Sunday, June 24, 2018
Business

Frontier Communications' latest problem is the no-show technician

TAMPA — Frontier Communications customers who have service problems are discovering another annoyance that often triggers more anger than not being able to watch TV or use the Internet.

It's being stood up by the technician who was supposed to come and fix their service outage.

Numerous Frontier customers have reported to the Tampa Bay Times and on social media that Frontier's technicians frequently fail to keep appointments for service calls at homes and businesses. That leaves embittered customers who often take time off work so they can wait on a tech's arrival.

The appointment no-shows may be one more example that Frontier's April 1 takeover of Verizon's TV, Internet and landline phone service is challenging the resources of the Connecticut-based company. And it may further bruise the reputation of Tampa Bay's newest telecommunications player.

"They're just lying over and over and over again," said Apollo Beach resident Chris Davis, who said technicians failed to keep two appointments to fix an outage at her home that began Saturday. Calls to customer service by her or husband, Gerald, ended with broken promises that someone will call back.

''This is ridiculous," she said. "They shouldn't be treating their customers like this."

Frontier spokesman Bob Elek acknowledged that technicians are missing some appointments despite the best efforts to respond quickly to problems.

"If we're not responding as we should to those people, that is inexcusable and unacceptable," Elek said. "That's the bottom line. That's small consolation if they are not getting (service). We know it's getting better. We do believe that has improved."

In a statement sent to the Times, Frontier said the number of service appointments it is completing daily is three times higher today than it was a week ago. "We sincerely apologize for any missed appointments and are working directly with customers to reschedule," the company said.

In fact, customers say in interviews that they often reschedule only with great effort. And several told the Times they ultimately gave up trying to after long, fruitless waits on customer service lines or after promised call backs never materialize.

"I figured they're just telling people what they want to hear to get them off the phone," said Gerald Hamilton, a South Tampa man who lost TV, Internet and phone service on Saturday. Technicians "were supposed to be here Monday. They didn't show up. They were supposed to be here Tuesday. They didn't show up. They were supposed to be here Wednesday. They didn't show up."

A technician finally arrived Thursday, Hamilton said. His TV service was fixed. But the tech could not remedy his Internet or phone outage.

"But at least," Hamilton said, "someone showed up."

Elek, the Frontier spokesman, said employee training issues created a backlog of calls, and technicians often have to spend several hours on one complaint, throwing schedules into further turmoil.

Frontier said in its statement that "automatic repair technologies" have delayed service calls. Another issue is the high volume of calls, the company said.

That statement appears to contradict what Frontier said earlier this month, namely that the number of calls to its customer service representatives was near normal levels.

Judging by loud complaints about Frontier customer service on social media, missed appointments also appear to be an issue in California and Texas, two other states where Frontier took over Verizon service.

In interviews before the April 1 takeover, Frontier officials acknowledged they needed to improve customer service.

One widely cited 2015 survey by the Temkin Group, a customer experience consultant in Boston, showed Frontier tying for 270th in customer service satisfaction among 278 companies in a wide variety of industries, from airlines to telecommunications and retailers.

Among just Internet providers, Frontier ranked in a tie for seventh place among nine Internet providers, falling behind Charter Communications, Verizon, AT&T and Cox. (Bright House Networks was in 262nd place overall, though only its TV customer satisfaction was measured, not Internet.)

Charter is expected to finish its acquisition of Bright House, perhaps as soon as May, according to the New York Times.

• • •

Frontier notes that some of the outages that continue to be reported by customers are related to the transition from Verizon, though the company said those issues are on the decline.

And customers speculate that those continued transitional issues may be throwing service calls by technicians into chaos.

Kathlyn Fitzpatrick, who lives in Carrollwood, said she lost her TV and Internet service just over a week ago. The premium channels that are part of her TV package have not worked since April 1, she said.

Frontier technicians failed to appear at her home for two separate appointments, Fitzpatrick said, without so much as a call telling her they could not come.

"And when you call customer service, nobody can tell you what's going on," Fitzpatrick said. "It's crazy. They had my cellphone. They could have called me."

Cathy Avis McVaugh of Sarasota, who lost her Internet, TV and phone service nearly a week ago, said she took time off work Monday to await the promised Frontier technician to arrive. The tech never appeared. She called Frontier, and McVaugh said customer service said someone would be out Tuesday.

But once again, the tech failed to show up.

McVaugh said she called Frontier again and was promised a technician on Thursday. Then McVaugh went home for lunch Wednesday — the day before her latest promised appointment — and she said she found a note on her door from a Frontier technician who showed up a day early. In it, the technician said he tried to phone McVaugh to tell her he had arrived, even helpfully listing the number he had called.

But the number was McVaugh's inoperative landline that the technician was supposed to fix.

"I gave them my cellphone number eight different times," said McVaugh, who is a call center supervisor in an unrelated industry. "I do feel sorry for the frontline people at Frontier who have to deal with customers. I know the anger they're dealing with. But at the same time, they seem to be saying whatever it takes to just get people off the phone."

One group of people who received a vigorous and sometimes quick response to their service outage are those who were quoted complaining about problems in media reports.

Dr. David Rothberg lost the Internet connection at his Palm Harbor office on April 1. But he had Frontier technicians in three separate trucks at his practice two days after a Times story quoted him about the outage.

But the technicians still couldn't get his service working.

Rothberg's service was finally restored nearly a week later.

Contact William R. Levesque at [email protected] or (813) 226-3432. Follow @Times_Levesque.

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