DirecTV and How To Eff Up Customer Service in a Recession

In the worst economic climate since the Great Depression, DirecTV should be kissing my ass rather than probing it.

In my old house, after years of substandard service and creeping rate hikes with Comcast, I mistakenly called Comcast when I was moving and expected them to be responsive.  Long story short, after the 4th call just to have my service moved (timing is important – had to keep the kids entertained during the move) Comcast had a) cut off the cable in my existing home and b) canceled the request to have my servince installed in the new house.

I wish I could remember his name, but I finally got one customer service tech who gave me his direct extension and told me to call him back to make sure that everything was done.  I tried calling him back, but was told by the slack-jawed yokel who answered the 800 number that it was “impossible to connect me” with the very same guy.  Here’s how the conversation went:

Comcast Slack-Jawed Yokel: “We can’t connect you to XXX.  It’s impossible.”

Me: “How can you tell me that its “impossible” when it has already happened?

Slack-Jawed Yokel: [Perplexed silence].

Ok.  I gave my dim-witted Comcast rep five minutes to solve my problem (I was on about the 7th call).  When the clock struck five, I hung up, and like a drunken bar fly at last call when the lights come on, fell into the waiting arms of DirecTV.  You had me at “hello.”

Been pretty happy for the last year and a half — until now.

Yesterday, I received the email (screen capture below) that told me ominously, that “as of March 4, 2009, new pricing will be applied to your account.”  Note to DirecTV: I guess that they have heard the expression that if you are going to eff me, you should kiss me first.

Insert banjo music from "Deliverance."

Ok.  I was born at night, but it was not last night.  So I know my rates are going up – at a time in which many in the country are losing their jobs, and for those of us who are lucky enough to have jobs, are most likely hoarding cash.  That’s stupid, but not criminally stupid.


The criminally stupid part was providing me a link to click on “for more details.”  So I’m expecting some sort of customer-service mumbo jumbo for “we’re bleeding subscribers and need cash, so like the federal government, we’re making you pony up.”

What I got, represented in the screen capture below — ALMOST AT THE EXACT, SAME SIZE AT WHICH IT WAS PRESENTED – was a .pdf file (don’t you think that DirecTV knows that abandon rates soar when you have to click on a link and open a .pdf??) that “explained” the price increase.  Judge for yourself:

  1. If you can read IT;
  2. If it makes sense; and
  3. If it represents good customer service to explain a rate increase document that was written by the legal department.


DirecTV, you had me at “hello.” Hell, I even buy your MLB Extra Innings package every year, upgraded to a hi-def dish and receivers.  I willingly GIVE you more money.

But when you lead with an email that says:

“Dear DIRECTV Customer,

Because your business is important to us, we want you to know about any changes to your DIRECTV service as far in advance as possible.”

and follow it up with an unintelligible and impossible to read .pdf form written by the freakin’ legal department, do you really think that I am feeling “valued?”

I can accept a rate increase.  I am a big boy.  Tell me.  But don’t call me “valued,” don’t tell me how great you are by saying “we want you know to about any changes to your DirecTV service as soon as possible,” and then make it impossible for me to figure out why.

After an abusive relationship with Comcast, I may just need to take my DirecTV relationship to couples therapy – or head back into the bar at last call.


Comcast’s Bandwidth Limit and the Bait and ‘Switch’

It was bound to happen.   I said something nice about Comcast last week (their customer service person being on Twitter), and they go an do something evil, reminiscent of the reasons that drove me to Fios and DirecTV.

On the surface, it’s a move that will impact few users.  According to SlashDot:

“Comcast has confirmed that all residential customers will be subject to a 250 gigabyte per month data limit starting October 1. ‘This is the same system we have in place today,’ Comcast wrote in an amendment to its acceptable use policy. ‘The only difference is that we will now provide a limit by which a customer may be contacted.’ The cable provider insisted that 250 GB is “an extremely large amount of data, much more than a typical residential customer uses on a monthly basis. … As part of our pre-existing policy, we will continue to contact the top users of our high-speed Internet service and ask them to curb their usage,’ Comcast said Thursday. ‘If a customer uses more than 250 GB and is one of the top users of our service, he or she may be contacted by Comcast to notify them of excessive use,’ according to the AUP.”

This is, even with a fairly sizable limit on bandwidth, a sample of a bait and switch.  Comcast advertises “blazing download speeds” left and right to try to lure customers from other providers and enter into one of those iron-clad and idiotic “bundling” agreements (“INTERNET!! CABLE!! TELEPHONE!!!), whose rates creep up after the initial period — and have you every tried “unbundling?”  It’s a pain in the arse.

Comcast simultaneously advertises Internet download speeds while putting up bandwidth limits.  This might just be an isolated incident or simple stupidity, but to me, it’s a really slippery slope for any ISP to do this.  You advertise “blazing” downloads, so let me get my music, movies, run my business, whatever – and get the hell out of my way.

To do otherwise is either disingenuous or just plain stupid.


Hate Your ISP? See if They are On Twitter

David Armano of the excellent Logic+Emotion blog recently wrote about one of the most universally frustrating experiences:  dealing with an ISP when you have an outage.  My own ISP, Verizon (Fios) provides excellent service when it is running, but when it goes down, Verizon actually asks you to run a diagnostic tools THAT IS THEN SENT TO THEM OVER THE INTERNET.  That’s hard to do when your freaking connection is out.

I won’t even get into the fact that I once seached the Verizon site for 30 minutes looking for a tech support number and then finally Googled it and found it posted by some other equally frustrated person who posted the right number on his/blog.

But enough about me.  David has a good story to tell because when he returned home from vacation, the service from his ISP, Comcast, was out.   So after trying the traditional routes David discovered that Comcast has a Twitter account — and a real guy, Frank, behind it.

David wrote:

Within a few minutes on a Sunday evening, Frank responded to my complaint letting me know that it was most likely not an outage in my area, but a problem at my house. He also guided me through a process that would have fixed it (if I had a amplifier vs. a splitter), but it was still nice to get the education on the difference, not to mention the personal touch delivered through what is supposed to be an impersonal medium.”

Amen.  Does Comcast still get a bazillion complaints?  Probably.  But this again validates the fact that increasingly, and at a very low cost, companies can provide services to their customers in the manner in which the customers want to receive it. I, for one, would get on a plane to Bangalore before I have to call Verizon again.  Twitter can be a highly personal experience.

And David even did a screen capture of the conversation  Very cool:

Great post, David.