Shut Up!

Today you get a double post. First, a helping of corporate advice followed by a related WQTS.

Everybody seems to have a story about corporate under-communication. It could be the company that sets five hour windows for appointments, then fails to show up at all. It might be the company that promises a call-back and is never heard from again. Or perhaps it’s the company whose product includes a “quick start” guide and invites you to download the full manual from their website–but then doesn’t put the manual on the site. Fun, huh?

Today, however, I have a different kind of story. This is a tale of corporate over-communication.

When we moved into our current house, we decided to skip Comcast for our TV service, largely because of the sort of under-communication mentioned above. Instead, we went with Dish TV (aka Dish Network, aka Echostar). Yeah, the number two satellite service. On the whole, it’s worked out well, and under-communication has not been a problem. Quite the contrary.

Last week, I visited their website to check whether our current tier of service included a channel I wanted, so I decided to upgrade to the next tier. While I was at it, I realized that upgrading to the current generation of receivers would simplify the setup and not cost the proverbial arm and leg, so I decided to do that too.

Step 1: Log into the customer site and make the programming change. Before I could do anything, I was prompted to make sure my contact information was correct. Fair enough, it’s been over a year since I logged in. Sure enough, the contact information still included my old work phone number. I deleted it and hit save. “Please supply the required information,” said the site. Apparently Dish believes that everyone has at least two phone numbers. I don’t anymore–or at least, I don’t have two I’m willing to give them. They’ve got no need for my cell number, thank you very much. So I tried my usual favorite fake numbers: 000-000-0000, 999-999-9999, and 123-456-7890 and all were rejected. Plan B: I entered my home number twice. That got the reject message as well, but it was saved, which allowed me to cancel the update and continue with my change. Why possible reason could Dish have to contact me that they need a primary and a backup phone number? Bad sign.

Step 2: Call customer service to make an appointment for the receiver swap. That went smoothly. I got an appointment for Monday, and as expected, I was given a five hour window (12 to 5). What I didn’t expect was that the rep told me I would receive a phone call on the day of the appointment with an updated, smaller window. Very nice. A few minutes later, I got an email confirmation of my requested receiver change and the appointment time.

Step 3: Sunday afternoon I got a automated phone call from Dish. Weren’t they supposed to call me Monday? This was a courtesy reminder that I had an appointment “between twelve and five tomorrow.” The computer also asked me to “ensure that someone 18 years of age or older will be home for the entire appointment and to secure any pets to avoid contact with the technician.” Oh really? Is he allergic? More likely they’re worried about him tripping over one–or letting one escape. Five minutes later, I got an email with exactly the same message.

Step 4: At 10:00 Monday, I got another automated call. This one informed me that I had an appointment “today between twelve and five”, that the estimated arrival time was “between 1:00 and 2:15”, and that I should ensure that someone 18 years… Yep, same message about having someone responsible there and that the pets were locked up. Five minutes later, I got an email with the same information.

Step 5: At 10:34, the phone rang again. Dish’s computer was calling to let me know that the estimated arrival time had changed, and was now “between 11:30 and 12:30”. And, of course, that I should… well, you know the drill. This time the email arrived while I was still on the phone.

Step 6: At 12:36, I got another call. “Hi, this is {name deleted to preserve his anonymity} with Dish. I’m just a couple of miles away. Do you still want me to come do your installation?” I suppressed my immediate sarcastic response that the need had passed, and assured him that I would be delighted to see him. “OK, great! I’ll be there in a few minutes. Is someone 18 years of age or older present?” Amazingly enough, he didn’t ask if any pets had been secured. I assured him that I was both present and over 18, and we hung up. Astoundingly, I didn’t get another email confirming his imminent arrival.

Step 7: The technician arrived and did what needed to be done. (For the record, he did a fine job of answering my questions, installing a new dish on the roof, and swapping out the receivers.) As he was leaving, he told me that I would be receiving a call from Dish “sometime in the next day or two” to request me to take a customer satisfaction survey. Sure enough, about ninety minutes after he left, the phone rang. Dish’s computer wanted to know if I could “spare two minutes for a customer satisfaction survey regarding my recent equipment installation.”

So how’s that? A single appointment involved six phone calls–including my original request–and four emails. Each of the calls interrupted my work, and if I were the sort of person who keeps a constant watch on my email, each of those would have been an interruption as well. Scale it back, Dish, scale it back! This could have been done with four calls (my initial call, the day-before reminder, the day-of schedule refinement, and the updated arrival time) and no emails. Or skip the calls and use email if the customer prefers. Put the survey online, and have the technician give the customer a receipt that includes the URL.

I promised you a related WQTS. No, it’s not the business with the website demanding a second phone number. That’s clearly working as designed, and is more a matter of corporate cluelessness than anything else.

No, the WQTS is the phone survey. According to the tech, when the survey was first launched, all of the technicians started getting horrible ratings. It took several weeks before they figured out that people were trying to give high ratings (10), but the system didn’t accept two digit responses, so “10”s were recorded as “1”s. Really? I’m guessing that the survey was “tested” by the developer, who knew that “10” should be entered as “0”. I gathered from the tech that several technicians received warnings and bad performance reviews before the problem was solved. Excuse me. “Solved”.

So how did they fix it? Change the range of responses to 1 through 9? Nope. Change the range to 0 through 9? Nope. The “fix” was to require the techs to warn customers “Do not enter 1 unless you want to say I was awful. Use 0 if you mean 10.” Dish also added a similar warning to the automated introduction to the survey. No reminders during the survey, however.