10 Things We Hate About ISPs and Cable and Phone Companies

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'Our Time Is More Valuable Than Yours'

Service providers: Don't even think about charging me a fee for paying my bill over the phone. I'm giving you my money, and you want to charge me for the privilege? The nerve of you people!

If you're wondering why I haven't picked on service provider phone reps much so far, it's because I've been saving that for last. Many reps seem to lack basic reasoning skills and solid judgment, and service customers have had to accept the growing problem of a language (or at least accent) barrier. But the central problem is that many representatives are trained--actively or passively--to regard subscribers as revenue streams instead of as people.

This mindset explains much of the bad behavior by service provider reps that customers complain about. In fact, the mindset is moving toward a logical extreme, as service providers experiment with charging customers for everything from sending a tech out for a repair, to providing person-to-person phone support. This might look great on a business plan, but in the real world, it infuriates people:

"I'm already paying for your service; if you come out to add new service (meaning you'll make even more money from me), or to fix a problem with my existing service (meaning your company did something to interrupt what I'm paying for), then why are you charging me a trip charge?" asks Martin Kozicki, a real-estate consultant from Nashville. "Isn't it enough that I'm already giving you $150 for cable and Internet service each month--you now have to drive the dagger in harder by penalizing me just to maintain said service?"

I could go on.

I'm not saying that being a service provider is easy. And I'm not saying that everybody who complains about them is always right. Of course not. But in general, service providers and their people could do a lot more to satisfy their subscribers. Too often it feels as though these large companies want to keep customers just happy enough not to cancel, but no more. And they seem to have a thousand different ways of giving us that impression.

PC World Senior Associate Editor Danny Allen contributed to this story.

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