Customer service debacle

Mon, 10/17/2011 - 2:53pm
Brian Santo

There's a large MVPD out there with a customer service problem. The question is whether the problem is with one guy or with the entire customer care organization.

I'd been a customer of this MVPD for years. Recently, I got an offer from a competitor for somewhat faster Internet service plus telephony at enough of a discount from what I'd been paying to make it worth thinking about.
I called my MVPD the next day. I had been getting a package of Internet, telephony and the absolute basic TV package of mostly local channels.

No set-top, no VOD, no indication that I would ever represent any opportunity for the MVPD to extract any incremental revenue out of me. So I am, I know, what many consider a low-value customer. I also have no history of churning.

I am aware some MVPDs take both of those things into account, so I was also anticipating the possibility that my MVPD would decide either that I wasn't worth keeping as a customer, or that it was worth taking the risk that my behavior would remain consistent – in other words, bet that I wouldn't churn away.

So when I called my MVPD and explained to the customer service rep (CSR) the deal the competitor was offering, and asked if the MVPD would match it, I was not surprised that the CSR said no.

And I was OK with that. Well, mostly. I'm philosophically opposed to treating any customer as less valuable than any other, but I know that battle was lost a long, long time ago. But I digress. ...

My former MVPD had made a business decision. So I made a business decision, too: I switched.

It's important, at this point, to note that the CSR I talked to first was thoroughly professional. It was the second CSR who called two weeks later that got me angry.

This second CSR asked me if I wanted to hear a counter-offer from my former MVPD and consider re-subscribing.

I told this CSR that I had been satisfied with the former MVPD's services, that I had a better offer, that I'd called my former MVPD to give it an opportunity to make a counter-offer already, that none had been forthcoming and that I thought it was understandable that I didn't get one. I explained I had subsequently notified hundreds of family and friends about my new email address. I'd already updated my account information with dozens of other service providers, including banks, social networks and other businesses.

In short, I told him, the counter-offer was too late. The nature of the offer itself was irrelevant; I didn't even want to hear it. I explained that I was, in fact, dissatisfied that my former MVPD would call me two weeks after I gave it a chance to keep me as a customer. If it wanted to make a counter-offer, it should have done so two weeks earlier.

So the CSR got testy, and told me that when I had called my MVPD earlier, I had called the local branch, and he was representing the national organization.

I admit I blew a gasket. I asked him: Are you telling me that as a customer, I am somehow supposed to guess that there are two versions of the MVPD, and I was supposed to have been dealing with the other one?

That's when the CSR blew a gasket. Yes, the CSR told me, and it wasn't fair that I wouldn't listen to his offer. He explained that at the national level, the MVPD might have offers the local office wouldn't have known about.

I responded that as far as any customer should be concerned, the MVPD is the MVPD. If the national organization can't figure out a way to get its policies down to the local operations, that's its fault, not any customer's.

This guy then starts arguing with me about what can and cannot realistically be expected of the communications capabilities within large organizations.

The argument went on a bit, and somewhere along the line I did something I'd never intended to do when dealing with any communications service provider: I identified myself as the Editor-in-Chief of CED.

There are a couple of reasons why I haven't done that before, and there is one reason why I decided to do it during this call. The first reason I'd never done it is because I do not want special treatment. The other is that I suspect I wouldn't get any special treatment.

But this time I mentioned it. It could have been an opportunity and a reason to alter the tone of the conversation. It was an opportunity to make sure this column was never written. And it wouldn't have been, except he declined to take the opportunity. Instead, he kept arguing his points.

So here we are, and I'm wondering if there's a large MVPD out there that cares enough about its customer service to call me (503.477.6127) to get this CSR's name.

And if there's a large MVPD out there that fails to understand why calling with a retention offer days after a former customer churns is courting failure, or why an inability to coordinate between national and local customer service operations is a failure, don't call. You've got bigger problems than I can help you with



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