Wednesday, February 9, 2011

TFTLM: Dishin' It Up 2.0 (Another Cautionary Tale) Part III

Our satellite service verbally assured and installation ordered, we were delighted when on Thursday we received a call from Dish Dude #3 asking for directions to our house. (Foreshadowing continues.) We gave him said directions and he arrived driving a civilian vehicle. (Red flag red flag!)

We led him to the spot on the roof where Dish Dude #2 had said we could have the dish installed, no problem. DD #3 had barely raised his doohickey to his eyes when he declared that the roof mount was impossible. Furthermore, upon a brief scouting mission, he declared that there were no other locations on the property that could work, save for the middle of the back yard. We inquired as to why DD#2, who was a field manager from Dish Network central, had declared the roof mount "an easy job," yet it was somehow now impossible? DD#3 continued to stress that he had no control over what anyone else said, but he was looking at it himself and the roof would not work. There was no point in him even attempting an installation, because he’d just have to take it all back down again when it failed.

"You know, I used to work for DirecTV," the man began. "Have you thought about sw--"

"No!!" we said in unison. "DirecTV screwed us over hard and we swore we'd never do business with them again."

Dish Dude #3 said he understood.

We asked if he minded if we called Dish Network central to see if they could put us in touch with Dish Dude #2 so we could determine who was correct. For all we knew, DD#2 had been wrong, and he was definitely in the minority opinion. However, the majority opinion came from two sub-contractors, who allegedly ran at the first sign of trouble. We really wanted DD#2 to be right.

Naturally, the Dish Network phone tree process was especially slow. Usually, it recites to you your own phone number, then gives you an option to talk to someone right away and then you do. Somehow, though, despite my doing things like I had during my other 50 calls to them over the past couple of weeks, the quick connection didn’t work. My guess is that it was too early in the morning for most of their stateside call center offices to be in full gear yet, because once I did get into a hold queue for a representative my call seemed to have been routed to one of their call centers in India. I know this, not only from the distinctly Indian hold music that played as I waited for five minutes, but also from the heavy Indian accent of the agent I eventually was able to speak with.

I’m conflicted on the subject of Indian call centers. I mean, I saw Slumdog Millionaire along with the rest of you and part of me likes the notion that the transfer of a goodly percentage of the call center industry to India provides work for a lot of people, some of whom desperately need it. However, I also think there are plenty of folks in this country who are in desperate need of work. Also, while Indian call centers are usually adequate for most basic transactions (setting up accounts, etc.), when it comes to more complicated matters, their ability to help, in my repeated experience, breaks down. All evidence I've personally seen shows that stateside representatives have a leg up over those in foreign nations when it comes to handling complicated issues such as the ones that tend to happen to me. Granted, I've not had any particularly awful experiences with Indian call centers, but I’ve also never had any outstanding ones.

For instance, a few years ago, in the calls I made to both Direct TV and Dish Network during the events of my first satellite TV debacle, I was routed to India for the initial phases of many of those calls. After several such encounters, I realized that the ground-level representatives had neither the know-how nor authority to help me with my complicated problem, except when it came to their ability to transfer me to someone who might have the necessary powers. (This is actually true of both stateside and Indian call centers, but I tended to get mostly Indian ones during that debacle.) I quickly reached a point where I would start my part of the conversation by explaining that I already knew my problem was beyond their kin and just requesting that they go ahead and transfer my call to their Problem Customer Hotline. Did any of these reps ever listen? Nope. Not a one. I'm sure they were acting on policy, but they always insisted on plunging ahead and have me explain the whole lengthy mess of a story to them (which just got longer with each passing representative). Only then would they realize their own powerless nature to resolve my concern and would finally transfer me to the Problem Customer Hotline as I originally asked. A whole lot of my time and their time (i.e. their company's time and money) was repeatedly wasted, which, if any lurkers from Dish or Direct are still reading, would be a fine thing to pass on to the powers that be looking to make improvements.

The Indian operator I eventually spoke with this time was no exception to the above scenario. She went through the standard procedures of helping me, but I knew already that my goal of learning the identity of Dish Dude #2, let alone speaking to him, let alone doing anything about whether or not I could have a dish in the first place, was outside the realm of her power. (So, really, I should have just hung up and tried again.) I had to explain the situation with the 1st, 2nd and 3rd opinions we'd had and how they conflicted. Had to explain it twice, I did, but I was still pretty sure she didn't get it. She then put me on hold for more Indian music, then came back and proved my suspicion right by demonstrating a complete misunderstanding of the situation. I asked if there was any way she could just transfer my call to the local Dish Office in my state, as I suspected they would be better-equipped to help me. Nope. She plunged right on, putting me on hold again while she consulted with superiors.

Meanwhile, Dish Dude #3, had called his own boss at sub-contractor central, who told him it was completely his call to make on the install and he didn’t have to do it. He left our property LONG before the rep came back on to tell me she would be happy to schedule me a second opinion about my dish set up.

“No!” I said, a little louder than maybe I should have. “That’s what I’ve been saying all this time. We’ve already HAD a second opinion. We’ve had three opinions. We’re simply trying to confirm which of the three opinions is correct!”

More hold time and Indian music followed and then the rep came back to say she was going to have to transfer me to another department. Finally!

One transfer later and a different though still distinctly Indian accent came on the line. She immediately asked me to hold while she researched the account.

“Still talking to India,” I whispered to the wife, confident that the rep couldn’t hear me.

“Hang up,” the wife whispered back. She had a point. I should have just hung up then and called back hoping to get a call center in the states, but I thought that would be rude. So I waited, then had to try and explain the situation all over again when the rep came back. The new rep didn’t really understand either and offered to schedule more second opinions. I managed not to lose my shit with her, tried to explain it all again, then spent more time on hold. When she came back, her ultimate solution was to offer to give me phone numbers for some satellite installation companies in my area, in case I wanted one of them to have a go at the job.

“Wait a second,” I said. “I thought I was talking to Dish Network.”

“You are, sir.”

I told her I didn't want other numbers for other satellite installation services. I called Dish Network because I wanted to talk to the people who were directly responsible for installing my system to inquire whether or not they could do the job. Furthermore, if she truly worked for Dish Network, I didn't see why she couldn't simply transfer me to my local central branch so that I could pursue my quest to find out if their area manager was right in the first place. She didn’t know either. Rather than risk becoming more agitated than I already was. I thanked her for her time and hung up the phone--which is what I should have done nearly half an hour earlier.



Anonymous said...

How you managed not to lose your shit is beyond me. I love the Dish service, the dvr, the channel guide...but the customer service sucks out loud (I've had maybe 2 or 3 exceptions in over 10 years of svc). I try to time my calls so it's between 9p-7a in India. Really.

crsunlimited said...

You do realize that these people are in fact a call center that handles many companies. The rep you talk to could in fact handle both Dish Network, and DirecTV calls. In fact India is the only place that I know of that has universal call centers like this.