'Are You Being Served?'

'Scuze me while I p*** off Sky

Comment The Sky TV people have never been as difficult or frustrating as BT.

But bless them, they do occasionally get close.

After chronicling my nightmarish BT experiences while moving house recently, I am now happy to recount my disastrous activities with Mr. Murdoch’s operation. Well not happy exactly.

My initial call to Sky about moving went well enough; they answered the phone in about 30 seconds without incarcerating me in Muzak or IVR-hell as I had fully anticipated.

I was after all just trying to transfer my 12-month contracted service over to my new residence. You’d think they’d gotten pretty good at this by now.


I was treated to a cheerful voice telling me that it would be “five weeks” until they could get the installation crew out to our new home. This was more than a week before moving day.

Now I don’t know about you, but five weeks without satellite TV would just be impossible for me. I wouldn’t survive it. My girlfriend would be in heaven … but I would crumple up, wither and die moaning in the corner.

Five weeks, what a surprise

So, cheerfully in return, I informed Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm that “That’s NOT good enough!!” (This incidentally, is a phrase I suggest we all use continuously to train the troglodyte customer service reps to immediately recognize that they’re not dealing with the average acquiescent British sheep willing to follow them anywhere “baah-ing.”)

In that split second of my unleashing the wrath of God on this poor soul, she became covered with copious body hair, grew fangs and proceeded to turn into Mrs. Jekyll. I tell you, the transformation was frightening, easily bettering “An American Werewolf in London.”

So I did what any fearless consumer warrior would do: ran for the hills by demurely whispering to speak to a supervisor.

“NO,” I was told in no uncertain terms, as snarling was clearly audible on the other end of the line.

Figuring I should cut my losses and regroup, I hung-up on my angry, rabid representative.

Calling right back, I got a reasonable and warm voice on the phone which I immediately asked to speak to a supervisor as I “had just been hung-up on by a Sky agent.” (Well in my defense, this lie was designed to get a proper response to me the customer. Clearly, God would forgive me.)

Surprisingly, I was passed right over to a “duty supervisor.” I was pleasantly pleased, because if you want to “escalate” your case (and we should always seek to use their terminology to force management’s hand into this) the supervisor is our first step.

Executing our second step of Consumer Satisfaction, I pressed for an installation date sooner than the “five weeks” I had been previously told. But before that, I made sure to aggressively communicate my displeasure at being disconnected by a previous agent. This must be played for all it’s worth if you are to receive special dispensation later in the form of an earlier installations date or better yet, free services.

To my astonishment, the supervisor told me she couldn’t do anything better in terms of an installation appointment. Here I began to escalate this issue again.

Mr Blue Sky

She tried the old “there’s no manager available now” routine, which incidentally is never true; they're just hiding behind the brave people on the front lines. Then contradicting herself, she informed me with a straight face that “our managers don’t get on the phone with customers.” My response to that had to be appropriately aggressive: “I’ll hold while you tell your manager that they’ll be getting on the phone with THIS customer.”

And he did.

Get on the phone with me, I mean.

But, then I started getting the real routine. When I got nowhere fast with this automaton, I felt forced to escalate yet again. When he told me that his superior “wouldn’t tell you anything I couldn’t,” I knew it was escalation-time once again. (When you hear these words, “Nobody can do anything I can’t for you,” laugh heartily and tell them you want to try anyway.)

Finally, after complaining and escalating like a champ, I forced the fact out of someone that Sky has a Customer Care Department located at head office. (This is a fact they never want you to know.)

Like a moth to the light, I high-tailed it telephonically to the Holy Grail of customer service at Sky.

They got me the installation within three days. They listened. They commiserated. They apologized.

They even did something I’ve never—I repeat, NEVER—heard of an organization doing before. The Customer Care manager told me she wanted to send my girlfriend flowers. I was flabbergasted.

They weren’t some chintzy bouquet either. They were a proper spray of roses and other glistening, fragrant flowers for my lady; and I didn’t even have to buy them for her. Sky made me a hero in my own household.

So as I reveled in the limelight of Customer Service Success, I looked forward to having my 500 channels of glorious content and uncomfortable awaited the arrival of the Sky Installation God.

When he arrived to trumpeting angels singing the Hallelujah Chorus, I whisked him into the living room and cheered him on to get started.

At this time, I was still embroiled in the BT installation fiasco I wrote about here (http://www.theregister.com/2005/11/21/complaints/) and was still not part of the worldwide phone-using market.

After scouting out the place to put the dish, getting all the new gear out of the boxes and strategizing all the installation points, he asked me a question. A simple, innocuous, little question:

“You do have a working phone line, don’t you?”

Flowers in the rain

Apparently, in order for Sky to install, you must have a working BT phone line. Or they tell you no dice … and you have to reschedule for “five weeks” later.

My scream audible from the cottage that day was similar to Roger Daltry’s in The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again;” except louder.

The man told me that he was very sorry but “it was impossible” to get my precious Sky up for me that day.

Calling up my friend at Sky Customer Care (ALWAYS keep the name and direct phone number of these kinds of people), I got her to reschedule for four days later, harping that nobody told me a working phone line was necessary.

Finally, the hallowed day came. The installation went off without a hitch--I had my TV back again.

A few days afterward, I tried to order a movie from Sky. It didn’t work.

Turns out the installer had forgotten to connect Sky to the phone line.

Wait just a minute here. I thought it “was impossible” without a working phone line??

Oh well, at least we had the flowers which were still alive and doing fine.

Bill Robinson has appeared on CNN, PBS, Bloomberg and had his own segment on SKY News commenting on high-tech and marketing issues and has written columns and articles for FORTUNE Small Business, The Financial Times, Marketing Magazine (UK), Forbes.com, The Moscow Times, Cisco Systems iQ Magazine, United Airline's Hemispheres Magazine and Upside Magazine. Bill may be reached at: bill@relentlessmarketing.com

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