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A Lesson in Bad Customer Service from DIRECTV

I’ve been a long time customer of DirecTV.  My family purchased our first package nearly 20 years ago, and we were most certainly the first people in our area to have satellite TV.  I, personally, have been a customer of DirecTV for 4 years now.  I’ve even bragged about DirecTV to my friends as a genuine recommendation.  So naturally, you can imagine my surprise when I had the WORST customer service I’ve ever received from them today.


When we left the house on Friday, we clicked the “power off” button on the remote.  When we came back from our weekend away, we turned the TV on to find the ominous “searching for satellite” signal (error code 771A). The apparent cause of this issue is a disconnected SWM box, which dictates programming access.  We’ve done our troubleshooting due diligence, but cannot locate this mysterious “swm” box. It’s time to call technical support.

The Experience, Part 1

I attempt to call DirecTV as soon as we get home last night.  The info on the box doesn’t provide the customer service number, so I need to hunt for it on DirecTV’s website.  There is, of course, no direct tech support line, so I need to go through the annoying voice-activated auto-prompts.  I’m still not sure why companies use these, as they’re so inaccurate that it’s more frustrating than anything for the consumer. I guess it saves them man hours in the front-end, but I would think it would heighten the aggressiveness of the consumers once they got to a live person.  Regardless, by the time I spend the 20 minutes going through the auto prompts, it turns out their “system is down for routine maintenance” and that I should “try again in a few hours.”  This means that not only can they not access my account, but they also can’t transfer me to tech support because of if.

So what do I do?  I tweet them, thinking at least maybe this could be of service.  Nothing…as of this morning, I still haven’t gotten a response to my initial tweet.  Oh well, time for bed.

The Ultimate Experience, Part 2

So I wake up in the morning, and give the support number a call.  After another 15 minutes of auto prompts, I get to a real life technician. She was helpful and walked me through all the troubleshooting tips she can, and we still can’t find this elusive “SWM” box. The answer is to send a tech out, which is where we get to the good stuff…my options:

1.  To get a technician to come out, it’s a $49.99 charge.
2.  I could enroll in the automatic $5.00/month protection plan, but would need to wait 30 days for it to be effective, meaning I’d be without TV for 30 days, all while still paying for it.

I didn’t like either of those options, considering I pay over $200 a month for my HD DirecTV, highest-package-available-service, and these are the only options I have?   So naturally, I asked to speak to a supervisor.

I get the supervisor on the phone, and explain to her that I think it’s a little ridiculous to charge one of your most loyal, highest-paying customers $50, or make them wait 30 days for a long-term monthly protection agreement.  She explained that with service calls, this was the only option due to the service agreement, and that I should have opted in for the protection agreement when I signed up for service.  I explained to her that no one went through the agreement or the necessity of such program, otherwise I would have purchased it.

Her response

It’s not my fault that the person that sold you the service in 2009 didn’t explain or offer the service.  If it were me, then you would have had a different experience.  But I didn’t, so I can’t help you.

Okay, so if I had “talked to her,” I wouldn’t be in this situation.  Apparently corporate doesn’t have an overarching policy–it’s only up to the individual seller.  If they don’t, then whoopsy!  YOUR BAD, CUSTOMER!  From that point forward, her rudeness escalated to a level that thus far in my young adult life, has been unparalleled.

I proceeded to explain to her my position. I have been a loyal DirecTV customer with no issues for a long time, and I pay a lot on a monthly basis for programming. As a business owner, I am the perfect consumer — so wouldn’t they go through the effort to at least “see what they could do?” Not a chance.  I then got to the big question:  “Doesn’t DirecTV value customer loyalty?”  

Her response:

It doesn’t matter whether you pay $29.99 for programming and just started with us, or if pay for the highest package and have been with us since our inception.  After 90 day warranties on installations, it’s $49 for a service call, unless you enroll in the $5/month service protection program.

Wow.  This was so baffling and ridiculous to me that I told her it made me want to cancel my service immediately.  She then responded, without hesitation:

Would you like me to connect you to our disconnect department?

Now mind you, I was not angry. I did not curse at her. I wasn’t being a difficult person.  All I wanted was to explain my position and feel valued as a consumer. I have never in my life been spoken to like that.  She treated me as though I was an inconvenience to her day and that my business didn’t matter to them.  She could care less about the fact that my programming wasn’t working, or anything. I was just another person to interrupt her day.  She would have just as soon disconnected my service without stopping me as she would have trying to up-sell me to something else.  Apparently DirecTV isn’t hurting from the economy and has so many customers knocking on their door that they don’t need to worry about keeping the valuable ones.  Oh wait, DirecTV doesn’t make a determination based on which customers are more of value to them.

As of this moment, I’m researching my options, and will probably be making the switch to U-Verse as of tomorrow.

DirecTV, I highly suggest you start valuing your customers.  Friends and/or other folks that read this — kindly repost, and leave a comment with your experience.  It’s time we take a stand and start making large corporations value us. We deserve to be treated with respect and value.


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Tori Kyes is a Los Angeles-based writer/producer and entrepreneur. She specializes in social media, technology, and entertainment. She's also an advocate for social change, a marathon runner, Ph. D student (Media Psychology), gratitude giver, and lover of life.

One Comment on "A Lesson in Bad Customer Service from DIRECTV"

  1. avatar Jodie Jones says:

    My bad direct tv exp started when the sales man took my check and claimed I never paid him, then the instal left holds n my wall with no face plates & exposed cables (very nasty looking), I called direct tv they fixed it by sending someone out, I replaced the receiver w/ an upgrade to the genie (since that is what I ordered in the beginning but received a regular receiver), the genie never worked well but the mini nvr worked at all, I called them back when no one came…they had the wrong phone number and address to my house…I nvr moved they just cannot do their jobs, I was billed for the receiver that the tech took since he nvr told them he had it…I was told they would mail me out a recover box for my receivers….it nvr came, another person comes out to fix the receivers but I explained to them I did not even want service in the bedroom any more to just replace the receiver … naturally they brought no receiver. I called today they are mailing out another box but i must talk to a supervisor to get a tech to come out to give me the basic receiver….will he call? Will I get the recover box for the receivers…who knows I give up. It has been 90 days of hell. I checked they still had the wrong phone number for me so no they would have nvr called me. My neighbor is getting my bill still after 2 phone calls to update my info to the correct info….IDK how they got my neighbors address

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