The recent financial crisis gave rise to the phrase "too big to fail", which is now used to describe the status of many large, but struggling companies. GM, AIG, and others come to mind. These companies go so big that we could not have easily recovered as a nation had they failed. The question is: why did we allow them to survive and grow to be so big in the first place, given that their business practices were so poor? So, here is a new phrase: "too big and too poor to ignore". I use it to describe big companies that are on their way toward joining the "too big to fail" club if something isn't done. Basically, we can't continue to avoid companies that are this bad, or else we will pay a much bigger price down the road. As consumers, we have a responsibility to stand up. One of those companies is: DIRECTV.

directv-fail

Certainly you have heard of DIRECTV.  It's a big company.  You can look up the facts.  Their main competitors are DISH Network and your local cable company (Comcast or Time Warner, most likely).  With 2008 revenues approaching $20B, DIRECTV is nearly twice the size of DISH, it's other competitor in the satellite entertainment space. Clearly, DIRECTV is big.  But, what makes them too poor to ignore?  The answer, customer service.  Quite frankly, their customer service is just plain horrible.  Bad.  Really bad.

I have been a DIRECTV customer for the last 7+ years.  I subscribe to all of their big pay packages, including the premium movie channels and their flagship product, NFL Sunday Ticket.  When I call in for help, they review my file and always thank me for being a loyal, long-time customer.  That is, after I spend about 10 minutes ducking and dodging the many voice prompts, verifications, and "did you know about directv.com" messages designed to keep me from getting to talk to an actual human.

So, what happens when one of my DIRECTV High Definition Digital Video Recorders goes bad over the weekend?  Well, I call them on Monday, of course. I expect them to either give me a technical solution over the phone or have a replacement receiver in my hands ASAP (24-48 hours seems reasonable, right?).  Well, after I give the technical service rep the error code produced by the receiver (code 15-369), I am told that I should have a replacement receiver by Friday.  Yes, FRIDAY!

Are you kidding me?

An entire business week to get me a receiver?  My goodness! I recently had a washing machine go bad and Sears got me a replacement within 2 days.  Now, DIRECTV is telling me it will take them until the end of the week to get me a @#! @!@# satellite receiver?  How can this be?

Well, here's how that can be.  DIRECTV is so big that they just no longer care about customers.  Heck, maybe they never did.  But, I've had DVRs go bad before - happens all of the time.  But, it's never been so difficult to get service.  But, consider the fact that DIRECTV does none of the following:

  • Make arrangements with their shipper, FedEx, to allow for immediate, priority delivery of replacement receivers for top tier customers for a fee.
  • Make arrangements with local chain retailers to allow customers to pick up a retail replacement without signing a new service contract or incurring a fee.
  • Stock their large, contracted installer base with a small number of replacement units that can be hand-delivered in case of device failure.

These are all reasonable things to expect from a $20B company.  So, why don't they change their ways?  The answer is simple.  They don't change because consumers let them get away with such poor practices.  Well, not me...not this time.  That's why I am writing this post. Yeah, they did offer me a $15 credit for the days I would be expected to go without service.  When I escalated the issue, the next rep gave me a $10/month discount for the next 6 months.  Ok, thanks.  But, this isn't about the $75.  It's about poor service and a business model that someone in a DIRECTV boardroom somehow deemed "good enough".

How can this be acceptable to DIRECTV management?  How can you justify keeping my family without service for a week, while at the same time DIRECTV installers are all over our area installing services for new customers, and likely returning to home base each day with several working receivers in their trucks that we could be making use of?  Why would nobody enable either the installers or the local retailers to become part of the needed solution?  The answer - they just plain DO NOT CARE, and if we don't demand that they change their ways, they never will.  Then, in 20-25 years, our kids will be called on to bail them out.  Difficult to believe?  Well, consider how American car companies and legacy air carriers have failed to respond to fundamental customer complaints in the past. It's worked out well for them, hasn't it?    No way.

So, please pass this message on.  If you share these views about DIRECTV, go here and submit a question asking DIRECTV why they don't do more to provide customers with reasonable service.  Or, call 1-800-531-5000 if you want to speak to someone directly. Or, write DIRECTV at:

DIRECTV Inc.

PO Box 6550

Greenwood Village, CO 80155-6550

LATEST UPDATE: When I got my DVR replacement order confirmation, I discovered that my account was being charged a $19.95 "handling fee" as part of the replacement process. Seriously?  I was never told about that fee during my support calls with three different representatives, including the supervisor. Very broken service model.

Thanks for reading.

Feedback: email: tony@getthenext.com or twitter: @tonypittman  (twitter.com/tonypittman).

Stop the madness, DIRECTV!!!