Sunday, March 13, 2011

A customer service grumble

Two bloody hours on the phone, multiple bad transfers, endless repetition of the same information, representatives who are absolutely clueless about their product, and a huge effort by a normally quiescent installer to keep his temper. I do know that the machine you end up taking to doesn't care, but at times I all think that we all want to yell at it, just to make us feel better. But it's like kicking the tire of a broken down car, with the likely end result being a broken toe, and a still malfunctioning auto.

I have a firm policy of never naming the builders of vessels, or products that I have had problems with. I work hard at this, using only close up photos, with my intent being that only the builder would have a real chance of identifying their product, and hopefully would make some changes, but today, I am making an exception to this rule. 

So today, with little fanfare I am calling out DTV, XM, and Sirius for having abysimal customer support systems, for boaters anyway. My little tirade above was with XM/Sirius in particular, I will get back to DTV a little later.

So here is the set up. A couple of weeks back, a satellite radio weather provider was sending down in their signal something that was causing this chartplotter's charts to just go away. The chartplotter vendor was inundated with calls from other customers with the same problem, and they very quickly provided a fix which consisted of doing a special reset, and following it with a software fix to keep this from occurring again. In my particular case, it worked, but some weather data was missing from the subscription. It is apparent to me data is missing, but despite all of my acquired wisdom on this subject, my less than eidetic memory could only identify some of the specific things missing such as wind direction. 

So a couple rounds of calls later, the suggestion was to have XM/Sirius resend the subscription. To do this you call 1-800 purgatory, and you end up in an automated system. No we are on a boat, and don't have the account number to enter. So thus begins an endless droning Buddhist monk like chant that sounds like AGENT, CUSTOMER SERVICE, TECHNICAL, OPERATOR, HUMAN.... If you do this long enough, eventually a human voice comes on the line. A nice woman is there to talk to me. Hi, I need a subscription resent for this weather unit. I understand we can go to and do this, but we are on a boat, those things that float in the water, and we just need a resend for the weather subscription. No the owner is here, and he can give you his mailing address. Yes you do have a weather product, and it is the Maxo weather package, and could you please verify what items should be in that package. You don't have that information? Okay I will hold for a transfer. Hello my name is Sam how can I help you. No this is Sirius/XM, and you have to talk to XM/Sirius, I will transfer you. Dial toneeeeeeeeeeeeeee. I start again.

I'm not going to belabor this point any more, we have all been there, many, many times. So here is my problem with these two companies, and I'm now adding DTV. I think when 10,000 calls are received, in only one of them, the subject is about a boat, and it is very likely the person you are talking to has never dealt with this. Mix in plenty of formalities like verification questions, pin numbers, addresses, struggling through the automated system, and you go nowhere fast.

So here my suggestion for you three, or is it two organizations? After the beleaguered customer finally gets a human voice, and says a word like boat, RV, or weather, why don't you just have a small group in your system you can transfer them to, who actually knows something about these products, and their applications on a boat. If you did this, I wouldn't be spending a couple of hours on the phone sitting on a boat trying to resolve some very simple problem.  One of the common problems I encounter is the customer gets a new DTV receiver, calls in the new activation, but since the agent doesn't think a boat is any different than a house, the little box on their screen that says it will not be hooked up to a phone was not checked off. Ninety days later when E.T. the receiver hasn't phoned home to check in, the system automatically shuts the programming off, (Psst, they think you're buying movies and not paying for them), and I get called to fix the problem.

So DTV, if you had a small specific group that knows about boats, (I suspect RV's have the same problem), then the agent would know to at least ask if a phone line is going to be attached to the receiver, and if not, check off the little box on the computer. The same goes for XM/Sirius, after talking to about a dozen people, only one seemed to have even a clue about weather subscriptions, and even he couldn't tell me exactly what was in the packages. I got it fixed, on the second resend, but this is why I buy a 3000 minute phone package from my soulless provider. It includes unlimited texting, but at my two words a minute key in time, lets see now S is #7 pushed 4 times. My longest response to date is "OK". (#6, 3 times, #5, 2 times. 5 keystrokes 2 letters. I apparently need a more modern phone, but I can't find a human to talk to about it.)

Dial a human


  1. I have had similar experience with Sirius (was a customer for years since their first year in business). Turns out the satellite radio market was not as big as they hoped. Thus, in order to maximize margins came the Sirius/XM merger (approved despite obvious anti-trust implications), increasingly poor content, and poorer customer service (which was probably the first casualty).

  2. Thanks Robert, they are now just one big happy dysfunctional family.

  3. You are not alone, I have spent countless hours on the phone with Sirius/XM, DTV, and please add Dish Network to your list. Last season I had multiple experiences where Sirius/XM botched activations (sent a weather signal to the audio receiver, and vice versa) and good lord, getting a Sat TV system activated is harder than applying for a home loan.

    It's very hard to bill the customer $95/hr to wait on hold, but it certainly takes time out of the day. What do you do?


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