A while back, and for some time, my family had Charter Cable for our Internet and cable service. I was less than pleased with their service. Bill after bill, customer service call after customer service call – we just weren’t happy. At one point, I was on the phone for more than 45 minutes to undo a charge that appeared on my bill, after a customer service representative only a few weeks prior said would not be there.
Don’t take just my word for it – Consumer Reports recently revealed their ratings of them; these ratings are partly developed by surveying existing users. I can’t disclose the ratings, because you need to pay to see that content. Rest assured that they were not at all in Charter’s favor. By a country mile.
So, when the option presented itself (finally), I switched to another carrier new to the area. I canceled with Charter the next day, and the phone representative went through her script to keep me on. I was nice for the first four questions, and then – politely – cut her off and said, “Look, I’ve already switched. I’m not contemplating it – it’s a done deal.” What irked me was the several follow-on offers to keep me (bundled this, free that, etc.) – where were those deals when I was a customer?
When I returned the hardware, I heard another story. The clerks asked me what rate I was getting with my new provider, and they then said that they could offer me something better. The kicker? It wasn’t the same as what I was quoted on the phone when I canceled my service. So I told them that, and the reply was, “Yeah, they never have the same deals we do.” “Why not?” I asked. The clerk couldn’t really answer me. But as I left, I was wondering “why doesn’t the left hand know what the right hand is doing? What kind of experience is this?”
I tweeted about this ordeal (not in a lot of detail), and someone from Charter asked if they could assist (here’s their crew). I do applaud them for that, though it took a few mentions of the word Charter and cable (or some combination like that) to get any attention. I traded a message offline, and it was met with a lukewarm response, and not much follow-up. I wasn’t expecting the world, but I was expecting more. Ironically, this is the same account that reached out to me when I complained about a year prior, and it was met with better-than-expected customer service.
Then, twice in the past week, I received important information from Charter. I know it’s ‘important’ because the envelope said so. The envelop contents were advertising service in the area, and asking if I want to be a customer. I’m already aware of service in the area! I had it for several years, canceled it, and explained to several people in the company that I no longer want the service. This direct mail wasn’t a teaser to say, “Hey, cancel with ___ and come back to Charter!” It was an offer to be a new customer. In fact, if it were an offer to cancel with ___, I’d be just as upset, because I told multiple people on my departure that I signed into a one-year contract (and it hasn’t even been six months yet).
Why can’t Charter’s CRM software track this kind of stuff? Why can’t the employees enter notes about existing or former customers (or by address, and flag it as a ‘do not mail’)? Why can’t the left hand talk to the right hand here? The reason this is mailing gaffe is so bad is that it’s emblematic of bad business. Not only am I never ordering Charter’s services again, I’m also telling everyone I know about this ordeal, as well as writing here in this blog. That word of mouth may spread far; it may not. But if I were in the brand-protection business at Charter, I’d be concerned that my customer front line can’t even get out of its own way.
If each of my touch points with the brand were more positive, but I still ultimately left the company, then it’s a jump-ball on whether I return. But with this kind of shoddy service and flat-out annoying tactics, there’s no way I’ll ever return. And if they keep sending me stuff after this? They are just wasting more money, which is indicative of how bad they really are.
What thoughts do you have on the matter? (Please don’t comment along the lines of “welcome to customer service in 2010”, or “every company is like this”. I know that and get that. My focus of this post is more on “They don’t have to be like this. They can change. And there’s value in changing.”)
image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mlibrarianus/3742252039/