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October 13, 2010
A Call Center Nightmare Experience
 
I don't normally trade on personal PR experiences, but yesterday I had one so dismal that it will be a while before I can shake it off. It had to do with a call center and how perversely some companies -- in this case the Dish Network -- are using them.

We're planning to get a new TV and adjust our TV service. We've wearied of how Comcast "balkanizes" its offerings so that, in the present instance, we can't watch the Phillies without paying a premium for doing so. We thought Dish Network might be an alternative, and indeed it might be, but I couldn't establish that in attempting to communicate yesterday with a gentleman at the Dish call center. It was a public relations nightmare. How inept can a company be in that regard? A lot, apparently. 

There's a hill abruptly behind our home in our retirement community. The rise makes it doubtful that Dish can serve us, but maybe that's not so. I've been thinking, well, when Dish has someone in this neighborhood, maybe they can stop by and check us out. So I called Dish to ask about that, and got its call center. Oh, dear.

First, the background noise was prominent; It sounded like a stock exchange of old. The gentleman fated to connect with me wasn't entirely understandable over the din, but what he seemed to be saying was, "We don't want to just send someone out. We want to make an installation. Give me your information, and we'll make a date. If you want to when our person comes, you can reschedule."

Wait a minute. Don't they understand that the intricacies these days of TV connections and programming take some explaining? We wanted, I explained, someone to come out, sit in our living room, and explain what Dish is offering. (We've had the same need in Comcast's case and were blessed there, not by the arrival of a salesperson, but by a very well-informed technician who spent the better part of an hour during a service call explaining our options.)

Sadly, the Dish call center gentleman seemed to consider himself the gatekeeper and dealmaker all in one. Nothing was going to happen unless "I have it on my screen." So nothing did happen. After warning him I would do so, I finally did -- I hung up. How difficult, I wondered, is it for a company to understand that's what's likely to happen when it retrenches into a call center. Happily, Netflix is a fallback option for us. 

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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