Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I hate you, Charter, or, "Do you have internet now? Please say yes or no."

So today I ripped out the kitchen carpet, took it to the dump, prepped the floor, and laid three rows of the engineered hardwood, then decided I shouldn't be sawing outside past 8 pm or the neighbors might object. I hadn't gotten any email in like FOREVER so I went to check and the internet was down. I called my fabulous husband (my personal computer janitor) and he did advanced troubleshooting and determined it's Charter's fault... and I had to call them.

Yall. I only panic for about 15 minutes when the water stops working. I am blase about any home repair issue short of an earthquake or fire. But I cannot call tech support.

A bazillion years ago, I was a Tier 1 tech support CSR for Roadrunner, and I have been on the other end of far too many calls. (The nice older gentleman who drank whiskey and sang to me as he walked through inserting all 5 Windows 95 floppy disks to reinstall his TCP/IP stack was my personal low point.) I know that the fastest way to get things done is to run through the stupid troubleshooting script the agent can't deviate from - or preferably, just jump in and ask them up front if there's an issue (there are no problems, only issues, as our trainers said) in my area. I hate it. I hate calling, listening to the verbal spam, trying to figure out whose name / SSN / phone number got used on the account... I hate it all.

But I am nothing if not resourceful, so I looked up the number for Charter - yes, Charter Communications, CHTR, I'm talking to you and called them. And they have an IVR (interactive voice recognition, the recorded thing you have to talk to) doing tier 1 tech support now.

So here's the abbreviated version of our conversation.

IVR: What's your phone number?
Me: I punch in one of G's phone numbers, and angels sing - it's the one he used to set up the account.
IVR: I found you! What's wrong?
Me: My internet is broken.
IVR: I'm sorry, I didn't understand you. (Henceforth abbreviated as "ISIDUY.")
IVR: So you're having trouble connecting to the Internet? Let me walk you through some troubleshooting. You can say "agent" any time if you want to speak to an agent. First...

The IVR then did a quite competent job of walking me through power cycling the modem. I was annoyed at how slow it was, but at least it spoke perfectly understandable American English (even though it thought I was speaking English as a third language if I did not yell, slowly and clearly, every word).

IVR: Try to browse the internet! Did that fix your problem?
Me: No.
Me: NO!
IVR: Ok, let's reboot your computer. When you've finished rebooting, say "continue."
Me, lying: Continue.
IVR: ISIDUY? Do you know how to reboot your computer? Say help if you need help rebooting your computer, or say continue when you rebooted your computer!
IVR: Ok, try to connect to the internet now. Can you connect to the internet now?
Me: NO!
IVR: ISIDUY? You can say yes or no!
Me: NO!!
IVR: ISIDUY? Are you stupid? Can you connect to the internet? Do you know how to turn your computer on and connect to a web page?
Me: Yes.
Me, screaming: NO! AGENT! YES! BURN IN HELL!
IVR, continuing implacably: Can you connect to a web page on the world wide web now?
Me: presses end call

So I poured another drink (RIP expensive rum, I really enjoyed you) and called back. After I put in my phone number and got shunted back to Halle 9000, I immediately started yelling agent and she immediately began acting like she didn't understand me. But the magical 0 button worked... to drop me into a queue that never got answered. At 9 pm PACIFIC time.

After 12 minutes on hold, listening to the virtues and fantastic deals of a Charter cable/internet/phone package, I mashed refresh one more time on Facebook and lo and behold, it worked.

Having typed this out, I feel better, and I do hope that one day some social media intern for Charter Communications (CHTR on the NASDAQ) shall stumble upon this post and understand the depths of my fury for the stupid IVR tech support. Just hire some more college kids, ok? They're basically slave labor anyway and you're just contributing to the destruction of our economy by outsourcing everything to shitty IVRs. If I could pay an extra $20 a month for a phone number that connected me directly to a human, located in the United States, I would do it in a heartbeat.


  1. LMAO

    first of all, you must always tell the truth to the IVR.

    i just had almost the same experience, trying to get ahold of my bank. there is no hit-zero option on the IVR for a real person, so after a while arguing with the IVR and pressing zero, i tried REALLY hard to say the word "AGENT" and the IVR would not recognize my (adorable) american accent. people always understand me now, but machines do not. i was so mad! i was on there 15 minutes and then tried again later and then went home and asked my man to try and it understood him the first time he said AGENT and boy did he let them have it. he said it is inexcusable that there is no hit-zero for when the machine does not understand the caller, esp. in a country with so many foreigners.

    my bank is so backwards i cannot believe they invested in IVR technology. it is a local community bank with mostly hayseed customers. when i was asked to enter my occupation, there was no option for anything to do with computers in any way, but Tractor Repairman was in there.

    thank you for this post funder!

  2. You had me cracking up....
    I can't handle the automatic voice- you held out a lot longer than I would have!

  3. They claim the calls are recorded for quality control.

    I'm sure it's just for entertainment at their Christmas party.


  4. LOL, I think we've all had some version of this experience!

  5. I cannot tell you how much I second this post. I HATE those automated systems with a passion that most reserve for people who torture kittens. I hate them that much (almost). I am actually really good at getting around them and finding a way to get a real live person on the line, but it is supremely annoying/upsetting to have to jump through these hoops.

    Great post!

  6. Ohh I hear you! I will never understand why communications companies have THE WORST communications systems for their customers to reach them. I have finally given up even trying to get hold of my internet/cable/phone company (Shaw) and now just show up in person in their office in town - I've not only received excellent help there, but they knock $10 a month off my bill every time I go in and complain - bill has dropped from $129 a month to $89 a month in the past two years.
    By the way, a trick for circumventing those annoying IVRs is to simply randomly and continually push all and every button on the phone as soon as the voice recording starts - it will 'bump' you over to a real person (assuming there is one) immediately - no queues. I've found it works for every IVR I've tried - except Shaw.

  7. HAHAHAHAHA! My co-workers were wondering why I was laughing uncontrollably.

    I just skip the whole damn thing and say AGENT at the first possible moment. Stupid phone systems.

  8. Being in the IT field myself, I feel your pain. I always try to convince them to send me to tier 2 suport because I've already rebooted everything and I'm not the average user. It never works...

  9. Almost as bad as comcast, but not quite.

  10. haha - i had a similar conversation with the Apple store IVR, yelling at the phone (at which point our phone distorts my voice so of course it can't understand). I finally hung up and tried again, and this time when it asked what the problem was, I just started telling a long story that had nothing to do with computers, sometimes mumbling words, sometimes humming and making words up, and finally it said "Let me connect you to a person" - HA!
    I keep meaning to write Larry David and tell him to do a skit with an IVR. I'm sure I'd die laughing.
    - The Equestrian Vagabond

  11. Didn't realize there was a "clever" acronym for poor customer service masquerading as technological advancement.

    I tend to mash on the zero until I get a human. And if that human isn't located in the US of A....

  12. I just make Bad Pants deal with all of it, always. If it's not the IVR, not guessing the right name, code, etc for the account, it's someone in India with an accent I can't hear through. Yep, hear THROUGH. I keep practicing when he's on conference calls with India, but I can't grasp what they're saying. I get it on tv, but I can lip read in that case.


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