Charter must do better with its Spectrum app and support

Charter Communications, which is now using the marketing term “Spectrum” for its TV, Internet and phone offerings, is supposed to be a high tech company. But when it comes to its app for iPhones and iPads, it has a ways to go.

In this age of mobile apps, high-tech companies have to perform well in multiple areas while making it easy for consumers to use their products. Too bad that Charter has yet to figure this out.

This article is based on the iOS version of Charter’s app.

The app promises you can watch most stations live on a mobile device when using your home network. A glaring omission is ESPN, which is not available.

The Spectrum app was a bit hard to navigate intuitively, and instructions like these, which were found on Charter’s website, show why: “To search for a specific channel number, you must select Watch on TV at the top of the screen and then you can tap Sort to quickly locate channels. Tapping Sort a second time sorts channels in alphabetical order.”

The app was cluttered, and while better on an iPad, was very tough to navigate on an iPhone. Recently, the app failed to show local stations live.

Many people were clearly upset with the app’s problems. Of the 61 reviews at the time of this writing (Nov. 4), only a handful were higher than the lowest one-star rating.

Braymeister’s late October review titled “Really?!?!” said: “The reviews have been bad for as long as I have been watching. I tried the app a couple of times but it won’t even load.  What’s more, I go to the website and it’s almost useless.” Braymeister called it “the stinking app.”

Jpharrisjr, a new Charter customer, wrote, “I am not impressed with the app because, well it doesn’t work.  A technology company really ought to do better than this.  Seriously.”

My frustration began with the first call to tech support. The tech had no clue as to what I was talking about. After being transferred to the Internet division, the person on the other end of the line also knew nothing about the app.

Later, after a call back, a second person knew about the app but had not heard of any problems. Why? Don’t the people at Charter read the reviews of their products and inform their tech help how to respond? The answer is apparently “no.” They should be aware of the negative feelings and be trained on how to handle those calls.

And indications are, given the statement from the Charter spokesperson below, they were aware and working on the problem. So the rep I spoke with was either never made aware of the problems, a bad thing, or, the rep lied, also a bad thing.

Anyway, they promised a tech would call back within 48 hours. Then, just ten minutes later, Charter called to ask if they could call back that afternoon, would someone be available? But that callback never came. And no word from Charter after 48 hours as well.

After I made another call to support, the new promise was that a callback would be made within five days. It never came.

While not answering specific questions, a Charter spokesperson responded in an e-mail, “Charter is aware of these issues; some of which are already resolved, and others are being actively addressed.”

The local station problem appears to be resolved.

Companies like Charter, Comcast, AT&T U-verse® and others have to see more and more people are dropping their cable subscriptions in favor of finding programs in other ways – with services from Netflix, Amazon and even networks offering alternative ways to watch.  Called “cord cutters,” many experts predict the trend toward ala carte selection of programming will continue.

Unless these companies plan to make all their money from Internet access, they need to address their problems of poor customer service and improve the quality of executing their apps. Failing that, their future is not very bright.