Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Cable company customer service

I hate ringing my cable company. It isn't because they are unhelpful, I have always found them courteous. It isn't even because of the automated answering service. I have always found it possible to get through to a human relatively quickly. It is simply because long experience has taught me that whom ever I am speaking to will try their hardest to get me to pay more. This has to be deeply  ingrained in the company's policy because the most innocent of inquiries will result in some additional surcharge being suggested, often for no increase in service. I have also learned that most of these surcharges are completely avoidable but once you are on the phone to a representative of the company you need to carefully navigate around a minefield of suggested charges in order to get away  without increasing your monthly bill.

Example from a few years ago:
I am ringing to cancel "XYZ channel, we don't watch it any more and I no longer want to pay for it. "Certainly sir, but you will have to pay a downgrade fee"

Another example:
"I note that you have a special offer which seems to include all of my services for a lower price, will that give me everything I have now and cost less"?
"Certainly sir, would you like to upgrade?
"Are you sure it has everything I have now?"
"It does sir, will I upgrade you now"
 "Eh ... OK"
Half an hour later
"I recently upgraded to your new package and now my kids are complaining they cannot watch PQR"
"Ah, yes sir PQR isn't included in the new package, but we can add it for an additional monthly fee"
"That will end up costing me more than I was already paying for the same service. I want to go back to where I was"
"Certainly sir. There will of course be a downgrade fee...."

"I am a long time customer of your television service and I am ringing because you are advertising a  a good price for a phone and internet bundle"
"Certainly sir, I can upgrade you to phone and internet for only  €Y extra a month"
"Wait a minute, I am already paying €X per month and €X + €Y is a lot more than you are advertising for that bundle".
"Yes sir, that special bundle price is only for new customers. You are an existing customers so you don't qualify for that price"
"I have never had internet from you before. Does that not count? Anyway if I cannot get the new price I am not interested".
"Wait a minute sir, I will speak to a manager"
Several minutes later
"All right sir, I have permission from my manger to give you the special bundle price if you sign up today".
"Ok, I 'll take it"
"You will have to pay for installation, it will be included in your next bill"
"But... the advertisement says that installation is free"
"That's for new customers sir ...."
Several consultations with the invisible manager later I eventually  managed to get the installation for half price. Perhaps, with persistence I might have gotten it for nothing but they wore me down. 

Recent example: I rang the company to find out why we do not have access to movies on demand while my brother,  who is on the same subscription plan does. The first person I talked to seemed delighted to take my call and offered to "upgrade me" to movies on demand for only €3 extra a month. Knowing that my brother already has that service for the price I am already paying I baulked:  "I have to pay extra so that you can earn more by selling me movies? I don't think so."
"Ah...", she replied, "I will put you on to our customer loyalty team"

The (once again friendly) representative of the customer loyalty team explained to me that they would need to upgrade my set top  box in order to accommodate the on demand services.  He assured me it wouldn't cost an additional €3 per month but that there was a once off €45 charge for the new box. That sounded somewhat plausible, particularly as the new box would come with additional features such as recording and live pause.  I was still a bit reluctant, I hadn't rang with the intention of spending extra money. Seeing my hesitation he made a new offer: "I cannot waive the €45 fee", he explained " but I can reduce your subscription by 50% for the next two months".  This was finally a good deal. The reduction in subscription more than covers the €45 and I got the representative to swear that my existing services would be unaffected.

I cannot decide whether this is good or bad customer service. They are helpful and friendly but they are clearly programmed to load the fees at every available opportunity. I find any interaction with them draining and I consider any contact with them where I have managed to avoid increasing my monthly spend a success.


Atnor said...

Ugh, yeah, I've had similar experiences here.

But, that was with TWC... They were pleasant enough, but calling them was walking througha minefield of extra charges, on top of slow actual service....amazingly frustrating.

However, We switched to a satellite company a few years ago... Completely different customer service experience, much improved.

I suppose it depends on the company.

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