For many Americans, watching TV is an enjoyable way to unwind during their free time. Dealing with bad TV reception? Not so much.
"When something goes wrong with their cable TV service, people tend to take it very, very personally," says Christopher Elliott, a consumer advocate and author of "Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals."
"It might make you feel better to scream at the customer service department on the phone, but it's really not the most productive way to get the resolution you want," Elliott says.
Changing providers, however, could be a great solution.
So, read on for some clear signs that indicate now might be the right time to switch TV service providers.
#1 - Expensive Service
Think you're paying too much for pay television? You might be onto something.
In fact, the average monthly bill for multi-channel video service jumped 7 percent to $78.63 in 2012, according to the Leichtman Research Group, a New Hampshire-based firm that studies media and entertainment.
"Cable TV is many things, but it is not cheap," says Elliott, who believes that the lack of competition has led to little incentive for companies to lower their prices.
Consumer Advice: As with most things in life, you'll want to do some research and shop around. Unless you're positive you're getting the best price with your current provider, there's no reason not to look around.
Elliott suggests speaking to your friends and neighbors to see what they pay for cable or satellite TV. If you discover that you could be paying a lower price elsewhere, then you'll want to seriously consider switching providers.
#2 - You're not Bundling TV, Internet, and Phone
At first glance, it seems too good to be true. Choosing a triple-play package of TV, Internet, and phone services from one provider can help streamline your billing and save you money.
But it's true, according to a survey conducted by Consumer Reports Magazine in May 2011.
In fact, one in three readers surveyed who had a triple-play package, said "They liked the convenience of a single bill and simpler shopping, and more than half reported significant savings compared with buying the services from separate companies," notes Consumer Reports in their article, "The Benefits of Bundling and Bargaining."
At the same time, bundling doesn't make financial sense for everyone, regardless of what a company might tell you in promotional materials or over the phone, Elliott says.
"You have to do the math," he says. "Don't let them do it for you."
Consumer Advice: When looking at the pros and cons of bundling, whip out your calculator and be sure to account for total costs, which may include additional charges and fees for hardware and activation.
You also need to keep your eyes and ears open. "Our reporters have received better offers in direct-mail promos than those found online or quoted by phone," writes Consumer Reports. "We've also been given different prices by different phone sales representatives, even on the same day. So check around."
#3 - You Want to Explore Other Service Options
Do you currently get your TV fix by streaming shows on the web? Or are you a cable TV subscriber who thinks satellite might have more viewing options? Exploring other services may offer more benefits than you think.
For example, if you're a football fanatic, NFL Sunday Ticket, which broadcasts all Sunday afternoon games for a fee, is exclusively available on satellite provider DirecTV.
And if you have children, you might be interested to know that Kabillion, the free video on demand channel for kids is available on digital cable systems in the U.S. and on online, but it's not available on satellite TV.
As you can see, the best service for you really depends on your entertainment needs. In fact, you may find that you can do without cable or satellite and simply go through life streaming TV on the Internet.
Consumer Advice: There are plenty of reasons why someone may want to switch from one kind of provider to another, and the grass may indeed be greener - but first see if a change is even possible.
Those thinking about switching to satellite TV must have room to mount a dish in a position to get a clear signal. Live in a wooded area or in an apartment building? It's possible that you may be out of luck.
Meanwhile, cable may make more sense for people who want to bundle their TV, phone, and Internet together since satellite companies need to partner with a phone provider to offer similar services.
#4 - Undependable Customer Service
Busy signals, dropped calls, long wait times…these are just a few of the unpleasant stories people have when it comes to contacting the customer service department of their cable or satellite TV provider.
And this unfortunately makes sense, with subscription TV finishing in a woeful 45th place out of 47 industries when it comes to customer service, according to a 2012 report by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), an independent national benchmark of customer satisfaction. Only newspapers and airlines were ranked lower.
Consumer Advice: If you're receiving crummy customer service from your current provider, one obvious option at your disposal is to take your business elsewhere and look for a new provider. Ask your friends and neighbors what service they use. Are they happy with their customer service?
It's also good to note that some companies offer discounts to current customers who refer their friends, so in addition to finding a new provider who offers better customer service, you could also help your friends make a few bucks, too. For your benefit, you'll also want to inquire about whether the provider offers a new customer discount.
- Technology & Electronics
- satellite TV
- Christopher Elliott
- Customer Service