'Service' That's Anything But

By Don Oldenburg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 30, 2005

Funny how things you count on don't always add up. But maybe "funny" isn't the right word.

Making the big move from Southern California to the District, the one thing Malinda Worley didn't worry about was satellite TV service at her new Northwest Washington condo. DirecTV is here, and she has been a loyal DirecTV customer for many years.

"How is it possible for a company to have such awful customer service?" she asks.

Okay, make "loyal" past tense. Worley now says her vocabulary doesn't contain a word that adequately describes the customer-service gaffes, technician ineptitude and botched communications she experienced trying to remain a loyal DirecTV customer.

Hey, customer loyalty ain't easy -- sometimes because of customer service. Unlike an increasing number of consumers who blow their stacks over customer-service hassles and hijinks (more on that below), Worley tries to remain calm and keep a civil tongue. But that doesn't mean a tempest isn't brewing inside.

When she moved in, Worley's building manager told her how easy connecting to DirecTV would be. Her condo is pre-wired. The rooftop satellite dish serves the entire building. All the DirecTV technician had to do was flip the switch in the router box.

While ordering installation, Worley mentioned that she lived in a "pre-wired, multiple-dwelling unit," as the building manager instructed, and was assured the technician would know exactly what to do.

That's why Worley went into major "huh?" mode when the technician's first words were: "So, where do you want the dish?"

Before she could utter "pre-wired," the technician said, "You can't get a view of the southern sky here, a dish won't work. . . . I'll just put down here 'no line of sight' as the reason for no service." And out the door he went.

Worley called DirecTV explaining she needed another appointment. Customer-service reps, one after another, put her on hold and passed her along until one scheduled another house call. "This was not pleasant," Worley says.

And it wasn't pleasant when the technician didn't show up. And when Worley called again and was cut off. And when an installation manager promised to call back and didn't. And when she repeatedly was put on hold, then disconnected. And when she finally reached a supervisor and his first words were: "It says right here that you don't have a line of sight for a dish."

After more wrangling, another clueless technician and another customer-service rep who insisted she needed a dish, Worley gave up. "I tried to get DirecTV. I really tried . . . but what else was I supposed to do?" she asks.

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