Yesterday, I wrote about the problems I was having with DirecTV.  Here’s a recap of the events that began in December:

 Unable to get DirecWay internet service working properly, I canceled their service and switched to a Comcast internet/cable bundle.

I sent a letter to DirecTV with my bill, asking them to cancel me.

A new bill arrived in January.  I returned it with another letter.

I received a call from their “Retention Specialist,” who asked me to reconsider, as I had always been a good customer.  I asked him to let me consider their offer, but that I still wanted to cancel the service, as I already had Comcast installed and running.

In February, DirecTV sent another bill for service I was no longer using.

I emailed them a request to cancel my account and refund the account back to the date I had requested the first cancellation.

They referred my account to a collections agency.

Yesterday (May 23) I called DirecTV and was cut off by their phone system.  The second time, I got through to Lindsay.  She listened to my complaint but told me that the letter I sent was not enough to get the account canceled as:

“We have different departments here.  Those people don’t process cancellations.  Their job is to take payments.  Company policy is that HAVE to call or email us to cancel.”

Turns out written correspondence is no longer considered valid communication.

Then she told me I had no other recourse but to write a letter to DirecTV at an address she rattled off for me.  When I asked her to speak with someone else (since she kept saying “Thanks for calling.  Have a nice day” over and over again) she said there was no one else.

Really?  When I asked for the number for the corporate office, she couldn’t give me one.  Turns out you can’t actually talk to the people who make the policies.

She did promise to transfer me to the dispute department and I sat on hold.  Then she hung up on me.

When I called back, I got Leticia.  I asked her to transfer me to the dispute department.  She said there was no such department and I had to send a letter.  When I told her that Lindsay had promised to transfer me, she repeated that there wasn’t a number to which I could be transferred.

When I asked her what to do next, she responded:

“There is anything else you can do.  Just write a letter.  There are no other people you can talk to.”

Gives you a lot of confidence in their customer service, doesn’t it.

Sorry to bore you with all that, but I think it’s important to lay out the story before I go into how they finally fixed it.

Turns out a few thousand other people have had these problems with DirecTV.  Luckily, one woman, Cathy, has decided to share the information she was able to dig up.

Using a few email addresses that Cathy unearthed, I sent the following message to the new VP of Customer Relations (or some title) at DirecTV:

I am a customer of DirecTV who was contacted by Allied Interstate, your collection agency, about a debt that your company claims that I owe.

First, I tried to correct the issues by talking with one of your customer service agents.  It took three attempts to get through to a live person, because your system kept hanging up on me (tempermental robot voice and all).  When I finally reached Lindsay she listened carefully and then told me there was nothing I could do but write a letter to your company disputing the charges.  We reviewed your company’s records of my correspondence (I wrote, emailed and called three times in an effort to cancel my service!) and she acknowledged that your company had received each of my attempts.

While attempting to transfer me to someone else who could help me, she hung up on me.  That was the third time I was disconnected by your phone system.

So I called the collection agency.  I spoke with a kind woman who was able to assist me with my complaint.  Interestingly, when I began to explain my issue, she laughed and apologized by saying:

“I’m laughing because I know what DirecTV does to its customers.” 

Wow!  Your own collection agency even acknowledges that DirecTV does wrong by its customers.

By the way, I found your email address by doing a simple websearch for “DirecTV complaint.”  It returned a notice by Cathy who had a similar customer service experience.  Other searches have brought even more distressing evidence of the problems at your company.

I’d like to give your company a chance to fix these issues.  Of course, you are welcome to ignore my email.  Unfortunately for DirecTV, I’m the kind of consumer who shares his opinions with family and friends (my experiences with Skype have been good and my time on a Royal Carribbean cruise was bad).  I also write a blog for funeral professionals that deals with customer service and marketing issues.

Interestingly, I wrote about my third attempt to cancel my service back in February:

I’m preparing my next entry about your service.  You can be sure I will quote that collection agency employee who knows how you treat your customers. 

You can call me at any time, if you think this issue can be corrected.  I have already begun the dispute process with your collection agency and have sent a letter to your Greenwood Village address.  My next emails are going to the attorney general of the state of Florida (where I used to have your service) and to each of my elected officials.

Congratulations on alienating another formerly-loyal customer!

President's OfficeGuess that worked because I got a return email and phone call with four hours.

Cynde, an overly-chipper woman from the “Office of the President of DirecTV” who kept telling me how much DirecTV valued me, fixed the account and credited me $42, which they’ll send in a check.

I sent them this email in response to the quick work of their executive staff:

Cynde called me just a few minutes ago.  She was polite (overly so – it was almost annoyingly so) which made the contrast from my earlier experiences (dating back to January and before) that much more extreme.

I hope that the complaints I’ve seen online about your company (I stopped reading after the first fifty or so, but there were simply pages of them on several consumer-complaint websites) become less frequent as you work to correct the customer service issues you’re currently facing.

And while Cynde was nice to me and tried to reassure me that your company cared about my experiences, the folks who deal with customers on a regular basis have not yet gotten that memo.  Undoubtably, Cynde works in either nicer conditions or with better pay and benefits, and gets greater attention from her bosses, including positive reinforcement for work done well.  The two other CSR that I spoke with today sounded like they had heard my complaints many times before and had only the company line to offer in response.

In short, Cynde’s efforts are too late.  The damage has already been done.  I spent several months telling my friends about how hard it was to quit your service.  I’ve spent the last few days telling them all that you reported me to a collection agency.  And while I’m glad you fixed your mistake, you will have to change a lot in the future before I consider paying you good money again.

Thanks for your time and for trying to fix the situation.  I wish you the best of luck trying to right your ship.  Of course, with the limited choices and irrational need for mind-numbing television entertainment of today’s consumer, maybe you can hold course and sail on just your advertising and as much money as you can rake in from battered consumers.

While I’m sure that Cynde, with her job at corporate headquarters and a salary that I can only imagine is better than a Representative in the callcenter, wants to ensure that I have a good opinion of DirecTV, I’m sure the two girls I reached first really don’t care about me. 

They’re struggling with a heavy workload (lots of calls) and belligerent callers all day.  Callers made belligerent by the policies handed down from the “Office of the President of DirecTV.”

How do your frontline, lowest-paid employees deal with your clients?  Better than DirecTV’s, I hope.