was $8 per month. I was stunned at both the total lack of realistic pricing and the lack of compassion for a senior citizen on a fixed income who lost her husband. Leave the cable tv/internet companies alone. They may be overpriced but at least they treat their customers with respect.

I don't have any type of service for my TV just rabbit ears. Soon I am hoping to have an outside antenna. I will not have those companies because what they offer is so unfair. In order to get the programs you want you have to get even more that you don't want. I think a consumer should be able to choose the programs that they want and pay a reasonable price for them. I don't watch sports, most popular movies, extra news stations. I have just a few programs that I enjoy. Why should I have to pay for programs that I would not watch even if I had them. I think it is about time consumers had rights to choose for themselves and not have to take a block of stations that they do not want. I am a senior citizen and just don't have money to waste on things that have no value for me.

A vendor's product and service offerings are one thing, their customer service is another. Complaining about bad customer service because you don't like the product offerings is like kicking the dog because the cat climbed the curtains. I've been an AT&T customer for a long time. Originally as our long-distance land-line provider and then as our mobile provider for the past 12 years or so (we no longer have a land-line). The few times we've had to call customer service, the experience has been outstanding. Sure, there are things about AT&T Mobile offerings that annoy me, like requiring expensive data plans for certain phones when I won't use internet access. But that's not Customer Service's fault.

Speaking as a former employee at every level of the communications business with 14 yrs of experience with 1 of the businesses mentioned in your article and a cable co as well I found that the reason for continued poor service in most instances is that upper mgmt rarely lets go of the offending employees that hang up on customers and commit other offenses as well. They do not have a genuine desire to assist the customers and are just there for a paycheck. As a mgr, when coaching, mentoring and following the steps for performance reviews there is always an excuse as to why we should not retire an employee even though there is consistant documentation of their negative behavior. They are more concerned with how they are viewed by the co as to the number of employees that are fired and other factors as well. Also when you truly care about the customers as a mgr, it is unrealistic to assume all of your employees will feel the same way.

Those on the the customer service front lines, who actually answer the first calls, are not formal employees of the companies they represent. They are temp workers who get an hourly wage but do not get the company's benefits like good health care, sick days, overtime, etc. Service reps are a subclass group, working hard for but not a genuine part of the businesses they represent. Training is minimal. The emphasis is on fast turn-around times above all. It would be so refreshing if the executives who save their pennies by using call centers had to work in one for a while...

I've been working in the customer service industry for 14 years now and it's a tough industry. A lot of customer service level jobs are going over-seas because of the money that companies save in hiring low-level help over there. Employees are graded on their overall "handle time" for their calls. The pressure is extremely high to get people off the phone quickly and often quality suffers the most because of it. I've worked front line with service providers and it's brutal. Customers who call in usually have a laundry list of issues when they do finally call in and then get frustrated and sometimes even yell and curse at who's trying to help them I worked high level escalations for a cell phone service provider for a while and I remember one instance where one of the low level care reps in Costa Rica had totally bungled up this lady's account. By the time she had gotten to me, she had already spoken to 8 different people, 2 of which were supervisors. I spent over an hour fixing all of the problems this lady had. A couple of days later the lady had gotten a random customer care survey and had understandably given the company poor ratings. That survey though had come back to me and I was given a written reprimand for it even though I had been the one to fix all of her problems. I ended up getting a poor performance review because of that reprimand even though the original problem wasn't my fault, it ended up costing me a raise. And to beat all, that customer had given me kudos to my direct supervisor for all of my help, I ended up leaving that department shortly thereafter because of that incident. Good customer care is often very thankless by the company and the customerd and burnout is very, very high. Service industries have a stunningly high turnover rate because of the pressures by the company for the employees to perform. Some tips to get good customer service: maintain your composure, be nice...you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. Don't wait until you have 7 or 8 issues piled up to call, remember that the rep needs to get your issue resolved and get you off the phone as quickly as possible. Have all of your information like account numbers, who you've previously spoken with, etc readily available to give the rep. When you do get quality service, feel free to give the rep some kudos by telling their supervisor what a great job they did and believe me, the rep will pay it forward the rest of their day..

To the customer service's comment on not batching issues - if customers didn't have long wait times and got their one or two issues actually resolved, having a laundry list would not be so prevalent. Either the customer doesn't get to the a live person or doesn't get it resolved. Thus the list begins. Having "wasted their time, the issues wait until they reach a pain threshold, normally when a new issue emerges, thereby creating a longer list. Your story is unfortunately more the rule rather than the exception when dealing with customer service. Plus add in the times where phone calls are dropped and customer service is "unable" to call the customer back or they cannot provide a direct call back number to that service rep....and then the customer has to spend additional minutes and hours on hold only to have to repeat their situation. This causes plenty of angst and anger. Also if the customer surveys are written based on an understanding of the reality, those questions would address service at various levels and you might have been the recipient of the kudos while those on the way to you would have received the lower rating. I get the customer service rep's name each time and try to work it out with them. However they have limits to assist...and getting to a supervisor is a challenge all to on itself. The the supervisor espouses corporate policy of why they cannot, which lowers the probablity of achieving resolution. This naturally leads to a frustrated customer who becomes irratated and possibly emotional.

I think you said it B. Too often I hear from customer service representatives how they are not allowed or can't do something, rather than finding a solution to the problem (i.e. read GOOD customer service). If people are on hold for long periods of time, here is a solution, hire more people! Also, it is a poor sign when a company has thousands of calls a day, and still can not address them. I have been on calls where I have been dropped, where I was transferred only to explain my problem for the umpteenth time, and where the "solution" was incorrect. I even have had a technician tell me I was lying to him. That goes over well. With cable companies, no true competition is present, because they hold regional monopolies. I can only get two types of service, non of which are rated near well on any customer service platform. But I have no choice, if I want internet and cable, I have to pay a rediculous rate for out dated technology. Again, the companies have no incentive to upgrade, change their customer service, or address issues, because they will always make money.

I work in customer service for one of the largest cable tv providers. I have to laugh at how many times I hear someone complain about long hold times or getting a rep from outside the USA and then complain about their bill. Personally, I wish all of the customer service jobs were kept here in the USA; the problem with that is that part of trying to keep the service affordable for the consumer and profitable for the shareholders often requires using the most cost-effective labor. I can completely understand customer frustration when services fail, but I will be the first to admit that I will do far more than what I am required and will even bend the rules in order to help resolve your issue when you treat me like a person. Please do not be naive and think that I am going to feel sorry for you when your cable has been turned off because you have not paid your bill. The number one issue people have when they call in about their services not working is caused by either not paying their bill on time or they have failed to press the power button to turn their cable box on.

The really sad thing about customer service is the people who answer your calls are the lowest paid persons outside fast food. They are for the most part unfamiliar with corporate rules and frequently have poor command of grammar and impulse control. Turnover rate is over 30% a month. The job is thankless and brutal. Why do the corporations do this is the question. This is the face of the company for the vast majority of people yet they can't possibly buy into the company indoctrination being literally abused on an hourly basis. Some of the largest and most profitable companies on earth persist in what could be discerned as sweat shop conditions for these workers. Don't ever expect better. Do business with them or don't. The corporations simply don't care...why should they. You continue to patronize them.

I'm 61 years old. I remember when there was only one telephone Company, and that was AT&T. The phones themselves always worked (my father is still using one--even though my siblings and I used it as home plate playing baseball in the back yard). When you dialed "0", you always got an operator. I remember coming back to the US after 4 years overseas and I couldn't remember how to place long distance calls to my parents and my wife's after we got off the plane at Ft. Dix. I recall that the operator placed the calls, and after I hung up I said "Thank God for Ma Bell". That was because the phone company in Germany was part of the Post Office, and both were Government run. Now we have dozens of companies trying to sell us plans that even a tax lawyer or a Patent attorney could understand---it clearly is time to re-regulate the phone service in the US, and give us back a phone system that works and we can understand what we are paying for. The same thing goes with the airline industry--we used to have the Civil Aeronautics Boards which functioned as a public utilities commission, controlling the routes airlines were allowed to run, and the fares they were allowed to charge. Back then, all airlines had only one price for coach from "A" to "B", and the differences were only in the food each airline served. The airlines got a reasonable profit, there was no incentive to cut costs by scrimping on safety. In 1970 there were ten airlines that flew from Minneapolis to Chicago--the price for a seat was the same on all ten, and the CAB made sure that the smaller cities with airline service, could not simply be cut off from airline service. (How--CAB let them make a profit on longer routes, and that subsidized the smaller markets. The airlines need to be re-regulated!

I am not as old as you, but I do remember when Ma Bell was the queen. We had a Princess phone. Now Ma Bell is just a handmaiden. Modern contrivances such as the Internet, cell phones and satellite phones existed during Ma Bell's time. Ma Bell just sat on them because she just didn't see the need for them. I can pick up a phone and call Poland, Hungary or Japan right now. I can send an email to my cousin in Okinawa and she can Skype me. Those are the good points. The bad points of very poor customer service, lack of understanding of a phone bill are all due to enormous amounts of governmental regulations. The companies have to make company to survive and they scrimp where they can and gouge when they can get away with it. If it was a free market then they would have to listen to the customer. Unfortunately that is not going to happen anytime soon.

Chuck, I agree with you 100%. I'm 70 and recall a time when government was by and for the people. That produced regulatory agencies that prevented parasitic abuse of consumers, enforced contractual obligations and promoted an atmosphere of fair play. Contrary to the anti-regulation propaganda, corporations tended to be quite profitable but much more stable. They actually cultivated a desire for a lifetime career among their employees. I recall a1960's course in business management in which the most important job of top management was defined as setting and maintaining a moral code that would preserve the integrity of the company both internally and in society. That's gone - replaced with the credo of every man for himself and sucker beware. This is not the first great society to take things for granted, forget the old rule that people get the government they deserve, and then wake up one morning with empty pockets and no hope for the future. I think it will take a generation smarter than mine to wake up and fix this mess.

what a brave new 1984 wortld we live in! Amerika no longer has problems. It simply has ISSUES!

Yes! and nothing affects anything any more, it Impacts it. Sales are now all Events, people are Assets, and sex (as in male-female) is now Gender (a linguistic term)., except in reference to categorizing young chickens.

Comcast still has yet to "properly" train their customer service personnel. We have had their new Xfinity digital cable for the past 7 or 8 months, and about every two weeks we get an error message, preventing us from watching anything for the rest of the day. Every time we call it's always the same: "Ok, sir. I'll send a refresh signal to your box. Did that work? No? Ok, I'll schedule a technician to come out next week." No explanation of what the message means, or why it occurred. They just pawn us off on a technician that comes an hour late, if at all!

In Scranton Service Area, You unplug cablebox for afew min. plug it in again, It reboots and you are back in business

I can tell you that part of the problem is they outsource a lot. And when you are only a branch on a tree things constantly go wrong. Too many people stirring the pot when you have to call 3-4 times for one issue. Even tech jobs get outsourced they are contractors who slap a magnet on their truck

From your description, your cable boxes are losing their IP address or having upstream problems. In cable, systems upstream is the return RF path used to communicate, which allows you to order movies, etc. When you experience the problem again ask the technician to check the MERS / BERS and look for errors on the upstream return path. You also want the technician to disconnect your home from the serving pedestal or pole and test looking back into your home. In this case, the technician is testing for Ingress, which is licensed Radio Frequency (RF) that is coming into your home. They also want to test for Egress, which is RF escaping from your home wiring or drop. Ingress and Egress are almost always caused by bad connectors or a splitter that does not meet company specifications. The key here is having a technician use the expensive tools they have to troubleshoot your issue.

Your service sucks because of the quality of the wires or infrastructure of the company in the area you live in is lower quality than it needs to be to provide top quality service. It will remain that way until the company or companies involved decide it make more financial sense to upgrade their infrastructure in your area than it does to allow things to remain the way they are currently. The other main cause for issues with TV, internet, and phone service is the quality of the wires inside your house that legally speaking, you own. Most companies will charge to repair or replace those wires and will replace them in the cheapest quickest way possible even if it does not look aesthetically pleasing because it is hard work, can be expensive, and in many cases is not possible without tearing down walls to replace that wire. Wireless options in many cases are not as effective as you might hope due to interferers such as large concentrations of metal like stainless steel kitchen appliances or the steel I-beam that keeps your house from collapsing. These are the main reason why TV intenet and phone service does or does not work where you live and might be perfect or abosolutely horrible down the block or in the next sub-development.

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