Tell the Truth Upfront

I had a terrible experience today with DIRECTV. I recently ordered a Phillips DIRECTV DVR with TiVo. On the website it described all of the wonderful features available and I had been happy with the service at my parents’ house where they use an old RCA UltimateTV. I have setup my new DVR and started using it only to find that the software is outdated and the hardware is crippled. The software is TiVo version 3.1, which would be fine if the current version of TiVo wasn’t 7. DIRECTV says on their website that they are rolling out upgrades to version 6.2 but they shipped me a new box without the upgrade, f’ing brilliant. They also failed to mention that all of the cool home networking features were disabled and the USB and other ports would not work on the box I got. Nothing better than paying for hardware that might as well be a shiny river rock.

I called DIRECTV to ask about returning the new Phillips box and activating an old UltimateTV box my brother left when he moved to Chicago. Two separate Customer Service Representatives gave me conflicting instructions and told me that there are no returns on the boxes. Of course that is their choice, but it certainly isn’t something anyone mentioned while I was ordering. I’m sure it was buried in the fine print somewhere but I haven’t found it yet. I’m now looking at switching to Comcast or Dish Network just because I feel so misled by DIRECTV.

Why do you care about my bad experience? Because it is an example of what happens when you mislead a customer while making a sale. In this case DIRECTV prominently mentioned the TiVo name when selling me the DVR but failed to mention the outdated software, crippled hardware, or no return policy. Had they told me about this I may have made the informed decision to buy anyway, after all I was happy with the UltimateTV and it has basically the same features as the crippled DIRECTV DVR with TiVo (no networking, no ports, etc.), but my expectation, which they happily encouraged, was that I was getting a modern, up to date TiVo with a DIRECTV tuner built in.

Whatever your product is it probably has good and bad points. If you are upfront about both of them it may dampen some of the enthusiasm from customers who no longer believe that your widget will solve every problem they ever dreamed of and four that they hadn’t. However, it will also create realistic expectations and a feeling of trust and respect in your customers when they realize that you are telling them everything and trusting them to buy anyway. Listing complaints and bugs openly and telling customers what you are doing to fix them will go a long way when they start to use your product. If DIRECTV had a page on their website where they are selling the TiVo DVRs that told me about the outdated software and crippled hardware, explaining why it was that way and what they were doing to fix it I might be less inclined to cancel my service completely today.

Kevin Hall
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