Just back from a dynamite training session in Boston - Waltham, actually. Its the BPT Partners CRM Strategy Certification course. For some reason, a significant portion of this particular audience was health services related, though I think it was coincidental, not indicative of any pattern of migration or anything. It was all good as a friend of mine once told me. Great class. I get so PUMPED from these things.
In any case, while I was away, Ellen Filipiak, the SVP of Customer Care at DirecTV, as promised, sent me her blog entry on how DirecTV is improving their customer service capabilities from what they were to what they should be. She has been entirely timely throughout and communicative and for that I thank her.
What I'd like is for readers to either comment or email me a comment on what you think of her entry. I'm not going to say a word since I don't want to push you in any direction.
Without further ado, Ellen Filipiak, DirecTV's SVP for Customer Care:
It seems appropriate to have the opportunity to provide you with updates on "what's happening" with customer care at DIRECTV at the start of "Customer Service Week", which is an annual event that recognizes the importance of customer service and honors the people that provide that service.
It's hard to believe that two months have gone by since my last update to Paul's blog. During that time, DIRECTV was honored by JD Power & Associates for our achievements in customer service. However, all of us recognize your expectations of us continue to increase, and our goal is to continue to improve so that we not only keep up with your expectations, we exceed them.
Many of the items I discussed in August are still being worked on. We continue to work on resolving your questions on one call and on making sure you speak to the representative best equipped to handle your inquiry. Over the past few months, we have expanded our staff to meet the increased questions and calls regarding the ESPN Game Plan and NFL Sunday Ticket games, and also, the expected increase in inquiries regarding High Definition (HD) services. Our partners in field services have been doing the same thing - adding trained technicians - all so we can meet your needs.
I thought I would also provide a few more specific updates from my August entry. About 50% of our field services partners have converted to our new scheduling platform, with the remainder to be converted by the end of the Q1 2008. This new platform helps us better answer your questions regarding when the technician will arrive at your home to do the work you requested. One thing we have found by talking with our customers is that many customers have the expectation that all of the work will be completed within the appointment window quoted. This is not necessarily true. The window is to give you an idea of when the technician will arrive at your residence to start working. Our average installation takes from three to four hours, depending on the home and entertainment system set-up. This finding has led us to work with our sales partners to help set clearer expectations of how long you can expect a technician to be at your home, so you can set up an installation at a time that is convenient for you.
Our sales and marketing partners are also working diligently to confirm your exact order prior to the installation of service. With this process, we are working to eliminate any confusion regarding the number and type of receivers ordered, as well as any offers/pricing. While we have seen fewer errors in this area with some recent changes to our order management system, we still have opportunities to clarify that some offers require our customers to submit a rebate form in order to obtain the services and pricing discussed at the time of the order.
Right now, we are receiving a lot of questions regarding HD services. We know that our customers have wanted additional HD channels, and we are pleased that we are bringing them to you. Last week alone, we launched 21 additional services in HD, with more to come throughout the remainder of the year. Keep an eye on www.directv.com for the latest information on new channels and services.
We also know that the vast majority of our HD customers have all of the equipment (correct dish, receiver and broadband converter (BBC)) and programming (HD access) to receive our new channels. In these circumstances, when we launch a new HD channel, our customers will automatically receive it if the standard definition equivalent is part of their current programming package they subscribe to. For example, if you currently have The Total Choice package with 167 channels you will automatically receive up to 14 HD channels. The great news is that there is no extra fee for these corresponding additional channels.
We knew that some customers may not have the correct dish or BBC connected. We have been proactively contacting these customers over the past couple of months via email and telephone calls to ensure they have everything they need to watch the new channels as they are added. While many customers have responded, there are still some we have not heard from. Again, you can visit our website to learn about what you need for the complete HD experience we offer, and can order the required equipment including the BBC and receiver, if necessary.
One of the most common questions we get is in regards to the price to upgrade to HD. At DIRECTV, we have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to bring you the most HD services available. This includes the investment in new receivers. The cost for the receivers is substantial, and we subsidize the cost of the receivers for our customers. To purchase an HD receiver, it would currently cost $399; an HD/DVR receiver currently costs $749. If you select this option, you would own the equipment and would be exempt from a commitment to remain a DIRECTV customer for a specific period of time. Note - our pricing and promotions change from time to time.
Recognizing that this is a substantial investment for many people, we offer a subsidy through our leasing optioning. This allows you to currently pay a one time fee of $99 for an HD receiver or $299 for an HD/DVR receiver, along with a monthly lease fee of $4.99 per receiver plus a programming commitment of 2 years. This plan benefits our customers as it allows you to enjoy HD at a lower price, while allowing DIRECTV a reasonable time to earn back its investment.
This type of arrangement is used in other businesses as well. If you want the latest and greatest cellular phone, you will often pay a discounted amount for the phone, provided you agree to remain a customer of that provider for a specific period of time. If you don't want to do that and just want to pay for the phone itself, you can do that - you'll just pay more for the phone. If you lease a car, there are often up front fees as well.
The other question we get is from customers who have MPEG 2 technology. Our current technology is MPEG 4. The good news is that customers are not losing any of the HD channels they currently see with their MPEG 2 receivers. In order to take advantage of our new channels, they will need to upgrade to MPEG 4 technology, at the prices shown above. Again, this is similar to upgrading other electronic products, such as going from the original IPOD to a video IPOD, or even "back in the old days", from a VCR to a DVD player.
We are excited about the progress we have made and the many new services we are making available to our customers. Our entire team, from programming, engineering, marketing, customer care and field operations, is dedicated to ensuring that you have a great experience when you interact with DIRECTV.
I also want to assure you that I recognize that we are not where we want to be yet, but we are making progress. I look forward to sharing that continued progress with you in future updates.
Paul, thanks again for letting me be part of your blog.
SVP Customer Care