Check Your New RCN Bill for This Error

I just got off the phone with RCN, because I got my new RCN bill, the first after they switched completely to digital. They’ve proven better at irking me than even Comcast was.

To review, about a month and a half ago, I got an oversized postcard in the mail from RCN. It said, “You’ll lose programming on: July 22, 2008 [unless you get a digital converter box]. But once installed and the date has passed, you’ll enjoy more entertainment choices than ever before. For a limited time, YOUR FIRST STANDARD CONVERTER BOX IS FREE, and additional boxes are only $2.95 a month per box.” (emphasis in original) So I called right up and got 2 converter boxes.

The first problem is that this bill is $25.03 higher than the last one. (I was expecting something about $3 higher.) WTF? A brief examination showed that that they charged me $2.95 for one box and $5.95 for the other. On top of that, they back-billed me for last month’s rental on the converter boxes. (So double the overcharge amount.) And to sweeten the deal, they charged me for digital cable, which shows up as a $38.49 additional charge. WT-double-F? But more on that in a second.

So I immediately called them. Had to do some creative reading to figure out the number to call (877-RCN-BILL), because the note about how to dispute your bill doesn’t mention which number to call, only that you “can call.” Smart. I’m sure that will cut down on complaints. (NOT!) And make angry customers happier. (Double NOT!)

I talked to a “a Company representative,” whose name I will withhold because it wasn’t his/her fault–I’ll just use “he” from now on, even though it might have been a woman. It wasn’t his fault that he was such a hard-ass. That’s just his job, and if he were actually accommodating to customers, he wouldn’t get paid. (Hint: Get a new job.)

So here I am, pissed as hell and coming down with a stress headache, arguing with him over whether I should get the reduced rate. And he’s telling me about how the reduced rate applies only to new customers. (Well, I guess that puts a value on loyalty, doesn’t it? A negative value. But as I recall, Comcast puts the same negative value on loyalty.) But the notice I got clearly says, “You’ll lose your programming,” so this rate clearly applies to me, because how could I lose my programming if I were a new customer? And thank God I had saved the notice they had sent me. And then he needs to check on whether I had previously had a cable box. (I hadn’t, but he couldn’t figure that out.) And do you know what? I don’t care about any of that shit. That’s his problem, not mine, and I really don’t want it foisted on me. All I know is that I got a notice in the mail, and it said the rental would cost this much, and RCN is overcharging me. So FIX IT ALREADY!

34 minutes later (10:54 AM – 11:28 AM) he finally got it all straightened out. Now, I told him that there was a rate-increase associated with going to digital, and that none of the materials I got mentioned it. At first, I thought the rate increase was $38.49, but– Hold on. That’s not right. Here’s the breakdown. Before digital cable, I was paying $46.99 for analog cable. Now, I’m paying $13 for “basic cable service” plus $38.49 for “Signature cable TV,” which totals $51.49. That’s a rate increase of $4.50, not nearly as bad as I had thought. But they still forgot to mention that in any of their marketing materials or notices, and that sucks.

And it still sucks. How could such a piddling little increase be such a problem. Because they didn’t tell me about it, that’s why. This does not appear to be part of the other rate increases that some RCN customers are seeing, so I expect for those customers, it will be added on top of those. Or maybe not. Who can know what will happen when you’re making it up as you go along? (Not that RCN is making it up as they go along, mind you, only that it looks that way to an outsider.)

It still gets me, though, that I had to argue with him over this piddling 6-dollar-a-month charge, which amounts to less than 5.3% of the services I buy. And truth be told, I was considering (since I have digital now) whether I wanted to upgrade to a more expensive programming package. (Not considering it anymore, strangely enough.) Of course, those are just idle thoughts and not worth anything in $$$ until I actually do it. Still…

Hey. I understand. I’ve done it myself. I’ve said something stupid to piss off a potential client or customer. (I’ll have to tell you the story sometime of… But right now, it’s too fresh in my memory, and I’m not even sure how it will turn out.) What do you do? You cringe. You apologize if you can. And then you go on the best you can. We all make the mistake. But I’m thinking that only the best of us learn from it.

I shouldn’t even have to write these down. But maybe if I do, someone at RCN will get the message. (Or maybe not.) Whatever RCN does, you can take these points away from my experience.

  1. Whatever you told your customer you would do, just do it. Figure out on your own time how you’re going to account for it.
  2. Freely give your loyal customers the same discounts you give new customers, because that makes them more likely to buy your premium offerings.
  3. If you’re going to charge the customer more money than he’s used to for any reason, tell him about it up-front. Do not “forget” to mention it on the theory that you can justify it later.
  4. Always ask yourself, “Would the IRS do this?” And if so, re-assess immediately.
  5. And while I’m thinking about it, make sure you occasionally call your own call centers and place an order, or register a complaint, and see how they handle it. Be creative about thinking up unusual situations for them to handle. Think about anything in the process that could have gone wrong. (Including that the post office lost all your mailings to a particular customer, every single one.) Make sure the call center mentions all the up-sells in the script, and make sure the process is as pleasant and seamless as possible. Then make changes to the call-center scripts to fix the problems you find.

I was browsing the Comcast channel lineups and price guides even while still on the phone with RCN. Seriously. What else was I to do while waiting on hold? (The Internet is so kewl.) I’m thinking now I should call Comcast and say, “Hi. I’m an RCN customer, and I’m wondering what kind of a deal you can give me for switching?”

-TimK