Emacsen's Blog

How Sirius/XM mis-handles customers

I had a recent experience with Sirius/XM that I think is a great lesson in how not to handle your customers.

Let's face it, Sirius/XM has an uphill battle in terms of entertainment. They have dozens of music channels, but a subscription to Pandora or Spotify will take care of all your music needs. What's left, and what's unique about the service is the premium content, the things you can't hear anywhere else.

+1 Sirius: Offer me a product I want

And that's why I enjoyed the service, for stuff I couldn't hear anywhere else. But the service was a pain in the butt to use. I didn't own a radio, so I had the Internet only service. But unlike a radio stream from SomeFM or Live365, or even my local Pacifica station, I couldn't just tune in and listen. I had to use a complicated web app on my computer, and I couldn't keep it on in the background because it would sign me out automatically after a while.

I could use an app on my phone, but I couldn't listen to Sirius on my Roku player, my Samsung Smart TV, my Boxee box or my homebuilt XBMC box. Somehow, three separate video services are able to deliver thousands of TV shows and movies to me, but Sirius can't deliver audio to me. Roku has sold over five million units, but Sirius still seems focused on the car market, rather than offering entertainment anywhere.

-1 Sirius: Offer your product as many places as possible

I mentioned earlier that Sirius has music, but it also has talk services from NPR, PRI and the BBC. But like music, all of those services offer live streaming, or better yet, podcasts. With podcasts, I can listen to the shows whenever I want, stop them, rewind them, or even share them with friend- all for free.

With the Sirius/XM premium content, I can't even choose to stream the content when I want. By comparison to modern content delivery systems, Sirius feels like a step backwards.

-1 Sirius: Offer the product in a form your customers want it

Because Sirius is such a pain to use, I simply forgot to turn it on for about six months. Every month, I dutifully (auto)paid my bill. But after my credit card changed, the autobill stopped working, and I received a call at 6pm someone saying they were from Sirius/XM and wanting to talk to me about my bill.

I told her that I didn't have time to talk at the moment, but that I didn't want to use the service anymore, so I'd like to cancel. She said that she'd done it, but I still had the matter of my outstanding bill. I told her I'd take care of that online.

She ended the conversation with "I'll call you tomorrow." I told her I didn't want her to call tomorrow- that I'd take care of it on my own.

The next day, also while preparing dinner, I received a call from a different gentleman claiming to represent Sirius/XM, and wanting to talk to me about my bill. This time, I'd had enough, and just hung up on him.

-1 Sirius: Don't harass your customers!

The next morning I went online to straighten everything out. Online, it showed my service was still active, and that I indeed owed money for my week and a half of service.

-1 Sirius: Customer service rep lied about canceling my service!

On the website, it says you cannot cancel online, but need to call between certain hours.

-1 Sirius: Making the customer jump through hoops to cancel

I called customer service later in the day and spoke with a very pleasant young woman named Sarah, who helped me through the cancellation process. She asked me why I wanted to cancel, and I told her about the customer service reps. She was very understanding, and even took off the pro-rated $4.95 that I owed for my partial month of service (that was only a third of what the other customer reps had said I owed, btw), in hopes that I might join back up with Sirius/XM in the future.

At the end of the conversation, I honestly considered it. After all, there was some good programming on Sirius, but I needed a few days to think about it.

-1 Sirius: Lying about how much the customer owes

+1 Sirius: Good customer service when you call to cancel

+1 Sirius: Taking off the $5 from my bill

I felt good about my Sirius XM experience until just a few hours later when yet another hard-to-hear call from yet another foreign person about my service. This time, after going back and forth about not being able to hear the person on the other end of the line, I finally understood that she was calling me to inform me that my service was canceled!

Absolute madness.

-1 Sirius: Harassing your customers after they leave

That brings our tally to -4 against Sirius/XM, and a great lesson in how not to treat your customers.