Cable and Customer Service

Is it really that difficult for cable companies to offer good customer service? OK, I know, it's an oxymoron. But seriously, I think I was spoiled by Optimum Online in New York and Connecticut when they had only mandated a 4 hour block of your life, and every single time showed up straight away -- or, get this -- called and asked if they could come early.

So, I'm going to share this story of comedic ineptitude offered by Northland Cable in Sandpoint. Here's the breakdown of events:

1. Cable modem service has finally arrived in Sandpoint! Yippee!

2. Appointment to get the cable upgraded to my house confirmed for the following Monday afternoon, 12 - 5 pm. Note, this is 1 of 2 appointments. One to do the cable, the other to do the cable modem. The second could only be scheduled after the first.

3. On Monday, I get home at 11:45 am and wait. And wait. You get the idea. At 3:45 pm I decide I could be more productive watering the flowers, etc. Upon checking the mailbox, I see a "Sorry we missed you..." notice. Huh? Turns out the cable guy arrived at 10:30 am to install. Just like I mentioned above with the Optimum Online folks, coming early is fine if you call first. I called the cable company, and they said they'll get him to come back and do the work. Great! My faith is somewhat restored. At 4:40 pm I call back, still not having heard anything, and they can't locate the cable guy. Reschedule necessary. Half my day wasted.

4. Tuesday morning, I manage to reschedule for Wednesday. Not too bad I thought. But wait! Late Tuesday, the company calls to reschedule. Sorry, that day isn't good anymore. Okay, at least they called. They suggest the following week, but I was out of town the entire week and that was no good. I finally get them to agree to Thursday afternoon (12 - 5 pm) for BOTH the cable and the modem install. The sighs through the phone were quite obvious and rather unprofessional, but I explained that I cannot justify THREE days off from work (partial or not) to get this installed.

5. I arrange to have Thursday afternoon off. It so happens my mother-in-law was visiting; so that morning I'm at work less than an hour and my phone rings. My mother-in-law was letting me know the cable guy (Guy) was at the door. Huh? It was 9:15 am! Of course I had arranged all my priorities for the morning and left my afternoon open, but I race home to catch Guy. Guy is an independant contractor, it turns out, and has no specific times on his work orders. Well, a bone to pick with the cable company at another time. Guy couldn't do the install completely because he needed a longer ladder to run the cable. (I suppose figuring this out on Monday would've been asking too much.) However, the old cable, with layers and layers of paint on it, should still work I'm told. I don't have much choice at this point. I try to calm myself by thinking the layers of paint, dating back decades, would have lead and thus provide more shielding. Yeah, that's it.

6. Now I have to wait until the afternoon for the cable modem guy (Guy2) to install. After explaining the situation to the cable company, they'll put me first on the list for installs at 1 pm. So I wait. Guy2 shows up just past 1 pm. When I set up the appointment, I informed the company that I had my own cable modem and was told this would be no problem. Might as well save the $3 or $4 a month rental if you've got the equipment.

Guy2 walks in with a cable modem. I explain I already have my own modem. After the blood drains from his face, he explains he's not sure how to set that up. (?) It's ok, though, because the cable modem rental is free with the subscription, so why not use theirs? (That's what he tried to sell.) So I agreed but wanted to him to confirm it was free, and of course, it was not. While on the phone, he managed to figure out how to give the MAC address of the modem to the tech at the call center, and get it hooked up. The modem eventually lit up, but there was no internet. Guy2 asked if I knew how to check or get an IP address. (Yes, IPCONFIG. You'd think, if you could know only a single command, this would be the one you'd want to know as an installer.)

7. 2:15 pm. IP address received and all is good. Or so I think. The should work cable is dropping my connection every few minutes. The call center (who is based elsewhere and likely handles many areas geographically) say they see the connection dropping, too. "Has all of the cable been upgrade?" they ask. "No, they needed the long ladder to do that," I reply. "Oh."

8. Friday morning: sometime the following week, Guy will come back and finish installing the new cable. Groovy. After I get back in town, I confirm the new cable had been installed. Most of it was done okay, but all the connectors and the main split coming to the house is completely unweatherproofed. A tad disappointing.

So my connection has been working okay with some intermittent dropouts. The 2 T1's the company has as a backbone (Guy2 was quite proud of this) can't quite handle the hundres of people using it, but it still beats dial-up at only triple the price. But when it's the only game in town, what can you do?

I know cable companies place a close second behind phone companies for the worst customer service award, and it's not always deserved. The Optimum Online guys were always awesome (and the price was less than half of what I'm paying now).

Northland hasn't been all bad. For the most part they are friendly to deal with. I just have a low tolerance for this type of thing. Have a bad cable or phone story? Leave a comment. It's therapeutic.
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