Complaints about Suddenlink’s service point to possible legislative action
Lawmakers could be asked to help communications provider Suddenlink re-establish a customer service center in West Virginia.
Charlotte Lane, the chair of the Civil Service Commission, described the possibility during a presentation to lawmakers on Capitol Hill. She said customers expressed greater satisfaction when Suddenlink had a call center in Parkersburg, but that center closed.
“Customer complaints are now outsourced outside the country. Customers find it difficult to understand what they are hearing, ”Lane said.
“I think we’ll probably ask that we have a call center in West Virginia through Suddenlink. I think this will solve a lot of problems.
Jim Campbell, vice president of state and local government affairs at Suddenlink’s parent company, responded that the company is working to improve its service. But Campbell expressed doubts that the location of its customer service efforts was a major factor.
“Whatever the location, I think the training is more important than the location. If we have people who are properly trained, that takes care of a lot of the problem rather than the location, ”Campbell said.
Both were addressing two assembled legislative committees: the Joint Committee on Technology and the Special Committee on Infrastructure.
Lane’s presentation came as the Civil Service Commission nears the end of an investigation into Suddenlink’s service. The case is now closed in that case, and Lane has said she hopes an order setting out the findings, recommendations and actions will be issued by the end of this year.
Client after client, he complained about Suddenlink service in three public hearings this fall.
Lane said things got to this point because officials have received thousands of complaints related to Suddenlink, far more than about other cable companies.
Linda Bouvette, an attorney for the PSC, told lawmakers today that compared to the smaller Comcast, many more complaints are being made against Suddenlink. Most of the complaints are about meetings with call centers and long waits to speak to a real person, she said.
“Comcast had the same time and they also operated on covid, and they didn’t have the type of complaints Suddenlink did,” Bouvette said.
Campbell, speaking on behalf of Suddenlink, said the company recognizes the complaints and has strived to improve. “We see the frustrations. We recognize the frustrations, ”he said. “I’m here to tell you that we own it. And if we have it, we have to fix it.
He said a negotiated resolution, rather than an ordinance, would be better for residents and customers of the state. Meanwhile, he said, technical call rates have fallen by 30%, “a sign that we are moving in the right direction.”
But he said the large numbers of people who have logged in for work and school during the covid-19 pandemic have strained resources. Calls increased and some customer service agents took action before they had enough experience to handle some of the technical issues people were calling to resolve.
“We probably had client agents talking to clients before they should have. We have increased training, ”he said.
Suddenlink has increased client agents’ time with supervision, Campbell said. More investments were made in technical support. The company has stepped up automated fault notifications. There are plans to expand the retail stores with full time employees.
“Do you understand how important it is that the services you provide are for our economy and for the safety and security of the people of West Virginia? Delegate Daniel Linville, R-Cabell, asked Campbell.
Yes, Campbell admitted.
Linville, chairman of the technology and infrastructure committee, asked Lane what other support might be needed from the legislature. Lane said the PSC will need to assess its authority in conjunction with its order in the Suddenlink case.
“Then we will probably come up with legislation. I’m not really prepared at the moment to say what that might be, ”Lane said.
Linville polled more broadly, “Are you arguing for full Internet regulator or not?” “
“Yes: Lane replied, ‘I would like to have full regulatory authority over the Internet. But I have to talk to the legislative leaders to see if they fully agree with this. “
The PSC has regulatory power over cable television, an important component of Suddenlink’s business, she noted. But, “In the past, the legislature did not want to give us jurisdiction over Internet service. But I want to speak with the legislative leaders to see if they are prepared to allow us to continue down this path. “
Linville asked more questions about the circumstances under which the Civil Service Commission might regulate Internet service.
“Anyone who provides a service to the public should be accountable to the public. Right now, no one is holding the internet accountable to the public, ”Lane replied. “We would be the logical person to make sure Internet customers are responsible for service issues. “