Dish Network Customer Service: A poor first impression

SuperDISH 121 mounted on a roof.
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One of the fortunes I’ve had this year was to finally obtain a “real” TV set to replace the small dinky tube I’ve had since I moved out of my house.  In case you’re wondering, that’s about 19 years ago.

I had promised myself that once I obtained a home theater-type of setup, I was going to load it up with plenty of HD services.  When analyzing the bills, I realized that I was paying some fairly outrageous fees for Internet, cable and phone.  I could consolidate all of those services into Knology (added bonus: drop Comcast, which is not pro-consumer) for less than half of the monthly price.  I could then take those savings and get Chinese televsion for my family.

My wife has been here 7 years and has been quite tolerant of the lack of Chinese television.  As a matter of fact, the move is more to expose our half-Chinese children to the world of Mandarin rather than for her own enjoyment.  She really, really wanted to get ahold of YOYO-TV in particular.

Unfortunately, Dish Network is the only available option to obtain this channel.

I started off by calling the 1-888 number advertised on their website.  I wanted to add some HD channels to the package as well since, frankly, I’m a hair disappointed in the amount of HD offerings from Knology.  I wanted Sci-Fi Channel and Cartoon Network in HD and for some unknown reason, Knology does not offer them.  Dish Network, however, does.  I decided to go for the all-HD silver package and the Taiwanese mega-pack to obtain the YOYO-TV channel.

I called the number and was greeted by a very helpful young man named Alan.  Alan understood exactly what I was after.  He priced out a fabulous package, made sure the installation was completely free and signed me up.  He scheduled the appointment for 8am – noon on the following Tuesday.

Great, thought I.  I’ll just telecommute from work that day and it’ll all go well.

Tuesday comes and my wife runs the kids to school.  I stay home and join the regular telecons and whatnot (sometimes what I refer to as a job).  Noon comes and goes.  By 12:30pm, I’m pretty sure they’re not going to show up.

So I call the 1-888 number once again to get an idea of what might have happened.  I was flabbergasted at the answer.

They had cancelled the appointment.  Not only did they cancel the appointment, no one bothered to call me and inform me of the cancellation.  It gets better.  They rescheduled the appointment for the following Thursday from 8am – noon.  I presume they just assumed an adult would be available anytime they pleased, since they can apparently reschedule the appointment without notice.

I asked why the appointment was cancelled – especially since the day before they had called to confirm the appointment and verify someone would be there in the house.  I was told that this confirmation system was not tied in to the dispatching system at all – they had no idea if the appointment would be held or not.  Unfortunately, my appointment was not held because they did not have the required international dish in stock.

I was furious.  It usually takes a lot to get my blood pressure boiling this hot, but the incompetence was not only so appalling, they seemed to be incredibly indifferent about it.  I kicked into instant pushback mode.  “I work in the service industry too,” I growled, “and if I had given this type of service to my customer I would be fired.”

“I understand your disappointment sir but there’s nothing I can do.  We have no way to determine if they have the part.  We can only schedule the appointment.”

“So you’re telling me that I have to reschedule the appointment, take off of work to be home to meet you and you guys may or may not show up?”

“If the required parts are in stock the appointment will be kept.”

I was seething at this point.  There was absolutely no way in hell this could be true.  “You’re telling me that I have absolutely no recourse whatsoever except to just sit here and wait to see if you have the part?”  At this point, I decided to make it sound far worse than it really was.  I wanted her to think that I had devoted vacation hours to this appointment and lost.  “I have to take off work again and you may not show up?  Are you kidding me?

She wasn’t kidding.  Really.  She wasn’t.  Apparently, there is absolutely no way between appointment scheduling, inventory and dispatch for them to predict if they will be able to keep the appointment.  Due to their process, they cannot tell you if they will keep the appointment, confirmed or otherwise, until the day of the appointment.

This must be pure insanity.  I could not believe it.

After pushing back and arguing on this further, I finally gave in and made them reschedule the appointment for the following Sunday from 8am – noon.  I also asked for the manager so I could at least get a free month out of this.  I was assured that I would get a free month of service for the “inconvenience.”

Fast forward to Sunday.

At least this time they called.

That’s right.  At 8:30am they called and said that again, they didn’t have the required dish in stock and would not be showing up today.  It was my wife who took the call and the bad news.  She tried to reschedule the appointment and they refused!  She told them that since I was the one that ordered the service, only I could call back and reschedule the appointment.  Again, it was a crap shoot as to whether or not they would have the part – but I still had to reschedule.

While writing all of this, I wish I was making this up.

At this point I made another check with DirectTV to find out if I could get YOYO-TV from them.  Sadly, no.  I must just bend over and take this Dish Network abuse.

Anyway, so I call back in on Monday and get a very helpful rep who hears this entire story.  She apologizes profusely and decides to call dispatch herself and find out when they will have the dish.  Amazing.  Why didn’t the others bother to do this?  Dispatch confirms that “for sure” they will have the dish by Friday, so I went ahead with rescheduling the appointment.

So we’re 48 hours away from that.  We’ll see what happens.

My first impression of Dish Network?  Very unimpressed.  No wonder they hired a talentless comedian to try to pep up their commercials.  They obviously want to cheer you up before they put you through this ridiculous customer service racket.  Their process is so horribly broken that I wonder what I’m in for if I actually do get the service.

I guess we’ll see.  From what I see at I’m not in for a good time.

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5 thoughts on “Dish Network Customer Service: A poor first impression”

  1. Whoa, that’s pretty awful. I hate it when you don’t have a choice and have to put up with shit like this (excuse le mot). Here’s to hoping the rest of the service will be smooth.

    On a lighter note: a very nice holidays to you and your loved ones!

  2. I worked for a 3rd party place who handled direcTV’s customer support and directly for charter cable. I also worked the phone’s for a third party that handled capital one’s phone calls.
    Here’s how customer service works in general: The focus is on giving the quickest answer that is accurate and follows company procedures. Notice I put the quickest part first. In all 3 jobs I was in danger of losing my job due to moving “too slowly”. I wish I could remember what they wanted you average handle time to be, but I don’t. I know it was ridiculously short if you’re actually going to thoroughly deal with a problem. If someone asked to speak to a supervisor, we were supposed to discourage it by saying that they would tell the customer the same thing, and in at least one of the places, if they still demanded, we were supposed to take down their name and tell them they would be called back. In fact, at directv, if there was a bizarre, repeated problem that had not responded to conventional means, then we would fill out some form. I may has misheard, but I’m pretty sure that I was told later on that filling out the form and telling the customer their issue would be looked into and corrected by a technician on our end within 30 days was really just a way to get the customer off the phone and hope that the problem fixed itself.
    The first two people probably didn’t check with dispatch because they’re probably not supposed to do that, or they didn’t know they could because it’s not standard practice. You may have also gotten lucky and gotten someone on the phone who “leads” on occasion, so they knew a few ins and outs better.
    Also, the monkeys in the call center weren’t lying when they said they have no connection to the actual installation process. Most likely, they put it in a computer system (probably the same one we used, called ACSR) and that’s the last they know about it. We scheduled installs all the time and never ever spoke to dispatch or an installer. At directv, we didn’t even know who the installers were by company or anything (they didnt want us telling the customers I think).
    At charter, we knew after it happened, but couldn’t tell the customers. We had one contractor who was consistently a mess. It was so bad that one time I was told by a lead to tel the customer that the contractor was “resolving internal issues” that day and would not be coming out. We didn’t know that, we just knew they were past their appt and they were likely not working that day (it was a weekend or a holiday).
    I think the best way to maneuver that system is to be polite, jump through the hoops that they want, and THEN ask for a supervisor. Bonus points if you tell the supervisor what a good job their little monkey did of following the script and being friendly (assuming this is true). Don’t let the monkey convince you that a supervisor will call you back or whatever… get them to get someone else on the phone. Also, like I said, be polite to everyone you talk to, BUT don’t back down. If you have to be pushy, go ahead. BUT, start out nicely so that they don’t immediately get the impression that you’re hostile. If you ask for a supervisor right off the bat, you often get labeled as hostile or unwilling to work with people. This then gets you less help, which then makes most people really hostile.

  3. oh, and if you do get a helpful rep, get a supervisor on the phone and tell them how helpful the rep is. It will make at least 2 people’s day. Day in and day out, everyone in a call center gets abused and screamed at and told they’re incompetent. It’s a great treat when someone asks to speak to a supervisor to compliment a rep.

  4. Having been a Dish Network customer for about 9 years (after dumping DirecTV for poor customer service after they bought PrimeStar, and forced me to convert), I can say that what you’ve experienced isn’t typical of what I’ve seen. My father and brother both have Dish Network, and have had few problems with them.

    Sounds like most of the trouble you are having is around an on-site installation issue. Because they contract out to small service providers around the country, your mileage with that side of the service will certainly vary. In California and Arizona, I’ve had pretty good luck with local installers.

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