ID 17386749 © Olga Kvach |

ID 17386749 © Olga Kvach |

I’ve just had a great customer service experience – NOT! Want to drive your customers crazy – treat them like a ping-pong ball.  Our DVR – the machine that records TV shows so you can watch them later – decided to go crazy and interrupt every recording with an announcement that we weren’t authorized to watch whatever channel we were on. The announcement would only last 10 seconds, but it was annoying.

The fact that the DVR went crazy wasn’t the really annoying part – it was older than my grandchildren who are in grade school – so an upgrade or replacement was expected. But we got the menacing warning from the customer service representative that if we didn’t return the old DVR we would be charged for it. OK, we get – return the old DVR.

We received the new DVR within a few days and I set out on a Saturday morning to install the new DVR. There were a few minor glitches (why is the default setting for the second TV Air instead of Cable?) but they were quickly resolved. Then I got to the part of dealing with the old DVR – the one we were warned HAD to be returned.

There were instructions in the installation manual for returning the old DVR. Very detailed instructions about how you remove the shipping label, turn it over and re-attach it to the shipping box. Except the shipping label couldn’t be removed (there being no red tab). So I went looking for more instructions. There was also another sheet of instructions regarding the old DVR. This one said that if our DVR wasn’t listed, we didn’t have to return it but could dispose of the old DVR.

Now we have confusion – and this customer is going crazy

So I call the 1-800 number and speak to a customer service representative who explains that because I live west of the Mississippi my DVR wasn’t obsolete. She asked for an email address to send me a return shipping label. The label was promised in 10-15 minutes.

30 minutes later, no message. I call again and speak to a different customer service representative. The message was sent to the email on file (my wife’s). Go check her email – the message appears about three hours later.

And the message says: Return Not Required! I’m fed up with being a ping-pong ball for the day and get some real work done.

The next morning, I call the 1-800 number again and get told by the (different) customer service representative that NO, I don’t have to return the old DVR.

I now have documentation (the email message) so I take the old DVR to an electronics recycle center and I’m done with it. And if Dish wants to charge me for the old DVR, I’ll send them a bill for the time I spent being a ping-pong ball for their customer service representatives.

The take aways are:

  1. Make sure everyone in the organization is on the same page.
  2. Tell your customers a consistent story
  3. Have someone who is not responsible for creating the process go through the instructions to see if they are clear.

A physicist by trade, author by choice, a born teacher, a retired veteran, and an adamant problem solver, Frank has helped the White House, federal agencies, military offices, historical museums, manufacturers, and over 250 technology startups get stuff done, communicate effectively, and find practical solutions that work for them. In his spare time, he makes sawdust and watches Godzilla movies.