I recently had an experience with HughesNet, a provider of satellite television services. The experience was so exceptionally terrible, and the company was so incompetent in resolving my concerns, that I felt compelled to share my experiences with several thousand of my closest friends and followers on LinkedIn as a cautionary tale of how to make your customers hate you before they receive their first bill.
My saga began on a Thursday evening when I called to inquire about establishing service with HughesNet. I agreed to the Ultra Plan for $89.95/month with free installation and no equipment lease. I scheduled the installation appointment for Saturday morning. The appointment time came and went, and no one showed up. I spent the next four hours of my precious Saturday afternoon on the phone trying to figure out what had happened.
After several hours of repeated phone calls and much persistence, I learned that the original saleswoman had apparently offered me a plan that, when I called in to inquire as to the missed installation appointment, was no longer available in my area. There had been an error in setting up the account that prevented the installation technician from being dispatched.
I later learned that I had been placed on the lower “Choice” plan, charged an installation fee that the salesperson represented I would not be charged, and had been misinformed about the return policy and the data usage policy. These were not subtle misrepresentations or fluff. They were boldfaced lies. The salesperson apparently just made it up as she went along.
In a subsequent conversation with original salesperson’s manager several days later, the manager informed me that he had listened to the phone call. He acknowledged that my complaint was 100% valid and advised me that the salesperson had been terminated and would never work for Hughes again. He also graciously offered to do everything within his power to set me up on the correct plan and to make the situation right.
I believe that this gentleman did everything in his power to help me. The problem is that the system is locked down so tight that–even after getting on the phone with billing–all that the sales manager could offer me was a very modest $30/month bill credit for several months. The difference in cost between the two plans is $40 per month. Over the term of the 24-month agreement this equals $960. A bill credit of around 10% of that amount is unacceptable. Additionally, I ended up paying for installation, which I was told would be free. The real issue, though, is the data allowance. The Max plan offers 20 GB/month during the day, whereas the Ultra plan offers 50 GB.
I was advised by billing to contact Hughes Network’s corporate offices in Maryland, which I have done–to no effect. In the middle of all of this I received a survey via e-mail, which I completed. Unfortunately, the online survey only provides 200 characters for comments. Really? What sort of meaningful information can a customer share in 200 characters?
To top everything off, my wife texted me this afternoon and said that the Internet connection is so slow that our kids can’t get online to do their homework.
We all love lists, so I have distilled my experience into the following:
10 Ways to Make Your Customers Hate You Before They Receive Their First Bill:
- Make promises you can’t keep.
- Ensure that you accomplish item 1 by placing untrained salespeople on the phone to interact with customers.
- When you don’t keep your promises, give customers the runaround. Point them to other departments. Disconnect their calls randomly, just for good measure.
- Double down and don’t call or e-mail the customer back when you say you are going to. Maybe they will just go away. Problem solved.
- Don’t give your employees access to the tools and resources necessary to solve a customer’s legitimate concerns and complaints.
- Offer to escalate the call to someone with even less authority to solve the customer’s problem than you have.
- When soliciting feedback from customers, only give them enough characters to say “I hate you.” You already know what they are thinking, so no need wasting all those characters. 200 Characters is more than enough. Grand ideas and great thoughts are commonly expressed in fewer characters on Twitter. Let’s economize.
- Insult customers by offering them a clearly inadequate resolution to their legitimate concerns. If you aren’t sure whether the proposed resolution is inadequate…just divide the value of the offer by 10. Better safe than sorry.
- Acknowledge that the customer’s concerns are 100% valid. Empathize with them. Tell them how you feel. And then apologize that there is nothing that you can do to make it right. Offer them less than what someone previously offered to resolve their legitimate concern.
- Take your market position for granted. You’re the proverbial 800 lb. gorilla. Throw your weight around a little bit. It’s worked well so far. After all, it’s not just any company that can consistently receive one and two star customer reviews online and stay in business. (See https://www.google.com/search?q=hughesnet+bad+customer+reviews&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8)
Following the foregoing 10 steps will ensure that your customers hate you even before they receive their first bill.