Tivo, Remember that Customer Service is the New PR

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tivo This post was originally conceived as a rant but now I am writing it as a bit of constructive criticism and advice directed towards Tivo, as well as other companies that do any kind of Customer Service/Support or Public Relations (so that would be most companies out there, right?). We have always been taught that 1 story of something bad that a company did has the same weight as multi-fold good things. It’s always the negative that rises up and is heard by many. When was the last time you heard something good about a company or something that an employee did that went above and beyond your expectations? Hardly ever, right? So to supposedly combat this, companies build up Customer Service departments and spend countless hours developing policies and procedures for dealing with pissed off customers.

I have run a couple of Customer Service teams. These organizations are double edged swords. On one side, talking to pissed off customers can ruin your day and can make you question your position at a company, the company’s product or the company itself. You have to sit and “take it” as someone yells at you or challenges your knowledge of the product or tries to even profess their superiority or intelligence over your own. On the other side is the fact that Customer Service Departments can be huge sources of learning where you get large amounts of detailed information from customers, their likes and dislikes of your product, suggestions, work-arounds, and enhancements for your products. You can even develop some pretty solid relationships through these conversations, and it doesn’t have to be if they are yelling at you or helping you.

It is no wonder that there are new companies coming out to help companies become more visible and more efficiently help, engage and communicate with their customers. Take GetSatisfaction, for example. The have created a platform to facilitate this communication and engagement with the customer or end user, encouraging companies to “get real with their customers.”

So back to my issue at hand and the reason for this post. Small companies are great, they want to make everyone happy. They try hard to excel, to “bend over backwards” and to “go the extra mile.” Tivo was like this many years ago. I remember it well because I signed up with them fairly early. They had (and still have) and incredible product and an equally incredible group of people running the show. But I think what has happened to them is what happens to many companies that grow, they lose sight of how to talk to their customer and become less personal and more machine-like. Procedures are developed, forms created, scripts written, all with the good intention of creating efficiencies and streamlining the support process. But if it is not done well, these Support and CS departments simply become gears in wheel of a machine, churning out stats and meeting quotas. Lost is the focus on the customer and why they requested support.

Believe it or not, my issue with Tivo was only over a $65 charge that I did not feel I needed to pay. But that was not the reason why I was upset. I won’t bore you with the details of my problem (well, maybe I will), but I need to provide a few facts for a frame of reference. 1) I had Tivo service for many many years, 2) I am a huge advocate of their product 3) I participated in numerous beta tests with new iterations of the the Tivo software (I tested Tivo Desktop, Rhapsody and, of course the Tivo software itself, among other things) and, 4) I even tried to publicly help them with some product ideas.

I called Tivo to reluctantly inform them that I needed cancel my service because I recently got Dish Networks. Despite my best efforts to connect the Tivo with the Dish DVR, I was unable to do so. The idea I had was to do dual recording and use the Tivo network transfer ability to have shows in non-Dish enabled rooms. Unfortunately, it failed due to a lack of compatibility between the devices. Also, I was just trying to cut back on some spending. The other bit of detail was that one of my older Tivos had taken a nose dive and needed to be replaced (which it was, during the 2007 holidays as I tried to take advantage of a rebate). Anyway, when I called in to cancel my account (you can ONLY call in to cancel, probably so that they can try to retain you), I was informed that my new replacement Tivo still had about 1/2 year to complete the contract. Contract? I have been a Tivo customer for a long time and was well out of contract, or so I thought.

Again, I don’t want to bore you with the details but I’m getting close to my point about PR and Customer Service. I pleaded my case with the rep that I talked to, the fact that I was not informed that a new Tivo with rebate required a new activation (meaning restarting the 1 year commitment). She read me a script about terminations, rebates, agreements and my “log” of activity. In turn, I mentioned the 4 points above (long customer, advocate, beta tester and product borgcube ideas). All to deaf ears. This rep wouldn’t budge and simply repeated herself like a broken record. I started to get a bit angry and asked to speak to a supervisor. Now, in most cases, supervisors have a bit more authority and leeway to make decisions. And this is where the one from Tivo that I talked to lost me. She didn’t budge either and had the same lack of sympathy, as well as initiative to do anything. Is this a commonality among Tivo support personnel? Makes me think of the Borg working as a collective with no individual thoughts.

This is where I circle it all back. Because Tivo has grown from a customer-concerned company to a cash-concerned company, they have lost sight of how critical good Customer Service is for their own Public Relations. There were two paths that the rep and her manager could have taken with me: 1) piss me off by giving me the feeling that they just didn’t care and only wanted my money or 2) make me happy by waiving my early termination fee and thanking me for being a beta tester, advocate, etc. They chose door #1 and now I’m bringing them the bad PR, despite my wishes. I like Tivo, just not their current Customer Support policies and procedures. If Tivo management is reading this, give your managers leeway to make decisions, don’t worry about getting every last cent, get some advocates out there, encourage your team to go the extra yard and listen to you customers. A happy one is quiet, an unhappy one is loud and that voice can actually hurt your business.

HTD says: Your Customer Service team is a multi-faceted tool; don’t turn it into just a sweat shop. Give them the power to make a difference! Oh, and I still have that $65 charge I don’t think I should pay.

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16 Responses

  1. I'm not sure why you think you're special just because you've been a long time customer, beta tester and given feedback. You're been a long time customer at any number of stores, services and they don't give you special treatment. Maybe you didn't realize you were agreeing to a contract with that rebate but that's hardly TiVo's fault for you lack of reading the terms. At best TiVo should give you some technical support, which the CSR should have suggested. You give examples about customers yelling at CSRs, I've got news for you, you're one of those people. Not acting superior, I know I've been there, not that it makes it any more correct. The fact is your failure to read the terms doesn't mean you're entitled to special treatment. Sorry buddy but you are the very person you're complaining about in the same breathe.

  2. I'm not sure why you think you're special just because you've been a long time customer, beta tester and given feedback. You're been a long time customer at any number of stores, services and they don't give you special treatment. Maybe you didn't realize you were agreeing to a contract with that rebate but that's hardly TiVo's fault for you lack of reading the terms. At best TiVo should give you some technical support, which the CSR should have suggested. You give examples about customers yelling at CSRs, I've got news for you, you're one of those people. Not acting superior, I know I've been there, not that it makes it any more correct. The fact is your failure to read the terms doesn't mean you're entitled to special treatment. Sorry buddy but you are the very person you're complaining about in the same breathe.

  3. I think that you have missed the whole point here. I'm sure that there are many people in my same shoes. The concept here is that the rep in question and their subsequent manager were very intent on maintaining the rules at all costs. Think of it this way. When you are a start up company, you bend over backwards to get, retain and keep your customer happy. On the other side, once you are a huge multi-national corporation, as a CSR, you really couldn't give a damn about how you help the customer but you are given more liberties to make the customer happier, retain them, etc. Tivo has hit that spot in between, where the CSRs are handcuffed to not be able to do anything one way or another. The point of my post is that companies need to be prepare to go beyond the simple reading of the script, reviewing the case and following a form statement or procedure. To differentiate yourself as a company, you need to move beyond the traditional methodologies to resolve and placate the customer.Sure, I got pissed at the person that I was talking to, but my standard process is to be polite, kind and courteous and then only get upset if I encounter a robot. I don't care about the cost, what I care about is the concept. Yes, being a long time customer, beta tester and actually caring about the product does and should give me some privileges. AND, I'm the type of customer that a company should be concerned about. Perhaps I was wrong about whatever terms I agreed to, but also perhaps the CSR who helped me simply checked off some box that said that I agreed, just so that they made quota or something.My concern and the subject of the article is not about me, but rather about the companies that lose site of their connection with the customer and that important relationship. Tivo seems to have moved to that level, where they are simply concerned with compliance. I miss the Tivo of old that actually cared.My only reason for writing this article to to be sure that companies know that traditional methods have changed and that the customer now has even more of a voice, the voice can be louder and that it should be listened to and not disregarded.

  4. I think that you have missed the whole point here. I'm sure that there are many people in my same shoes. The concept here is that the rep in question and their subsequent manager were very intent on maintaining the rules at all costs. Think of it this way. When you are a start up company, you bend over backwards to get, retain and keep your customer happy. On the other side, once you are a huge multi-national corporation, as a CSR, you really couldn't give a damn about how you help the customer but you are given more liberties to make the customer happier, retain them, etc. Tivo has hit that spot in between, where the CSRs are handcuffed to not be able to do anything one way or another.

    The point of my post is that companies need to be prepare to go beyond the simple reading of the script, reviewing the case and following a form statement or procedure. To differentiate yourself as a company, you need to move beyond the traditional methodologies to resolve and placate the customer.

    Sure, I got pissed at the person that I was talking to, but my standard process is to be polite, kind and courteous and then only get upset if I encounter a robot. I don't care about the cost, what I care about is the concept.

    Yes, being a long time customer, beta tester and actually caring about the product does and should give me some privileges. AND, I'm the type of customer that a company should be concerned about. Perhaps I was wrong about whatever terms I agreed to, but also perhaps the CSR who helped me simply checked off some box that said that I agreed, just so that they made quota or something.

    My concern and the subject of the article is not about me, but rather about the companies that lose site of their connection with the customer and that important relationship. Tivo seems to have moved to that level, where they are simply concerned with compliance. I miss the Tivo of old that actually cared.

    My only reason for writing this article to to be sure that companies know that traditional methods have changed and that the customer now has even more of a voice, the voice can be louder and that it should be listened to and not disregarded.

  5. Tivo has the worst Customer Service I have ever encountered. They are complete robots. If I write too much now about my experience, I will just get mad, so that's all for now.

  6. Tivo has the worst Customer Service I have ever encountered. They are complete robots. If I write too much now about my experience, I will just get mad, so that's all for now.

  7. I don't know if you realize this or not, but TiVo isn't really involved in thier customer service at all. They contract with Sitel (formerly Clientlogic Corp., aka “The 99 cent store of support”) and work out of Albuquerque,NM. Their reps are $8.00 an hour people that made bad life chioces early on. Supervisors make 25-50 cents more an hour….The only thing good I have to say about them is that they aren't in India and speak English as well as can be expected.

  8. I don't know if you realize this or not, but TiVo isn't really involved in thier customer service at all. They contract with Sitel (formerly Clientlogic Corp., aka “The 99 cent store of support”) and work out of Albuquerque,NM.
    Their reps are $8.00 an hour people that made bad life chioces early on. Supervisors make 25-50 cents more an hour….The only thing good I have to say about them is that they aren't in India and speak English as well as can be expected.

  9. I am currently in a fight with Tivo customer “service” and echo the same sentiments. I was a good customer and a beta tester. Love Tivo. But at the end of my year I went month to month. My credit card information wasn't current so I had to call and give them a new credit card number. I told the rep that I wanted the account to cancel at the end of the month that I was paying for. I didn't want the account to automatically go into the next month without me deciding it would. The rep said I would be charged for one more month and that my service was set to cancel after that month.Well…what happened is instead of giving me one more month they canceled my account immediately. They charged my credit card and claim that they will refund the charge. After numerous calls they kept repeating over and over that they can't do anything about it unless I want to sign up for another 1 year contract. I spoke to three supervisors, all echoing the same thing. The 3rd supervisor finally said he could do something but he'd have to send me to another department. He sent me to the cancellation department and they said they couldn't do anything. I spoke to a supervisor there and he couldn't care less that they had screwed my service up and that I was no longer going to be their customer. I've never dealt with such uncaring customer support. They really couldn't care less that I, a faithful Tivo customer, was being dropped because of their mistake.Pitiful.

  10. I am currently in a fight with Tivo customer “service” and echo the same sentiments. I was a good customer and a beta tester. Love Tivo. But at the end of my year I went month to month. My credit card information wasn't current so I had to call and give them a new credit card number. I told the rep that I wanted the account to cancel at the end of the month that I was paying for. I didn't want the account to automatically go into the next month without me deciding it would. The rep said I would be charged for one more month and that my service was set to cancel after that month.

    Well…what happened is instead of giving me one more month they canceled my account immediately. They charged my credit card and claim that they will refund the charge. After numerous calls they kept repeating over and over that they can't do anything about it unless I want to sign up for another 1 year contract. I spoke to three supervisors, all echoing the same thing. The 3rd supervisor finally said he could do something but he'd have to send me to another department. He sent me to the cancellation department and they said they couldn't do anything. I spoke to a supervisor there and he couldn't care less that they had screwed my service up and that I was no longer going to be their customer.

    I've never dealt with such uncaring customer support. They really couldn't care less that I, a faithful Tivo customer, was being dropped because of their mistake.
    Pitiful.

  11. They're awful. Now they won't even let you get on the phone with a supervisor – so they have gotten WORSE since your post!

    My issue is over moving my expiration date a month – they activated my account a month before they said they would. They won't even help me with something that minor after I wrote a letter very high up within the company. I thought they'd just credit me a month no problem – what do they care?

    I'm really shocked… it would cost them nothing, and now instead of having a happy customer they have an angry one. I totally get the point of your post.

  12. They're awful. Now they won't even let you get on the phone with a supervisor – so they have gotten WORSE since your post!

    My issue is over moving my expiration date a month – they activated my account a month before they said they would. They won't even help me with something that minor after I wrote a letter very high up within the company. I thought they'd just credit me a month no problem – what do they care?

    I'm really shocked… it would cost them nothing, and now instead of having a happy customer they have an angry one. I totally get the point of your post.

  13. I can relate to the frustration. I, too, am a longtime Tivo user. I just updated to a HD unit and was told that since I purchased lifetime service, I had to retain my contract for the old unit. Worse, I was "threatened" that I would be assessed $200 early termination fee (despite the fact that if I continued with the contract it would cost under $120 for the remaining term). I asked to speak with customer service based upon the stupidity of that logic and the manner in which I was spoken to. The "supervisor" pitched the same deal to me. If, in fact, they are paying these people $8/hr, they are getting ripped off. Although I love the product, I will keep a very open mind when a real competitor shows up.

  14. I can relate to the frustration. I, too, am a longtime Tivo user. I just updated to a HD unit and was told that since I purchased lifetime service, I had to retain my contract for the old unit. Worse, I was "threatened" that I would be assessed $200 early termination fee (despite the fact that if I continued with the contract it would cost under $120 for the remaining term). I asked to speak with customer service based upon the stupidity of that logic and the manner in which I was spoken to. The "supervisor" pitched the same deal to me. If, in fact, they are paying these people $8/hr, they are getting ripped off. Although I love the product, I will keep a very open mind when a real competitor shows up.

  15. I totally agree! I love Tivo and was even a beta tester for them. It was unbelievable that they were so inflexible for us longer term customers. They really need to re-look at how they handle things.Thanks for validating my article.-HTD

  16. I totally agree! I love Tivo and was even a beta tester for them. It was unbelievable that they were so inflexible for us longer term customers. They really need to re-look at how they handle things.

    Thanks for validating my article.

    -HTD

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Michael Sheehan (“HighTechDad”) is an avid technologist, writer, journalist, content marketer, blogger, tech influencer, social media pundit, loving husband and father of 3 beautiful girls living in the San Francisco Bay Area. This site covers technology, consumer electronics, Parent Tech, SmartHomes, cloud computing, gadgets, software, hardware, parenting “hacks,” and other tips & tricks.

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