Cutting the cord would be so much easier if TiVo was cooperative. In my search to dump AT&T U-Verse, I am looking for a digital video recorder (DVR) that can record over-the-air (OTA) signals and potentially offer streaming from popular services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.

A little background.

I’m not completely unhappy with my AT&T U-Verse service. I’ve had service issues with their DVR and while their social media customer service team was responsive, I have yet to hear back from their technical team. As an early adopter I also benefited from lower costs, but those have been rising recently and I now find myself paying over $150 / month for television and Internet services combined. Even with AT&T Wireless services I was not afforded any sort of discount.

Cutting the cord has been a popular topic as people continue to look for ways to save costs. Although a perfect out-of-the-box solution doesn’t exist, I had hoped a TiVo Premiere XL combined with my Sony Playstation 3 and Apple TV could provide enough coverage, at a much lower price.

While sports coverage could be an issue, I do have a variety of options there as well. I just wish MLB would remove the blackout restrictions for local markets. I’d love to watch my Milwaukee Brewers with on my PS3, iOS devices and laptop.

TiVo Customer Service

But back to my customer service experience with TiVo. I’m curious how TiVo defines a positive interaction with their customer service department, and if they believe (bad) service with a smile is enough?  It also seems like the TiVo logo is either grinning or laughing at me.

Lets begin with an excerpt about customer service from Wikipedia. “From the point of view of an overall sales process engineering effort, customer service plays an important role in an organization’s ability to generate income and revenue. From that perspective, customer service should be included as part of an overall approach to systematic improvement. A customer service experience can change the entire perception a customer has of the organization.”

So if we define customer service as an effort to generate income, enhance the level of customer satisfaction, and meet a customer’s expectation – just how many companies can say they do that nowadays?

TiVo appears to have a pretty good system going with their streaming partners and out-of-the-box solution. If you want a DVR tomorrow, there really isn’t a better way to go. In November they were offering a $9.99 / month option for their service to consumers only interested in hooking up an antenna for over-the-air (OTA) signals. At half the price of their standard $19.99 / month option I was in.

Unfortunately time slipped away from me and I tried reaching out to customer service before Thanksgiving without any response, again in mid-December via social media channels, and this past week via online chat and eventually their toll-free number.

I am quite surprised that TiVo doesn’t actually respond to all customer inquiries in social media channels. I never received a Tweet back, nor any other indication of how to further interact with them. Perhaps I’ve just been watching too much Glengarry Glen Ross or Boiler Room – but have companies forgotten about the ABC’s? (A)lways (B)e (C)losing. Unfamiliar with the concept? Then you need to watch one of the best scenes in film.

Oh, have I got your attention now?

Seriously though, in my conversations with TiVo’s customer service department I made it clear they had me on the hook. I inquired about their $9.99 / month offer from November and told the woman I was talking to on the phone that I wanted to know if it was still available.

After being put on hold, and a few other random questions about my Internet access, I was told that promotion was over. I said that was too bad because I would purchase a TiVo Premiere XL today if it still was. In doing my research I’ve come across current customers that attempted to cancel their monthly service and were offered it at a reduced price, as low as $6.99 / month. I had hoped this would mean that TiVo was willing to work with their current, or new, customers to have them sign up for the service.

Another option would be to go with their “lifetime” activation model, but it’s their monthly service that likely allows them to milk more money out of the customer. And here I was, ready to be milked. Unfortunately after checking on any other promotions I was only offered a free three month trial of Hulu Plus. Interesting, but not enough.

Does TiVo Measure Up?

So TiVo’s customer service failed to generate income via social media, online chat and their toll-free number. In each instance I demonstrated my interest in the service. Hell, I was even interested in their next model up but it doesn’t have a tuner built in. Why, I do not know.

TiVo’s customer service department also failed at raising my level of satisfaction. Granted, they had a promotion that was now over. But perhaps their lack of action in November cost me as much as my inaction did. On the phone the representative said they honored the agreement two weeks past it’s date. So I probably had a chance to fall within their grace period had they reacted to my initial contact attempts.

TiVo also failed in meeting my expectation. I am sure the company is aware that consumers that use their monthly service for OTA programming are not the same as those with a CableCard or other needs. So it seems to make sense to have a tiered package, and maybe they are testing that out with this past offer. But I had clearly hoped $9.99 month on top of my top of the line purchase would be enough for a company that continues to see loses and costs for acquiring new subscriptions increase.

In fact I saved them the costs of finding me and searched them out. Yet they were unable to complete the sale.

What’s Next?

So what’s next in my quest to cut the cord? Well the backup plan was purchasing a Channel Master device. They seem just as capable and don’t require a monthly service charge. I’d love to give TiVo a 2nd (or is it 5th) chance, but I doubt I will ever receive an answer beyond “keep checking the TiVo website for promotions.”

Companies like Zappos continue to rewrite the rules and find incredible growth while TiVo suffered 3Q losses. Perhaps all those lifetime customers will lose out in the end if TiVo can’t compete with the cable companies or provide any other service beyond their current offerings.

The big take away for marketers? Consumers, and potential customers, are seeking you out. How are you capturing in-bound opportunities? Are you monitoring social media channels for sales growth? Is your customer service team prepared to do anything to keep you, or gain, a customer? If not, you should consider making some changes immediately.