customer service lessons from directv

It’s been awhile since I’ve weighed in on customer service issues/lessons, but they’re relevant, because we’re presently working on our site’s customer service capabilities (and because they’re critical to our site’s success).

At the same time, I had an amazing customer service experience with DirecTV today that absolutely boggles the mind.

When I originally subscribed a year ago, I was given a promotional package rate that lasted for a year. I just noticed on my last bill that the rate had expired, and my bill was now $30 more and back to “normal.”

Figuring it was worth a shot, I called DirecTV to see if I could reinstitute the promotional rate. My first phone call was to a guy who said I could not have the promotional rate any longer, but he could give me $5 off my next three months. That’s better than nothing, I thought, so I took it.

But I still had a question… Why not just cancel and resubscribe to get the promotional rate?

My second call was as a non-subscriber. On that call, I found out the promotional rates so that I could compare them to my current rate. Turns out they’re the same as they were when I subscribed a year ago.

My third call connected me to what I learned was the “existing customer” department (the same people I had spoken with on the first call). I asked them if they could save me the hassle of cancelling and resubscribing with the new promotional rate. The woman told me no, but she could give me a $10 discount for the next 6 months.

I told her that the discount sounded good, but I’d get a bigger discount by just cancelling and resubscribing. She recommended that if I was thinking of cancelling, I should talk to the “win-back” department. Apparently, the “win-back” department specializes in those who are threatening to cancel.

In speaking with the “win-back” rep, I learned that if I cancelled, I’d have to pay a $120 cancellation fee. I explained to her that if I cancelled, I’d have to pay $120, but I’d save $372 for the next year by renewing for the promotional rate – a net gain of $252. She told me if I cancel, I’m still a customer, so I wouldn’t be eligible for that rate, anyway. I explained that I would simply have a family member subscribe, so they’d be the new subscriber. She wasn’t a fan of that suggestion.

In a momentary show of weakness, I resigned myself to the discount the prior woman had offered and asked the “win-back” woman for the $10 deal. She said that I had already accepted a $5 off for three months deal, and that she couldn’t go into the system and add another one. Naturally, I asked her to delete the $5 then, so I could get the $10 deal. She said they can’t be deleted once added. Lesson here obviously is not to commit to an offer with DirecTV until you’ve called enough and spoken to enough people to have heard all the options – and then hope you can find someone aware of the best option you heard so they can institute it.

Having all this information, I thought I’d give the customer service management a chance to cut through the muck, so I called again… as an existing customer. Before I could get to management, I had to explain to the first line of defense what I was calling about. After telling him this story, I wanted to confirm my cancellation fee. He told me it would be $250. When I told him the “win-back” woman said $120, he said well, that may be a rate she can give you, but I’m in the “existing customer” department, and this is the best I can do.

I thought it was odd that different departments could behave differently, and he said they don’t communicate and is unfamiliar with their powers. At this point, he deferred me to the management.

When I finally reached a manager, I explained everything I had learned, which was:

  • I should cancel my current subscription
  • My wife should, at the same time, subscribe at the promotional rate (the subscription follows your name, not your address, so she could subscribe at our same address)
  • There would be a cancellation fee of $120 or $250, depending on who I talked to (which made me wonder if I could actually do better than $120 if I spoke to the right person)

He confirmed all this and added that 90 days after I cancel, I am eligible for new customer promotions again. So basically, I could do this every year and go back and forth with me and my wife alternately signing up as a “new” customer.

He then also confirmed the $250 cancellation number, but that he, too, didn’t necessarily have the powers of the “win-back” department (seemingly, the most powerful department in DirecTV).

Given all this information, I’m inclined to go with cancelling my subscription, while at the same time having my wife subscribe at the same residence. Some would argue $200+ over a year is not worth the effort, but this situation is, to me, so ridiculous that I feel I owe it to myself and DirecTV to exploit this silliness.


5 Responses to “customer service lessons from directv”

  1. 1 aaron
    October 24, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    Bizarre. DirecTV sent me a direct mail about a month ago thanking me for being a long time customer and giving me 3 free months of Showtime. No strings attached and it was already active. I’m waiting for the three months to end to see if it really is “no strings attached.”


  2. 2 Just Me
    July 24, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    All I can tell you is make sure you keep on paying your Directv bills on time. You got those great offers b/c you paid the bills on time and had your service for a while, otherwise you wouldn’t qualify for it. Another thing is that when your account gets so many credits and free stuff so often, that might disqualify you to get any additional offers. I know because I know somebody who works in that department.

  3. 3 Matt
    December 14, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    I love this article. I recently had some similar discussions with DirecTV employees. Their reasoning defies all that is logical for sure.

  4. 4 Emmanuel
    March 31, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    I canceled, and the win-back department rang my phone 8 hours later. They waived my $180 early-termination fee, gave me my 2 extra HD receivers, free installation in a new room and gave me the promotional rate as if I was a new customer. They are nice guys. I should’ve asked for a free nomad darn.

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