Is there no value to customer retention now? (My recent dealings with Dish Network)

People with good memories here will recall that I’m buying a house, and therefore, about to move. People with really good memories will remember that I like Dish Network and have an uncanny ability to aim a satellite dish by eye and get a perfectly usable signal strength.

I’ve made so many visits to websites and so many phone calls to start new accounts or move existing ones. Security system, water, trash, phone, DSL, satellite, on and on… I haven’t even started change of address for credit cards and magazines and banks.

Back to Dish.

I need to move the billing address and arrange to have a dish properly mounted onto the house. The luggable dish mounted in 100+ pounds of concrete has served me well in three different apartments, but it’s time to go permanent since I own the building and can bolt whatever I want onto it. I was also thinking of adding another PVR as there have been a few instances where we’ve had to play scissors-paper-rock to work out who gets their show recorded and who has to hope they can catch a repeat in the near future.

The agent at Dish seemed only barely interested in helping me, and not once got my name right. To add a PVR, I can take advantage of a special offer for existing customers and buy it for $150, plus $4.99 for the PVR service and $5 a month for the additional outlet, and a 24-month service committment.

Eck-squeeze-me? $150 to get another receiver? Two year service committment? Why are you charging me when new customers get up to four receivers for free, and don’t require any committment? “That’s what’s in the system” is all he could offer.

After some alternating prodding and stony silences from me, I finally asked “So if I cancel this account that I’ve had for six years and have my partner open a sparkly new account, it’s cheaper?” “That’s what’s in the system.”

:smack: :smack: :smack: :smack:

So, I call back and get connected with someone to cancel my existing account. This guy didn’t even seem interested in why I was leaving after so long, or in attempting to keep my business when I told him of the insanity of charging existing customers for what they give away to new customers. If he’d said “I can give you that PVR for free” I’d have taken the offer and kept the account. But no.

We sign up for a new account and guess what? For the same programming on three receivers, we’ll be paying about two bucks less than I am now for two.

Does *any * of this make sense?

I guess there are industries where the customer loss rate is so high (cable TV and cell phones – I don’t know about satellite TV) that they figure you’re either going to stay or leave, and there isn’t much they can do about it.

I remember my father complaining to ATT that after a 50 year relationship with them they wouldn’t even match the long distance rate he could get from Ameritech – and that come to think of it, he’d also had a 50 year relationship with Ameritech, so what use was ATT.

Of course, there’s also the factor that companies give out the incentives precisely to hook new customers, and since they may be losing money on the incentives, a customer isn’t worth keeping unless they pay full price after that. In other words, the long-term customer is expected to subsidize the new customer.

Oh, I forgot to add… Because, even after all these years, they consider the equipment rented (shades of Ma Bell!) I have to return it to them or be charged full retail (!) value on the years-old equipment. Fine. Not like I was going to be able to use it anyway. So, they ask for an address to ship out an empty box for me to use to return the stuff. That’s certainly sporting of them - I was all set to write their address on the receiver, slap on some stamps and drop it in a mailbox.

Uh-oh! What’s this? They’re showing that I have service at the new address, so they can’t set up a new account. The drone that set up the address for the shipping box goofed it as a service location change, rather than “just ship a box here.” Five minutes of inoffensive hold music later (At least it wasn’t peppered with ads for pay-per-view!) and that’s fixed.

I understand how some industries plan on a certain amount of “churn” - AOL has an obscene amount, as do banks. People sign up for the freebie offers, then six months later, cancel and sign up again with a different credit card to get another three months free service and a free box of checks.

But with satellite, we’re talking about fairly large chunks of fragile equipment being shipped around, and dispatching installers to climb up on ladders to mount antennas. Their “Dish Mover” program is brilliant - you move and leave the dish. Whoever moves in gets a mailing saying that since the dish is already there, they can get a great offer on service, I can sign you up right now and have the receiver delivered to you so you can enjoy satellite TV tomorrow night. Unlike cable, they don’t have to schedule a truck roll - if the customer is capable of pluggin in a VCR, they can plug in a satellite receiver to the existing wiring and be watching TV 20 minutes after the UPS truck drives away.

I guess I’m old-fashioned. I’m from an era that values long customer relations. Some rah-rah form of “We want to keep our customers forever” is probably posted at all of our branches and call centers. Between stellar service and creatively weaving their financial affairs to the point where it would be daunting for them to move their checking account, IRA, auto loan, mortgage, insurance, investments and credit cards to another bank, we do have an industry-leading retention rate.

It’s our corporate culture - we have phenomenal employee retention. One of my immediate co-workers has been here for 37 years. Someone else in my department has been here for 35 years. These are not anomalies. I just saw that there’s someone currently working at a call center who’s been with the bank for 45 years. Forty-five years! Working for a company that values employess that well translates to employees that value customers.

I know Dish Network and parent EchoStar are only a few years old, but they do need to work on developing that corporate culture of valuing employees that will in turn value customers.

This is a real chicken-egg problem. On the one hand, I’m a crusty old fart who remembers the way things were, so I have to agree with you.

On the other hand, our demographers will tell us:

The average American moves once every five years
The average American employee changes jobs something like 19 times over the course of a life
Given the choice between service and price, consumers take price every time

So there’s a whole generation of managers out there who simply don’t accept that long-term relationships with customers have any value. I’ve worked for a few of them - they’re less interested in who their customer is than in who their next customer will be. Ditto with their staffs.

You know, in most cases I would agree; however, I have recently had a few experiences where the companies…large companies…did seem to care.

#1 Bank One. I got a fee on my statement for not having direct deposit. The fee made me go below the minimum, so I got hit with another fee. I had left my job to work independently and my account required direct deposit. I spaced on the dd requirement. While I felt that I got the fees because of my stupidity, I thought, won’t hurt to ask about it. I got nowhere with corporate, but going into my local branch, they switched my account to a non-direct deposit required account and reversed both fees! My branch told me, “If you ever have a problem again, don’t call corporate, come directly to us.”

#2 Cingular Wireless. Business has been crazy the last few months and my husband used up all our minutes and then some. Much more some. So, basically this is our fault as well. The bill was horrid. We researched some new plans with more minutes and decided to stay with Cingular simply because they had the best deal, and we were comfortable with their service (as in reception in the area). Well, I called them after renewing, explained to them that we renewed and upgraded our plan, and that we really like Cingular and was there anything they could do for me? They took 50% off my bill, which amounted to about $300. She said, “You have been with us such a long time, we would hate to lose you.” I’ve had an account with CW since at least 1996 (when they were Cellular One).

Now, of course, these are exceptions, and don’t even get me started about my experience with DirecTV DSL :mad:

It seems that good customer service has become an innovation again…it will be interesting to see how it goes.