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Comcast And Charter Pledge To Improve Customer Service In Senate Hearings

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Cable and internet service providers Comcast and Charter Communications have pledged in Senate hearings to do better in an area where many customers feel their performance is extremely poor — customer service. The companies pledged to address continuous issues with overcharging, hidden fees, difficulty in canceling services and other problems that have landed the companies on the bottom of customer service surveys for years.

As a matter of fact, a recent Temkin survey placed Comcast and Charter at the lowest customer satisfaction levels of all eight cable/ISPs when it comes to customer service. Charter rated at a 48 percent satisfaction level, the same as Time Warner Cable, which it recently acquired. While Cablevision's rate of satisfaction was even lower at 47 percent, Comcast brought up the rear with a lowly 40 percent score.

Even though Comcast Executive VP David Cohen pledged to improve customer service in a similar Senate hearing two years back, things haven't changed much from the customer's viewpoint. Current customer service VP at the company Tom Karinshak issued a mea culpa and promised that Comcast was in the process of initiating new policies designed to turn things around.

"At Comcast, we understand why we are here," he admitted. "We and the industry as a whole have not always made customer service the high priority it should have been. We regret that history and have committed to our customers that we will lead the way with initiatives to change it; we are committed to making every part of our customers' experience better, and we have already begun to do so."

Karinshak cited a new Comcast customer "bill of rights" that promised fairer pricing for customers, increased training and technology access for employees, more consistent on-time performance, simplicity of bills and self-installation and crediting for outages and interruptions without the customer having to specifically request it.

One of the most widely-publicized issues with Comcast has been the aggressive nature of its retention agents, who have been accused of holding customers hostage to the company by refusing to allow them to cancel the service without first providing what Comcast considers a valid reason. Karinshak cited a new pilot program at the company that allows customers to cancel service online, but the service disconnection request is still only initiated that way, and customers still need to speak with a rep before the request is approved.

As for Charter, the company claimed at the hearings that its customer service has improved somewhat recently, due to a reduction in outsourcing customer service employees from outside the U.S., a practice that it says it is continuing to deemphasize. Charter also addressed the issue of overcharging, and outlined future methods of reducing it and compensating those customers who have already been affected. The company has a huge challenge on its hands, however, as it now attempts to integrate another customer service laggard into its business in the form of Time Warner Cable.

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