On the Value of Good Customer Service
One of the most dramatic changes my wife and I have made to our entertainment habits was the purchase of a TiVo about eighteen months ago (a Series 2 model). Not only did we love skipping the commercials and watching shows when it was convenient for us (as opposed to the networks), but we also enjoyed the overall interface of the device.
While DVRs these days are a dime-a-dozen, TiVo’s interface is far and away beyond what Comcast, MythTV, Windows Media Center, etc. offer in their solutions. It’s simple. It’s elegant. And, for us, it’s worth the extra money. A great example of this surrounds the fast-forward and rewind functions. In our friend’s Comcast DVR, normal playback begins as soon as they press play. This finds them often having to rewind again to position the playback head in the correct location. No matter how “good” you are at this, it is extremely difficult and rare to get it right on a consistent basis. This makes the fast-forward function of the DVR an exercise in futility as one struggles to estimate how many commercials there might be before regular programming begins again. With the TiVo, the playback head is positioned slightly backwards in the timeline when normal playback is resumed (its position depends on how fast the fast-forwarding was going). Just this simple design consideration means that we almost never have to re-position the playback head after we press “play.”
All that being said, we recently decided to make the move to HD. I bought a new HD LCD TV and called up Comcast to see what our options were with HD cable. I had considered going with their DVR if it was cheap enough (there are rumors that TiVo software is slowly making its way into Comcast DVRs, and I reasoned that, given the right price, we would be willing to wait), however, the only package that offered DVR service was extraordinarily expensive. So, we decided to go with the CableCard route and buy a new HD TiVo as our DVR.
After getting off of the phone with Comcast, I made a call to TiVo customer service and verified a few features of the HD box to make sure it would work for us. One of the last things I asked surrounded the 802.11g wireless card. Back when we bought our first TiVo, we initially tried to get the TiVo manufactured USB adapter but it was out of stock. I ended up getting a Netgear WG111, which worked fine with the Series 2. The rep assured me this adapter would work fine with the new HD model, and I happily placed the order.
Fast-forward (bu-blip, bu-blip in TiVo talk) to yesterday. The HD model finally arrived, and I quickly got it setup. However, I could not get the TiVo to recognize the Netgear adapter. I made a call to the TiVo technical support and was informed that the TiVo did not support that particular adapter. The only options I had to connect the TiVo to my home network were to either use a wired connection or purchase the $60.00 TiVo branded adapter.
Needless to say, I was not happy!
I maintained my cool and thanked the support representative for the help. I then fired off a letter to the TiVo offices explaining the issue and detailing my dissatisfaction with the situation. Later in the day, I decided I would attempt to call TiVo back directly and see if they would try to make things right.
After listening to my story, the “tier 2” representative agreed that things should have been handled differently. I explained to him that I was not necessarily upset about the extra $60.00, but more upset that I was informed my setup was adequate for new HD box and, I felt, I had been lied to. I added that I didn’t expect TiVo to send me a new adapter, but I did expect them to try and make up for the falsehood (with a free month, 10% off, something like that).
He agreed and left me on hold for a few minutes while he went to see what he could do. About five minutes later, he returned with a shipping confirmation number of a brand new TiVo 802.11 USB adapter!
I have to say that my faith in the TiVo service has been restored and I am very impressed with their desire to make things right for me. This is the reason we own a TiVo: the excellent service. It’s also a great example of a company that appears to genuinely care about their customers. I doubt Comcast would have done something like that for me … and that’s what makes TiVo a much higher-quality service and, in my opinion, worth the extra money.