Why DirecTV is Losing My Heart (and Quite Possibly My Business)

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Show me you care and I'll be loyal forever

I like to think of myself as a loyal customer. If I find a good product or service, I'll evangelize it to death to anybody I know. For years I drank nothing but Pepsi. At one time we owned two Mazda vehicles and no others. If your product makes me happy, I'll stick with you, even though there may be a "better" one out there. And over the past five or six years, that's how I felt about DirecTV.

directv.gifI've been a DirecTV subscriber for six or seven years now. When we first made the move from cable, DirecTV seemed the logical choice. Actually, it was TiVo that steered us toward DirecTV. We were upgrading to DVRs and the DirecTV receivers, with TiVo were the only ones at the time that could record two programs at a time. Very handy for an avid TV watcher like myself.

We have always loved our TiVo DirecTV receivers. Sure we've had issues from time to time, but by and large all has been well. I've always been a fan of the TiVo programming interface. It was smart, sleek and easy to use. A couple of years ago we flirted with the DirecTV DVRs without TiVo, but boy were those things ever a mess. The interface was a complicated mess and every time we'd program our favorite channels, about a week later we'd lose all the info and have to do it again. Needless to say, we quickly ran back to the TiVo units.

While I've been happy with DirecTV for many years, over the past few months they are not showing me any love. In fact, I feel like I'm "old news" to them and I can be tossed in favor of someone new. For the first time in years, I'm exploring my options in cable/satellite providers.

The beginning of the end of a truly great romance

Last year, as a Christmas gift to ourselves, we upgraded to HD. We bought a new HD TV for the bedroom, Blu-ray player for the living room to connect to our older projection HD TV, and upgraded to HD programming with DirecTV's HD DVRs. Oh, glorious high definition. Where have you been all my life?

But you probably already know the downside here... DirecTV HD is only available via DirecTV receivers/DVRs so we had to lose the wonderful TiVo interface. The DirecTV DVRs have some cool features not available on TiVo, but it was never enough to compensate for the advances TiVo has been making over the years. And while DirecTV has upgraded their interface a bit, making it more user friendly, it's still nowhere as good as the TiVo interface. Not to mention all the problems we've been having with the software.

You'll have to forgive me if I talk about DirecTV DVR functions in terms of how TiVo describes them. Things like "season pass" and "wishlist" are called something different with the DirecTV DVRs, but for the life of me I can't ever remember what they are. They certainly haven't done a good job branding these title in the devices.

In fact the "wishlist" was one of my favorite features on TiVo, but not so much with DirecTV. Mostly because it just doesn't work like it should. I used to be able to create a wishlist to record the first episode of any brand new show. That was a great feature for being able to catch any new programs that I may not have heard about (I never watch commercials, so why would I know about the new shows?) I never had to worry about figuring out which new shows I wanted to watch. I'd watch the first episode and if I liked it then I set up a season pass. Unfortunately, the DirecTV DVRs doesn't make this kind of wishlist possible.

Worse, when I set a wish for a program, the DirecTV doesn't pick it up until the very last minute, if at all. The TiVo would pick up the program and show it on the To Do list as soon as the program appeared on the schedule, usually two weeks a head of time. Not so with DirecTV. If I'm lucky, the program will be added to my ToDo list only the very day it's scheduled to air and record. Why the device can't find shows in it's own program guide, I'll never know.

Those issues above are really not that big of a deal. They are a couple of the minor annoyances that you learn to live with. Quirks that we choose to ignore, because the relationship is more important. But now we have a serious problem. My shows aren't recording. If I'm not mistaken, that's the whole point of a DVR, is it not?

You can't just say you love me, you have to show it

About a month ago I looked at my ToDo list (shows that are scheduled to be recorded) and noticed that a few shows that aired the previous day were still scheduled to be recorded yesterday. We called DirecTV support and they had us restart the unit. That fixed the display error, but we found that our shows never recorded. Lucky for me I record all my shows on another DVR in the bedroom!

If you're wondering through all this where things start pissing me off, well, we're getting there now. The reset performed over the phone didn't fix the problem. We kept missing shows that should have recorded. DirecTV sent out tech support to see if they could identify the problem. Unbeknownst to us, when the tech guys can't figure out a problem, they just swap out the DVR. I'm Ok with that, except they didn't tell us they were doing this, nor did they offer to save our recorded programming onto a DVD before doing so. They just did it.

So you see where this is going... we lost dozens of hours of saved programming because the tech guy stole our DVR and replaced it with another one, without giving us the option to back it up. Someone please tell me how that's supposed to make a customer happy?

Don't just say you're sorry when you refuse to make it right

I spent a half hour on the phone with the local company contracted by DirecTV. Sadly the guy that came out was "the best tech guy" they have. Sad. Truly sad. The local company simply didn't care. They were sent out to do a job and in their mind they did it. They weren't there for us, the customer, they were there to fulfill a contract obligation with DirecTV. When asked, they said they couldn't return the old machine and refused to copy the information to DVD for us. They were done with us.

I called DirecTV and pretty much got the same thing from their tech support. "Sorry, there's nothing we can do." Well, how about making it policy to inform your customers that they'll be losing all saved programming (not to mention wishlists, season passes, etc.) before you steal one of their machines? Just a thought.

As compensation I was offered three months of free Showtime. Neat. I get access to dozens of movies I've already seen. No thanks. After climbing through several layers of supervisors I was finally able to get someone to give me a better grievance offer, two months of all the paid movie channels, free. Realizing that was the best I was gonna get, I accepted.

I'm trying to keep us together, but are you?

So armed with a fresh DVR, it's barely a full month later that we start having problems all over again. Just this weekend I go to play a show recorded from a season pass, and what plays isn't what should have been recorded. Instead of Battlestar Galactica, I get a local newscast. What the heck? Sci-Fi doesn't run news. So I go and play The Beltway Boys and there's nothing there. I move on to 30 Rock and again, nothing. I play Scrubs and this time I got something, but wait... that's not Scrubs, that's, oh heck, I don't even know what that is, but it's not Scrubs.

I reset the machine hoping this would fix the problem. The next morning my wife sets some stuff to record later that day (manual recordings, not scheduled passes) and again, the DVR recorded the wrong program on the wrong channel.

Now I have to admit, I (very briefly) experienced one of the best tech support personnel ever. When I told the support guy my problem, he immediately admitted he couldn't help me and patched me up to the next level. Finally, someone who is truly trained. Usually you have to go through a half hour of them asking completely irrelevant questions attempting to "troubleshoot" the problem.

Unfortunately, that's just what happened at the next level of support. Now I understand they have to cover their bases, but when the questions they ask are obviously not part of the problem, it becomes an exercise in futility. The kicker is when they wanted us to delete the season passes and set them up again, hoping that fixes the problem. Hmmm, how could it when the same thing happened to a program set to record manually? Now they're just grasping at straws.

90% of the questions they asked were irrelevant. By the time they realized they had no idea, their solution was to reset the machine, which means...

wait for it...

that I lose all my programming. Again.

Calling my bluff to break up doesn't make me want to stay

At this point I'm doing everything I can to help them help me with good customer service. But they aren't going for it. No, they won't send someone out to copy the saved programming to DVD. No, they won't copy the programmings to another DVR. No, they wont' send us a new DVR so we can watch the recorded shows before sending it back to them. No, they simply won't help me in any meaningful way.

But they will continue to supply us with junk DVRs that don't do what they are supposed to do. They will tell us to reformat the unit without any kind of backup. They will swap out the unit without giving us a chance to keep the saved programming.

This is where I suggested that they are in danger of losing a customer to their competitor. I couldn't believe the response I got. "Would you like me to patch you through to that department?" Wow, there's the door and don't let it hit me on the way out. I opted to talk to a supervisor, who was just has unfriendly, non-caring and non-concerned about the needs of this customer.

Customer service is a romance, not a one night stand

Where, oh where, is good customer service? Where has DirecTV shown any concern about the customer's concerns? Why am I treated like I'm expecting too much? All I want to do is to be able to record and watch shows. Is that too much to ask from my DVR?

I honestly don't feel that I'm asking for a lot. If the machine needs to be replaced, fine, replace it. But don't take all my saved programming. Offer to back it up first. Provide a way to save my programming, wishlists, and series passes so they can be transferred to the new machine. Don't take all I've saved and give me a "sucks to be you" pat on the back. This doesn't sound like rocket science to me. It just sounds like providing the service that the customer pays for and expects when they buy a DVR.

I have no interest in switching to Dish Network. But I'm seriously considering my options. If DirecTV doesn't want to take care of their customers, I'm sure their competition would love to have that opportunity.

But hey, DirecTV, I'm still here. I don't want a divorce. Romance me a little and you can still have me. But if you keep treating me like this, I'll find a new partner to take my disposable income.



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1 Comments

Excellent post...we'll see if DirecTV is responsive as Home Depot was for you.

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This page contains a single entry by Stoney deGeyter published on May 5, 2008 11:33 AM.

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