Spectrum charges $5 to talk to a real person when paying your bill on the phone

May 24, 2017 09:50 PM

The cable company Spectrum doesn't charge $5 to talk to a human being. But it does charge customers $5 if they use a customer service representative to handle their bill on the phone.

I called Spectrum about this. The company told me that $5 fee can only be applied once a month. But it happened to Eleanor Lloyd in Chili when she needed to solve a problem with her cable bill. 

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"So I said, 'I'd like to talk to a representative.' 'Well that'll cost you, just to let you know we charge $5 to talk to a representative' and I just was -- 'what?'" Lloyd said at her kitchen table speaking with News10NBC on Wednesday.

Lloyd says that was the message from Spectrum's automated answering service. When she was told getting a real person on the phone would cost her money, she called her daughter.

Pam Lyon, Eleanor's daughter: I was a little shocked thinking wow, one more way to nickel and dime a customer.

I contacted Spectrum. The parent company -- Charter Communications -- says the fee is applied when a customer service representative helps a customer with a billing problem. Spectrum's website shows a number of ways customers can get their problem fixed at no charge online and I explained that to Eleanor.

Eleanor Lloyd: And I can't do that.
Brean: Why not? 

Lloyd: I don't have a computer.

"All she's trying to do is get assistance with her bill," said Bill Gessert, President of International Customer Service Association.

I reached Gessert by Skype. He says when it comes to customer service -- the demographics matter.

Bill Gessert, International Customer Service Association: The biggest trend now is mobile messaging through artificial intelligence and that's going to expand but you're never going to find the Greatest Generation using that technology. I think you have to take generations into consideration when you're making those kinds of decisions.

Why do companies do customer service like this? Bill Gessert explains in this video clip

Eleanor is 86. She wants to talk to a real person when she has a problem.

Brean: These days that costs you money. 

Eleanor Lloyd: I guess so. If you're old and you don't have a computer, you pay.

So, again, if you call Spectrum and get a real customer service rep to pay your bill, the company is going to charge you $5. It can only be applied once a month. So if you called the next day, no fee. But if you called a month later, you'll pay again.

At Spectrum's request, I gave Eleanor a direct number she can call to deal with this issue. She won't get billed for that.


Berkeley Brean

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