Now and then it’s important to review the definition of customer service.

“Providing great customer service is solving the customer’s question or issue with as little of the customer’s involvement as possible.”

In the past two days I’ve wasted over 5 hours on the phone with Dish Network. They sent us a “free” upgraded receiver. Sunday I took the dreaded plunge to hook it up. I say dreaded plunge because every change of even the slightest nature has meant hours on the phone with Dish Network. This “free upgrade” was to be no exception.

It was easy to hook up the new receiver. It took all of about 5 minutes. But, when I turned it on, a “Call for Activation” message appeared on the TV screen. Ok, I called. The service tech answered the phone quickly—within 10 seconds. That’s good. “No problem, sir, we can activate your new receiver. This will only take a minute.” Famous last words from Dish Network. After a few minutes of what sounded like the guy changing clothes, he tells me the new receiver is activated. But the screen still says I need to call for activation. “We need to wait a few minutes sir for the activation to reach your receiver.” 20 minutes later, my new friend in the Phillipines changed clothes again and we waited another 15 minutes. Nothing. So, now we begin the “trouble shooting” process. Hold the menu button for 5 seconds, reset, unplug, hold the power down 10 seconds, etc. You’ve been through it. You know what I mean. After an hour, we finally got a signal. The problem however is that our TV would now only receive Arab programming. No, I’m not making this up.

We tried a number of possible solutions before the technician told me the new receiver was apparently defective. Dish Network will graciously waive the $49 service call charge and send out a technician to resolve the issue. In the meantime,  I may hook up the old the receiver and use it until they are able to make the new receiver work.

I hung up, tired and frustrated from wasting 2 hours on Sunday. Then I hooked up the old receiver and everything was back to normal. Until Monday. When I turned the TV on, the screen displayed the dreaded “Call for Activation” message. Ok, this should be easy. I called Dish Network to have them reactivate my old receiver box. “Well, sir, once we activate your new receiver, we must deactivate your old receiver. Once the old receiver is deactivated, we cannot reactivate it. Let’s try to get your new receiver working.” Again I was dragged through 2 hours of guessing at possible solutions until I demanded they find a way to reactivate my old receiver. “My supervisor can do that.” That process took another hour to complete. Then we spent 30 minutes going over the procedure I need to follow to ship back the apparently defective receiver in order to obtain a replacement receiver. I’m certain, over the nearly 6 hours of time on the phone with Dish Network I “verified” my address at least 20 times.

Everyone I spoke with was trying to resolve the problem. They were nice people. But Dish Network wasted a lot of my time. This isn’t the first time I’ve lost hours of my life to Dish Network’s service.

Dish Network needs to learn the definition of great customer service. They need to implement time limits on how long they work on nonsense like this before they dispatch someone to the customer’s location. They need to explore ways to remotely work on their receivers without wasting the customer’s time. That’s easy to do. And why must they deactivate replacement receivers so quickly? Why not allow a few days in the event the new receiver doesn’t work? Are they that afraid I might rush to my neighbor’s house and watch “unauthorized” TV until the box is killed? Good grief.

Dish Network has hundreds of ways they could improve if they knew the definition of great customer service.  I still have to return the defective receiver, await the replacement receiver and then endure an “in home” service call. Can’t the technician bring a working receiver? Can’t he take the receiver that doesn’t work? No, they’re not “set up that way”.

Charlie, your service has a long way to go before you can call it “good”. During an economic slowdown is a superb time to improve customer service.

Chris Reich, Author of TeachU’s Business Talk Blog
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