I own a brick and mortar retail store in North Carolina and I get my phone and internet service from Charter Communications. I recently made a simple request for a change in my account - one which only entailed computer entry on their part - which took over 2 weeks and 5 phone calls from me to complete - and in the process disconnected my phone service. Let me recount this world of pain that I entered.

August 13. I got a call from an associate who was working the store and she complained that she was getting harassed by a phone sales caller. She asked if we could get caller ID on the phone so she could identify the caller and not have to pick up. Of course I would do that. So I logged onto my Charter Business online account so I could see how I enable that feature. After numerous failed attempts to access the Dashboard I called customer service.

The customer service agent told me that the Charter Business service had been re-branded Charter Spectrum Business but my account was a "legacy" account and did not have access to the features I was trying to access. But fear not, she said, this is a simple computer change to move my account to the new service. And, good news, the new service would result in a small savings on my monthly bill. She filled out a work request for this change, told me it would be scheduled for early morning the next day, and gave me my case number so I could follow up. Excellent.

August 17. My account was still in its original state 4 days later, so I called customer service again to ask for a status. The agent who answered my call checked the notes, saw the request that was logged but had no explanation for the delay. He promised to get me an ETA and call me right back with the scheduled time for the change. I never heard from him.

August 18. I am now getting frustrated. I called customer service again, gave him my case number, and asked why this change had not been done yet. After looking over my records he told me that the new service would result in a slight increase in my monthly charges and that the work could not proceed until I had verbally agreed to these charges. I told him that I was informed, on my initial call, that my charges would be going down not up. The agent responded with worst response he could give: Oh, those rates are for new customers. This business has been a customer for over 10 years, but someone who walks in the door today gets a better rate than I get! This is astounding.

This moved me from frustrated to angry. OK, I understand the policy, but why hadn't anyone contacted me to ask if the price change was agreeable? Why did I have to make another call - my third - to find out this was the the holdup. We did try and contact you, I was told, but we couldn't get through. What a boldfaced lie. I had no voice mail from Charter, no missed calls from Charter, no emails from Charter. My dog ate the paperwork would have been a more believable response.

But I remembered that the reason I was going through this pain was to protect one my employees from harassing phone calls so I agreed to the increase in charges.

So...when can I expect this change to take place? I was told it would take 1 week to complete. A week! Originally I was told this was just a computer change and would be done the next day. Oh...it is a complicated change involving numerous systems. Yeah. Whatever.

August 26. 8 days after my last phone interaction I got an email from Charter titled: Welcome to Spectrum Business Phone Plus!  Finally. Now I can login and enable the features I need. Further down in the email it gave me the login instructions for my new account:

No Username! No Temporary Password! No Access!

Ugh! I made myself a note to call customer service yet again to find out how to login.

August 27. We received an email from someone friendly with the store telling us that our phone was not working. So I called the store from my cellphone. This number is disconnected and no longer in service, the recording said. This is horrible. We are a small retail store and not only is the phone number at the store not working, the recording makes it seem like we have gone out of business.

So I called customer service, for the 4th time. I told the agent what that my account had been upgraded and in the process our phone service had been disconnected. The agent then proceeded to look at my account and tell me that the phone number was still assigned to me and that not had been changed. What exactly is the problem with your phone? OMG! Did you not hear me when I mentioned it when we were first connected?! Dude, do me a favor - put me on hold and dial the phone number and tell me what you find. OK. After a few seconds on hold he comes back and says Yes. It sounds like your phone is disconnected. I am not sure why that is. I will put you on hold while I check some things out.

And just like that he dropped me. I was back at the main menu. Thank you for calling Charter Spectrum. If you are a Business customer press 1.

AAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!

After hanging up in frustration, I called back into customer service -  for the 5th time. The agent I got this time sounded like he actually knew something about his system. He looked at my account record and said: I think I can try something from my terminal that may fix the problem. Your phone number is listed as not connected. I can change that on my end to the Connected state. Let me do that. I will then dial the number and see if it rings in the store.

Hallelujah! The phone rang. It was the Charter agent. We were back live. Next, he got set up my online account so I had access to the Dashboard. 

I was now where I expected to be in the first place. And it only took 14 days, five phone calls and 24 hours of phone outage to complete. Fantastic.

My takeaway thoughts:

  1. Where is Quality Assurance at Charter?
    1. How hard is it, when you make a change to someone's phone service, to actually dial the number to ensure that the phone is working? This seems like the most basic quality check. It is totally unacceptable, especially for a Business Phone Service, for this step to not be part of the process.
    2. The first work order was held up because they needed to speak with me about the charges. Yet no one reached out to me. Not even an automated email saying We need to speak with your regarding your recent change request. If I had not called in to check I am sure the change request would have sat in the bit bucket forever.
    3. The email announcement they sent me with my temporary login information had no information. Again, where is QA at Charter?
  2. No follow up from customer service.
    1. On August 17 I spoke to an agent who promised me a follow up phone call. I never heard from him. Is that logged anywhere in Charter? Is management reviewing action items like this to make sure Charter is a company that does what it says it is going to do?
    2. On August 27 I spoke to an agent in frustration and panic that my business phone service was not working. He dropped the call in the middle of our conversation. Did he try and ring me back - knowing how serious this issue was? Um...No.
  3. Why do new customers get a better deal than long time customers on the same service?
    1. We have had this same phone number from Charter for 10 years. I would suggest that good customer relations would generate an announcement to my that I could upgrade my basic service to the new Spectrum Business Phone Plus and offer me the same deal that someone walking in off the street would get. Now that would create warm and fuzzy feelings from me, the customer. Instead, I am a customer that would switch in a heartbeat if I had a viable alternative.

I hope someone at Charter reads this tale of woe. I don't expect it, but it would be great if they took a hard look at their operation and how they treat long time business customers.

Yeah. I know. Good luck with that.