Did you know there isn’t a formal way to report a Charter cable outage, and that you’re entitled to a $20 credit if your tech is a single minute late for your appointment? These, and other fantastic tips to get faster, cheaper service from Charter, as told by a former customer service representative, inside…

I wish there were uniform tips for dealing with CSRs, but there’s such a variety of quality – anything from an outsourcer in the Philippines who is following a script to agents who are in their third year of working through a CS degree. Don’t assume that just because you’re talking to someone without a foreign accent they’re going to be useful – we have several outsourced centers in Canada and the U.S. that are just following Logicall (our call flow guide) and even the inhouse call centers are encouraged to follow it, especially for their cross specialties. (a year ago upper management decided that we could sell more new lines of business if they cross-trained the internet centers in video training and vice versa. Then they decided that training is expensive so they only gave us two days of it and told us to follow Logicall)

1. We have a lot of outages. Some are planned, some aren’t. The planned ones – “scheduled maintenance” – have ETRs; unplanned outages don’t. For unplanned outages we are supposed to say “It will be up within 24 to 48 hours” but agents don’t like listening to the “OMG TWO WHOLE DAYS WITHOUT SERVICE” that inevitably follows so they’ll make up a time of 1-4 hours. Usually it will be fixed within that time anyways, but don’t take any timeframe we give as a guarantee unless you’re calling in after midnight (99% of scheduled maintenance is in the early morning.) If there is a verified outage you should get one day’s credit for your services according to the official policy. However, it has become common practice that customers should call back after the outage for credit (and of course management has done nothing to discourage this) and it’s up to you if you think it’s worth arguing with the rep/requesting a supervisor or not.

2. There is no way to report an outage. If you suspect there is one in your area the best option is to encourage your neighbors to call in and schedule appointments to trigger an auto-outage. Occasionally our pathetic excuse for an outage management team will collect information on suspected outages, but we have no control over when they ask for it. This is incredibly stupid but there’s no way around it – a sup won’t be able to do anything else either.

3. If your tech is late, you should call for a $20 on time guarantee credit. This will only work if the tech arrives after the time in the billing system. For example: if you have a 10-12 appointment and the tech shows up at 11:50, no credit. This also assumes that the time frame in the billing system is the same as what we told you.

4. If you need a tech and aren’t happy with how long it will take to get someone out, you can request a “must do” or next day appointment if at least one line of business is completely down. So, if you have no dial tone on any phones, or RF (bad lights and bad signals on your modem) or no TV service on all TVs, you can insist on one. You aren’t eligible if you have slow speeds, intermittent connection, a busy signal, TV service on TVs without a digital box, or if your appointment is an install or for a line issue.

5. If you have a home office and you rely on the internet, please get a charter business account. Most of the time you’ll get same day appointments and much better CSRs – CB is reached only by internal promotion so all of the agents there have been with the company for at least six months and most have taken or are taking some sort of IT courses.

6. The promotions we offer vary by area, but standard rates are $29.99/mo for 5 meg internet, $44.99/mo for basic, expanded, and a digital converter, $19.99/mo for telephone, and $5/mo for a premium (HBO, Showtime, or Stz/Enc). If you’re being charged more than this you should do the standard trick of calling retention and (nicely!) threatening to cancel unless you can get those rates. This doesn’t include any extras like faster internet, digital views, modem rental (not that you should be renting a modem from us anyways – buy your own and you’ll save money over the long run), etc.

7. Our email service sucks. Please just use Gmail. And don’t call for Outlook/Thunderbird/etc issues – all we can do is verify your server names and then tell you to use webmail.

8. Wire Maintenance is our version of an extended warranty plan and a complete rip-off. We try and pressure you into it because it’s the highest commission non-truck roll item ($2.50), but you should only have it on your account if you have a signal issue done caused by something you did like installing your own splitter or having a dog who chewed your coax. You should call back and take it off after the tech comes out. The only reason to keep it on is if you’ve had ongoing issues with being mischarged for truck roll fees and would rather pay the monthly fee than worry about arguing with the billing department.

9. Our Wireless service (Home Networking) is also a rip-off. You’re paying $10 a month for us to walk you through changing your SSID/wireless key and pin resetting your router. Buy a router, spend five minutes on Google, and save yourself the money.

10. We have to upsell, like every other call center. The highest commission is on new Lines of Business. If you want to be a horrible person, you can tell the rep that you’re interested in getting telephone service (gives the highest commission – $15) if they can get your issue resolved and then change your mind at the end of the call. The rep will be highly motivated to help you but you’ll never reach moksha.

(Photo: takomabibelot)

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Consumerist.