The State of West Virginia relies on Suddenlink to provide cable television services to West Virginia residents. Over 133,000 residents rely on Suddenlink for services.
Apparently, Suddenlink was not providing the best customer service from its call centers. In May 2021, the Public Service Commission of West Virginia met with representatives from Suddenlink to discuss complaints about billing errors and “the inability of customers to place orders for service or contact personnel regarding the status of customer service requests.”
The Public Service Commission is qualified to get involved in whether Suddenlink’s call center operations by virtue of a state law that requires that
“each cable operator shall operate sufficient telephone lines, including a toll-free number or any other free calling option, as approved by the commission, staffed by a company customer service representative during normal business hours .”W.Va. Code Section 24D-1-17
Suddenlink was given an opportunity to correct the call center issues, but no progress was made. The Commission was forced to conduct further hearings and issued a final Order on Feb. 7, 2022.
Call Center Staffing Changes
In the Order, the Commission requires Suddenlink to make a number of changes to their call center operations. For example, Suddenlink needs to adequately staff its call centers with representatives who can answer and respond to customer calls without having the customers sit in queue for extended periods of time. Numerous customers lodged complaints with the Commission regarding long wait times when making calls to Suddenlink and the lack of a call back, if the customer chooses that option rather than waiting in the queue for an answer. Suddenlink needs to make quarterly filings updating the Commission on its status in this regard.
The Commission also required Suddenlink to hire employees rather than contractors in its call centers. The Commission argues that contractors are not adequately trained and provide poor service as a result.
Bring the Call Center Onshore
The Commission also found that Suddenlink was providing all customer service call center services from outside of WVA (with most agents located outside the US). As the number of customer calls handled internationally increased, so did the number of customer complaints. A number of those complaints involved: Long wait times to speak to a representative; appointments for service technicians not being made promptly, but being scheduled days and weeks out; an inability to escalate calls to supervisors; and issues with customers unable to understand the call center representatives due to language issues and accents.
The Commission is now requiring Suddenlink to open a call center within the state. The Commission notes that:
If it is more economical and efficient for calls from customers located in other states to be routed to the West Virginia call center, we welcome a center sufficiently sized to handle the volume of calls and that has staffing and equipment designed to provide quick responses for all customers, including West Virginia customers.
Fascinating case of a State requiring a private company to bring its call center operations back onshore (and further, to locate them within the State).