Charter Lies To Their Customers

Chris Gates, a former call center representative for Charter Communications, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Charter abuses their employees and lies to their customers. According to her, the number one question asked of CSRs is: ‘Where the !@#% is the tech?!’

So what do call center reps tell callers?

“We lie to them,” Gates says. “We tell them, ‘Absolutely, the technician will be there.’

Charter gives CSRs few options. Though they are not trained to answer technical questions, CSRs may transfer only 7% of all calls. If, for some reason, customers find this unacceptable, they are told to call a number that does not work. Adherence to the rules is strictly enforced; if a CSR shows up 30 seconds late for work, or returns 30 seconds late from lunch, it counts as a full absence. After 12 absences, the CSR is automatically fired. Classy, Charter. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

A former cable company call center rep says: “We lie” to customers who ask when installer will arrive [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]
(Photo: Mullenkedheim)


Edit Your Comment

  1. dscosson says:

    Man… and I thought my company’s “seven+ minutes late for work is a half-absence” policy was bad!

  2. the_senator says:

    I was a TSR for Charter, and there was never a ‘policy’ to lie to customers. Also, we could be up to 7 minutes late logging in. It was always possible (though DIFFICULT), to get a Lead to contact a dispatcher to see where a tech was (ONLY, of course, if a customer asked). Of course, I have no way of knowing if the Leads were lying, so…

  3. Esquire99 says:

    I’m not sure I buy into this whole story. It seems like it might be at least a bit fabricated by a disgruntled employee. Perhaps I just have a hard time buying the fact a large company like that would allow such blatant deception to go on, and essentially refuse to provide technical support (only transferring 7% of calls). Maybe I just want to believe that companies are better than this, but something here sounds fishy. You have to wonder about a former employee who goes to a newspaper. Maybe she was upset that she was making so little money and decided to “get back at them” by giving the newspaper a sensationalizing story.

  4. Skeptic says:

    you have to wonder about a former employee who goes to a newspaper.

    Hmm…let’s see. A company with a solid history of customer complaints so bad the corporate friendly BBB has to give in and issue a notice vs. a former employee. Yeah, its the company with the lousy service we should give the benefit of the doubt….

    There is a gaping hole in your theory. Charter didn’t deny the allegations. The Post Dispatch gave Charter the chance to refute the allegation but they dodged the question instead.

    Plausibility is on the side of the former employee.

  5. acceptablerisk says:

    People in call centers have among the worst jobs in the world. They’re essentially stuck between two parties who hate each other and both sides are really eager to shoot the messenger.

    I think everyone needs to work in retail and in telephone support at least once. It would make everyone a little more understanding as to how these things actually work.

  6. aiken says:

    Consumerist would have so much more credibility if they just toned down the glee and snarkiness a bit. I suppose it’s nice that they changed this title of this post (it originally was “Confirmed: Charter lies to their customers”, which is even more misleading since it implies that Consumerist had some kind of confirmation).

    Sure, cable companies suck, and I’m perfectly willing to believe that Charter is truly awful. But I don’t need people to slant things quite this much to confirm my already-held beliefs. Merely saying “Ex-employee: Charter lies to customers” would get the point across and give some indication that it is a claim from one person and has no independent verification from Consumerist.

    I really love Consumerist’s mission… it’s just that half the time I read something here, I feel like it’s a case of pot and kettle.

  7. BillyShears says:

    If the cable industry went under tomorrow, I wouldn’t really mourn. I

  8. North of 49 says:

    12 absences? the local one here fires after 4 “incidents” or for any reason they want.

  9. Addison says:

    Honestly, after working for one of Charter’s contractors and running our dispatch dept out of their office, I can believe this.

    #1. Charter’s employees, except the two in charge of it, knew nothing about what they were selling when they started offering broadband in the DFW market.

    #2. Their system maintenance is non-existant until something breaks and then they run out and panic to fix something that shouldn’t have been broken if they just would have done the maintenance.

    #3. One technician who was a Charter employee was working out of a bucket truck without the necessary safety equipment, he fell out of the bucket 30 ft and died instantly. How fast do you think they tried to get safety equip on all of their trucks?

    #4. If you call a CSR, you better guarantee they have had about two hours of training before they were put on the phone alone…and their is one supervisor for every 150 CSR’s.

  10. yg17 says:

    I believe every word of it. I’ve had Charter techs flat out lie to me about missed appointments. When the appointment was between 10 and 2, and at 4 the tech isn’t there, don’t make up some bullshit that it was between 10 and 5. They are the worst.

    Fortunately, we live 5 minutes away from one of their offices. So if a box or modem breaks (happens often), or there’s a billing error (also happens way too often) we can just go up there and attempt to get it sorted out. We can drive there, get things done, and drive back in the time most spend waiting on hold to speak to a script monkey

  11. ThinkAboutItPlease says:

    I find myself not having any reason to doubt the whistleblower. The draconian lateness policies fit the general medieval stupidity. Charter: How about thinking deeply for a change?

  12. Karl says:

    I love how the article ends with the BBB’s contact info.

  13. Bourque77 says:

    A huge company lies to customers? Say it aint so. Come on, true or not we could have a thousand companies listed that constantly lie to their customers.

  14. AcidReign says:

    …..I’m not surprised. I have neighbors who ask to use my wireless net frequently. “I’ve got to upload this 40 gig database tonight, and my Charter is down again.” I’ve had Charter tech fail to show up at our house.

    …..I’m figuring in a decade or so, we’ll have such fast internet pipes we’ll be watching all our content on the web, anyway. Just yesterday, I realized that a cool show that got canceled last fall (Daybreak), had episodes that weren’t aired on the ABC website. How cool is that? We’re getting to see the whole season, courtesy of the internets!

  15. Buran says:

    I live in St. Louis and this is my local paper and I saw the article the other day. Not surprising at all.

    Charter removed one of the HD channels from my lineup that I used the most and then raised my rates on me. I’ve complained politely about this repeatedly and it still has not been fixed. All Charter offers is endless excuses. Unacceptable.

    Charter — FIX THE PROBLEMS instead of lying, passing the buck, or otherwise doing nothing.

  16. shdwsclan says:

    Thats why communications lines should be gov’t owned and not monopolized to one company……..

    You have fiberoptics, nodes, and cable. Any cable company can access those nodes so they can choose.

  17. itchy feet says:

    I have had Charter in two different cities – it totally blew in both cities (and I’m in a different state than MO), so this is not a localized problem.

    It really is this bad.

  18. Charter sucks. Period. End of discussion. Period.

  19. mmcnary says:

    I had Charter for a while after they bought the already lousy City of St. Louis cable franchise. They put in digital cable, they required you to get the box if you wanted ANY premium channels. Plus, they raised our rates every month until it was costing $110/mo. I switched to Dish Network for $75/mo with premium packages and never looked back. There are an amazing number of sat dishes in my neighborhood, I would guess at least 25%.

  20. Secularsage says:

    For those who are skeptical, I have a friend who works on the technical side of Charter — his job is to field calls from techicians (who are mainly contractors) calling in for help getting services set up. He started on their broadband telephone service, but soon had to spend his downtime answering customer service calls.

    His training was simple: when a customer complains, try to sell them new service. Don’t offer them any technical support (!) or promise them anything. Solving a problem for a customer without following protocol would result in disciplinary action.

    Keep in mind — my friend had access to the tools needed to help many customers, most of which are things the technicians have to call in for anyway. But the company prevented him from helping people because they said, in their peculiar spin on things, that selling service was the highest priority.

    The sad thing about Charter is that they are fine, until you have a problem. And then, they are absolutely horrid. My wife and I got so tired of fighting with them about our DVR service that we dropped our cable service alltogether and switched to DSL for internet access. And you know what? We don’t miss our Charter service at all now that it’s gone.

  21. mac-phisto says:

    @bradg33: i take it you’ve never been a charter customer.

    i used to be in a charter area (thank god my new house is in cablevision turf – they rock!). tech was supposed to show up one day (between 8 & 5 of course), never did. called in to ask where he was. “it shows here he was there already today”. impossible. i’ve been here all day. ok, maybe there’s a possibility that he snuck up my driveway & knocked on my door while i was using the facilities between 11:03 & 11:04. sure, i can reschedule for NEXT friday, why not miss another day of work & no internet/tv for a week? no, another 8-5 is not acceptable, morning appt. please.

    take 2: i literally sat on my front porch ALL DAY. when the tech didn’t show up at 1, they told me he had been there. when he didn’t show up by 3, they told me he had been there twice. truck finally showed up at a quarter to 5. tech didn’t have the equipment (evidently, the service call had been written up incorrectly).

    i sent him away dnr & called up sbc, which was probably a smart move b/c there would have been bloodshed if take 3 didn’t turn out right.

  22. poornotignorant says:

    @mac-phisto: I had an experience with Comcast just like yours – the frustration forced me into a mental hospital for 3 days (I’m already mentally ill), paid for by you the taxpayer. When a social worker called to try to get them to do something reasonable, like make me the first visit of the day when I got out, they refused. By the way, they totally caused the problem by shutting off my fully paid up service “by mistake” while doing an audit on my street.

  23. unknownuser101 says:

    I think Chris is full of it. I myself work for Charter and they give us ‘freebies’ if we are late. It takes 4 occuranaces (a slap on the hand) plus the freebies before we even get written up, and even then it takes 4 write ups to get fired.

    As far as what Addison was saying, our reps (in the US anyway, in the Phillipines they get 2 weeks) are in a training class for 4 weeks before they even think about letting people on the phones to talk to customers. They want us to know in the ins and outs of the system and how the stuff works. We have about 15 reps to a supervisor so we aren’t just a ‘number’ and more than just a face.

  24. DDinTV1 says:

    I had Charter cable for 45 days. Let me tell you about my personal experience:

    I signed up for Charter cable on 12/2/06, as part of their “Dish Winback” promotion (I had been happy with Dish Network for 2 1/2 years, but I wanted to try Charter’s on-demand service). I immediately noticed that their video quality, compared to Dish, was vastly inferior, especially on the local channels (the stations in my local market were overdriven at least 10 IRE units, causing distorted video and an audio “buzz” on those channels).

    In addition, Charter couldn’t even get their own channel lineup straight. Channel 25 on my system was supposed to be WNEM-DT2, the local My Network TV affiliate. Instead, they were feeding WEYI-DT1, the NBC HD affiliate, on that channel. I brought this to Charter’s attention on three occasions (I had to drive 20 miles to the nearest office, since the rep in the Philipines had no idea what I was talking about). Three times, they had their tech correct the problem, and three times, someone at the head end switched it back to the wrong feed. I gave up.

    In addition, WKBD-TV, the Detroit CW affiliate, was being modulated with only one channel (the left channel) of audio. Charter’s initial explanation of this was that WKBD was only broadcasting one channel of audio. I contacted WKBD’s chief engineer, and was assured that they were broadcasting full-blown stereo (I figured so….what would a major-market station only broadcast one channel of audio?). When I confronted the Charter tech with this, his response was “Well, this is what we give you, so live with it”.

    I did not have to live with it. I went back to Dish Network after only 45 days with Charter. They can keep their on-demand!

    Interesting thing about Charter’s call center – they can send a hit to your box to give you a new premium channel in about two seconds, but when it comes to addressing real, tangible problems, forget about it!

  25. meagasaurus says:

    I work at Charter as a customer service rep and enjoy spending my free time between calls reading blogs about why customers think charter sucks. This hobby, not to mention my profession, means that I’ve heard it all…but this takes the cake. This is just silly.

    I don’t know how “journalistic” this “article” is claiming to be, but it’s the most slanted garbage I’ve ever read either way. I’m not a beacon for the glory of Charter or anything (after all, all I do is sit around and listen to people bitch about the terrible service…and when I’m not doing that i surf the net reading about it…). to tell you the honest truth, I feel for you, I really do. I don’t live in a Charter service area. I wish I did because if I did I’d get lots of free stuff. I do, however, live in an Insight Communications service area and I hate it just as much as you guys hate Charter. That being said, I try to help people out when they call me.

    Personally, I do not lie to people. I know you would like to think I do because it sucks when things are honestly out of our control, but alas, there is no customer-hating-lie-policy. Actually, it gets pretty nauseating around here with all of the CUSTOMER APPRECIATION YAY WOO HAPPY WHOA crapola that gets circulated around the call center.

    Because you’re obviously misled, allow me to educate you in the actual procedure we’re supposed to take when someone calls looking for a tech:
    1. verify your acct info
    2. check your appt time/date in the billing system
    3. talk to a Lead (someone else in our call center who can make outgoing calls), who will then call your local dispatch office, who will then (hopefully) get in touch with the technician and give us an eta. Sometimes this can take a while because the dispatch people tend to get hold-y.
    4. we will tell you the eta and grant you the $20 ON TIME GAURANTEE. YAY.

    so next time you know. this is what they train us to do, this is what I do. no lies involved. k?

    As far as the crazy 30-second rule goes? uh…wtf? If you log in within 7 minutes of your scheduled time you will not be given an occurance. Not that hard. Don’t be late, idiot. Be responsible. You’re an adult in a working environment…I think 7 minutes is a decent grace period. 30-seconds doesn’t apply at all in any way. we have a “compliance” metric that makes sure that we comply to the scheduled breaks, lunch and shift log in/out times. if you log in a minute or two late from lunch one day, your compliance for that day might be at 98% or something, but you won’t be fired or even reprimanded unless this is excessive…you have to have a 97% average to be meeting in the metric…and even if you’re not meeting at all, i’ve never seen anyone get fired for not meeting in one metric. you will be fired if you’re consistently late enough to aquire occurences, but in that case, you deserve it. ADDITIONALLY, we have incentives at Charter where we recieve BONUSES just for meeting in our metrics. yes, we get extra money for doing our job. significant money too. I’m guessing that your source was just mad that she had a sucky handle time, never made any sales, was late every other day, had terrible QA scores and finally got the sack. boo hoo.

    My advice is to stop being silly, do some research, and if you’re going to run a website like this, take journalism 101.


  26. Anonymous says:

    Trying to be fair, I would say when you have to call technical support, you already have a problem, and neither side will be happy about that. Of course you cant be happy when the service you pay for fails on you, and yet, you might be the 100th angry customer that the agent has to deal with. It’s natural that the customers almost always hate the customer support department, thus it would take a saint of an agent to be on the phone listening to all different customers’ bitching and still be patient and calm at the end of the day. I really do feel for people who work in that department.
    With that said, I must still say my experience with Charter has been less than positive so far. The first technician sent out to set up internet in my home could not do that, so he said there will be another agent coming the next day to fix it. Of course no one came. When I called, they said “Sorry, we will set up an appointment for you on Wed” (which was 3-4 days later). I insisted on an earlier appointment, coz it was their fault anyway that they couldnt set it up during the first appointment, AND completely missed the second one. They transfered me to a supervisor, who guaranteed me that a tech would come the next day. Of course no one came. At the end of the day, I called them and they told me the appointment had always been on Wed.
    Just now, I had another experience with the tech support. My internet connection just went out, the lights on my modem were not solid, and all other information messed up (DNS server, default gateway, etc.) I called them, they checked a few things then said it was a problem with my router, insisted on me calling my router’s manufacturer. I did that, the router’s manufacturer referred me back to the ISP. The second time I talked to them, a lady agent tried to fix something from her end, then told me outrightly that my equipment is defective and I should get another one, that she had deactivated it and then couldnt activate it again. Then she tried to get me to lease their modem + their 24/7 in home support service. Since I was in doubt that the problem was really with my equipment, I asked her how she knew it was my router that caused the problem. While she was still saying firmly that “We knew before and we know now that your router is bad, and the fact that the lights dont come on is a proof” the lights did come on steadily. We now hurriedly tried to fix the problem, which no longer seemed to be because of my equipment. At the end, when I was asking what actually was the problem, if the lights just came back on by themselves, she said no she fixed a provision error on their server, and then she said she could finally activate my equipment because earlier she tried another MAC address for a unit that was no longer used at my end. Then she concluded that there were two causes to my problem, first because there was this provision error on their server, and secondly because the lights on my equipment did not come on steadily (which in my opinion simply means that I’m not connected, for whichever reason). Honestly, I do not have that much knowledge about networking to access how much of the truth she was telling me, but I have serious difficulty believing that a piece of machine suddenly decides to stop working right, and then suddenly decides to start working right again. And she never said even one sorry for the problem I went through that *partially* came from their end.

  27. Anonymous says:

    I think this artcile is a fake, but i almost belive it
    case in point I cancled my service because i moved, i was happy to cancle it. I work in a call center i understand how it goes, but its annoying when 5 people give you five differnt answeres are these people even trained?

    charter still owes me 70 buck, thE lady at the local office told me it would take 3 weeks, i call after three weeks, they tell me it will be sent in four WeeKs and i should get it a few days later, i wait untill 13 days after they said it would be sent, i’m told 6-8 weeks, i call back at 8 weeks, im told it takes 6 weeks, it’s been six weeks, well it takes 8 weeks, guess what its also been 8 weeks. i ask for a supervisor, he tells be it was “processed on the 27th of september, ok well that was two weeks ago, where’s the check, he does’nt know, does’nt have a clue, he knows it’s not been sent but obviously does’nt know why, or when its going to be sent.
    Case it point # 2, we upgraded our box, it took me over an hour and 4 calls to charter to get them to turn it on the right box, this was two month after someone came to my house 4 times before i got a box that was not broken, each time i was told that the tech would bring a new box and he never did.
    i had to call because my internet stopped work AT LEAST once a week.

    all call centers have bad reps that don’t know what their doing, but out of the dozens of calls i have made to charter should’nt at least someone know what they are doing

  28. la_de_da says:

    I couldn’t help but respond to this thread. I work at Charter in the Sales Department. I would like all of you to know what it’s like working on my side of the phone.
    The one constant in my job is change. The rules change, procedures change, promotions change, we have to certain stats to keep our jobs and those constantly change. The way they want us to sell our product changes. Ask four supervisors what the rules are and you get four different answers. Communication between departments is almost non-existent. The sales staff has no way to contact the technicians directly. No phone numbers are available to the local offices. Information in our computer system is next to impossible to find. So for all of you that wonder if we have been trained, the answer is yes, but Charter changes things so much that what we were trained to do a week ago is probably going to change tomorrow. And Charter might let us know of the changes by e-mail, IF we get a chance to read our e-mail between calls.

    Compound this with the fact that we are NOT allowed to transfer customers to the department that can best help them. I am a sales rep. I am not trained in billing. Wouldn’t you rather be transferred to a billing SPECIALIST if you have a billing problem? I can’t fix your computer. Wouldn’t you rather be directed to a computer technician? We also have account specialists who are trained to help you lower your bill. They have more promotions available to current customers than I would have in the new sales department. Not only are we expected to be knowledgeable about the products do sell to the public, but we are expected to be experts in areas we were never trained for.

    Now the sales department is no longer allowed to get you, the customer, to an account specialist if you need help lowering your bill. If we, the sales agents, help you lower your bill by $20.00 for example, they now subtract that amount from our commission. We are basically being punished for helping customers!But we’re supposed to be cheerful and helpful on the phone.

    Personally, I wouldn’t do business with a company that treats their employees like this. Unfortunately I live in an area with the worst unemployment rate in the US so finding another job is next to impossible.

    So the next time you call Charter please, please, please listen to the options and try to select the correct one. It will be less frustrating for you in the long run. And we, the employees, really DO want to help you. Please forgive us if we do’t know or tell you the wrong thing. Most of the time it’s not our intention.

  29. firemanva says:

    Haveing have had Charter before, their service really sucked, it was always its the atmospehre, the relfection off of the water, the satalite, the cable in your area, or your tv, it was never their problem that their service sucked, and then tried to bargain us into keeping them instead of going to satalite, but after a few years of no local tv, and a contractor from charter coming to the house, and cutting the wire saying we were not charter customers and were accessing their cable illegally, we decided to go back, and its the same all over again, as it stands right now, ive been with out cable for 48 hours, and their CSR’s dont seem to care, and have acually said out right, that there is no outtage in your area, you are wrong that your cable is out! Id have to belive the former employee, Charter does lie to its customers.

  30. josemexico says:

    i am a charter employee…. all this comments about technicians been late are right, but you all have to understand that we have so many installs (calls) per day the we never know how long is gonna take us to complete each one…. i think we provide a great service… and it is affordable now… i agree with you all when you say our CSRs suck, but every company out there has move customer service out of state or overseas…. I HAVENT SEEN ANY COMMENTS COMPLANING ABOUT TXU BEING LATE when they just give you a day (no time frame) to get your electricity installed…but if we are late 1 hr. you are already calling. thats why it takes forever to get transfered, because there are many people like you trying to complain at tha the same time for techs being late 1 hr or even less…. THIS IS NOT PIZZA!!!!!!!!!!! we take our time on installs ’cause we wanna give the best quality service.

  31. swan20 says:

    sorry to say, Charter like alot. Back in Oct was when i got pissed for the first time. Internet just went dead. Wait for a few hours called in. Was told the do the routine, unplugged this , wait for that , watch the light. claiming we did not plug things in correctly.. then Later it did not work a bit, called back.another girl told there was a black out. We should we didn’t know, she said you should have know when you first dial the number.We dialed twice with no message at all about that. She said it will be back up the next morning. I gave it until night the next morning. Then called back. Got a new rep, this time i just ask them to sent someone. Tire of these trying stuff. The next i had be home from 12-5pm for guy. He called around 3 making sure i will be there. said he will be there before five. At about 5:20 he was not there and my husband and i was about to leave. he then ran and just take a look at the modern, wire. Then ran downstairs to check. About 10 minutes passed, came up and told us that they accidentally cut our line by mistake. We we more pissed knowing that we were lie to about the whole black out after we asked him. he handed up the paper to sign after he left we saw him put one being “on time” at 5:00PM. What a lair. Waisted a whole say and 3-4 days prior without internet and a bunch of lies. And i still have the receipt for this.

  32. Anonymous says:

    I signed up for a Charter bundle in Dec 2008. BIG MISTAKE, do not sign up for Charter. What I got was a really bad tv picture and sound. Damage to my house and an internet connection that was down more than it worked. I had technicians up here 4 times with no improvement. I canceled the service within the 45 day charter policy. My house was already wired for cable before I signed up for the new bundle. During installation the tech screwed the new cable to the siding instead of the eve and left the old cable hanging from the eve of the house and left trash all over the place. The new cable and the old cable are very unsightly and the damage to the new siding (screw holes) is permanent. According to charter policy the $170.00 installation fee they charged me will be returned if you cancel within 45 days. Also, I was told on the phone by three charter representatives that the installation fee would be returned to me. After several emails and phone calls I still haven’t seen a dime of the installation fee returned to me. Charter reps are liars!!! Apparently the reps are trained to tell you what you want to hear but it’s all lies. My next course of action is to file a lawsuit in small claims court and include the damage to my house, estimated at $750.00. What ever you do, don’t sign up for charter they will rip you off and damage your property.

  33. Anonymous says:

    I signed up for a Charter bundle in Dec 2008. BIG MISTAKE, do not sign up for Charter. What I got was a really bad tv picture and sound. Damage to my house and an internet connection that was down more than it worked. I had technicians up here 4 times with no improvement. I canceled the service within the 45 day charter policy. My house was already wired for cable before I signed up for the new bundle. During installation the tech screwed the new cable to the siding instead of the eve and left the old cable hanging from the eve of the house and left trash all over the place. The new cable and the old cable are very unsightly and the damage to the new siding (screw holes) is permanent. According to charter policy the $170.00 installation fee they charged me will be returned if you cancel within 45 days. Also, I was told on the phone by three charter representatives that the installation fee would be returned to me. After several emails and phone calls I still haven’t seen a dime of the installation fee returned to me. Charter reps are liars!!! Apparently the reps are trained to tell you what you want to hear but it’s all lies. My next course of action is to file a lawsuit in small claims court and include the damage to my house, estimated at $750.00. What ever you do, don’t sign up for charter they will rip you off and damage your property.