Before the merger between AT&T and the largest satellite service, DirecTV, was approved by the U.S. Department of Justice and the FCC, they added the usual terms and conditions that would cover the deal. Most probably won’t concern you. Unfortunately, I don’t think any of those terms and conditions covered customer support and phone menus. Or at least if it did, something is very wrong here.
That leads me to a long and annoying encounter with DirecTV support that consumed two hours of my time; time that I hoped to mostly devote to editing one of my radio shows.
Let me back up a bit. As many of you know, I moved into a new home this week. One of the advantages of this place is free entry-level broadband Internet (15 megabits down, 3 megabits up) and a midrange Dish Network package that is provided to all residents courtesy of a firm known as accessmedia3. But let me amend that: You still have to pay for the cable box, with extra charges for DVR and HD and, if you want the option, premium channels such as Showtime.
The downside of the bundled service is that they use an older Dish Network DVR to cut costs. It’s a predecessor to the Hopper, which means it doesn’t automatically record some shows without commercials, and you’re limited to two simultaneous streams plus DVR playback. There’s no support for 4K either, but that’s nothing I have to worry about for now.
Well, DirecTV has some fairly cheap packages that, with a 24-month deal, are in the same range as the bundled TV service when you pay for the equipment and options. As a long-time customer, I thought I’d see if they could meet or match the price with a far superior DVR, and they jumped at the opportunity to keep my business even though it would hardly be profitable. It didn’t hurt that I was an AT&T customer, and I could save another $10 per month for bundling the two.
So where’s this going?
I’m a renter, but part of the rent goes to a Homeowners Association that manages the property, and they must approve your plans for installing anything outside the home. A dish cannot be installed on the roof or the siding, but that’s nothing new. Unfortunately, it also requires approval at the scheduled board meeting, meaning that I’m still waiting.
While I’d still prefer DirecTV, they are really trying hard to lose a customer.
So I tried to postpone the installation appointment when the HOA’s representative was unable to give me an exact date when they’d consider my installation request. I suspect they’d rather not bother.
In recent weeks, DirecTV has set up a fancy new — well new at any rate — phone menu system. It uses voice recognition to manage your basic requests, and it’s almost always getting something wrong. So whenever I announce my phone number, which is used to look up the account, the voice assistant system responds that it couldn’t understand me. Speaking as someone with nearly 25 years of broadcast experience, I assume most of what I say is understandable, though I suspect Barbara would disagree.
The system doesn’t really want to connect you to a support agent. Instead, it attempts to push your requests to an automated response, but my situation required someone’s personal intervention, so I relentlessly tapped the “0” key on my phone to force the issue.
The first time I actually got someone on the line, they claimed that I had reached the wrong department. Why was I not surprised, but they promised to connect me to the right party. Here the situation became even more convoluted, and I was soon disconnected. So I had to go through the same annoying routine all over again. This time, when I was reconnected, I was given the option to have a DirecTV support person call me back in “12 minutes.”
Now when this option is offered, normally they give you the chance to speak your name, so they know how to identify you when the robocall system calls you back. This time they didn’t. So, 12 minutes later, when the phone rang, the voice assistant asked to speak to [silence]. Talk about brain dead!
Now when Apple or Amazon calls you back, you are connected to a support person almost immediately. Not so with DirecTV. I had to wait several minutes before someone picked up the call, and that’s where the situation quickly deteriorated. As if it could possibly get any worse.
So as I started talking, I heard an annoying sound on the line as if someone was juggling around with their headset. For a moment, I thought they may have even dropped the headset and quickly retrieved it. I asked her the source of the noise, and she denied anything had happened
I went through my simple update on the situation, that I was still waiting for the HOA to decide on my installation request, and merely wanted to postpone it for another day or two. But the support person clearly didn’t appreciate my taking her to task for dropping or playing with her headset, for as I was talking, the connection abruptly ended.
Despite its limitations, perhaps I should just stick with the bundled Dish Network service. DirecTV’s broken system is making me despair of wanting to go through all that nonsense again just to change an appointment. Perhaps I should just cancel it and go about my business.
UPDATE! On Friday morning, I received conditional approval from the HOA, so I scheduled the DirecTV install for the nearest available date. Now let’s see if they can even set it up given the limitations on placement.
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