For more than a decade, I have been a customer of DirecTV. For the most part, I am pleased with the service, and I plan to be a customer for years to come. However, I had an experience recently that I would like to share as a lesson.

Calling Customer Support
I found time on a Saturday night to call DirecTV about an old Tivo receiver that did not have HD capability. In my discussion with Tamara from Mississippi, I learned that upgrading to an HD receiver in this one room would allow me the option to sign-up for the Whole-Home DVR service, which means that I can access recorded shows from any DVR in the home.

Of course, making this move meant having to buy the DVR for $99, plus tax, shipping, and a contribution to a political party. I’m joking about the contribution, but I did notice that $99 quickly escalated to $128. Regardless, in a few days, the FedEx package arrived with the new HD DVR. All is good, right? Not exactly!

Technician No-Show
Adding the Whole-Home service requires extra equipment, which means that DirecTV will dispatch a technician to my home. We agree on a window from 4 pm to 8 pm on a Wednesday, and I coordinate my schedule to be available during that time slot. On Wednesday morning, I received a call from a “512” area code (Austin, Texas), and I don’t answer it because I am teaching a seminar. I figured a student from Austin was calling, and I would return the call later in the day. I later learned the DirecTV technician used a mobile phone with the “512” area code.

His voicemail stated he needed to cancel the work order because I needed a Deca system installed. As I listened to the message, I have no idea the purpose or need for a Deca. It sounded like a side dish used in Greek cuisine. After calling the technician, he mentioned that I needed to call DirecTV to “upgrade” the order. I was surprised as to why I needed to make that call, especially given that I did not know what to request.

Think of the Customer
The technician, who is probably employed by a third party company, needs to think of how he could help the customer. Asking me to call DirecTV customer support is the easy way out, and falls short of providing exemplary customer service.
Who is to blame? This is a leadership problem. Both DirecTV and the technician’s employer must work together to resolve customer issues. The fact is that I initiated the call for service. My role is to explain what I needed, when I need it, and to pay for the equipment and service. DirecTV, on the other hand, must ensure that they understand my requirements, and that its employees and contractors collaborate to deliver as promised.
Mediocre customer service requires the customer to be involved throughout the service lifecycle, constantly confirming that work is done. World-class customer service, on the other hand, places the responsibility of customer service on the company itself. In essence, DirecTV must be an advocate for its customers, taking proactive measures to resolve problems quickly.

Every organization can learn from this experience. Stop making the customer responsible for work you can do better and quicker. The irony here is that asking the customer to assume more ownership creates additional inefficiencies on the back-end, which negatively affects customer service, employee morale, and the bottom-line.