Thursday, February 10, 2005

Netflix (or, an adventure in shitty customer service)

I did decide to give Netflix one last chance to impress me. The incident involved will be described in the email I'll quote, so I won't get into it here.

I wrote the following to them informing them of my new problem as well as the problem from a month back or so, and offered the opportunity for them to make me feel better about it.
This service seems increasingly problematic in the last few months. I have repeatedly had friends and neighbors with movies listed as "Available Now" that show as "Long Wait" on my queue.

On January 10th, it went so far as Hero by Zhang Yimou, which had been number one in my queue for a week or more, moved into "Available Now" status during the night. I had a movie expected to arrive the next day, so I was excited to receive it. Tuesday afternoon when I look again, my movie has arrived. Hero is still listed as "Available Now" on the top of my queue and Desert Blue was listed, not as shipped or shipping today, but "Shipping Wednesday".

My number one movie was passed over for another movie that couldn't even ship that day, despite being listed as "Available Now"? That doesn't make any sense at all.

Now, I had the first disk of the classic 1978 "Battlestar Galactica" at the top of my queue. The disk came in Tuesday. I sat down Tuesday, before 5pm to watch the disk, but it turned out to be the new 2003 miniseries. Ok, that was understandable. Someone rented both and put them each in the wrong envelope at the end of the evening and sent them back - Heck, even someone checking the envelopes and seeing the "Battlestar Galactica" might not notice - I completely understand.

So I report the problem and put it in the mailbox near my house, that last collects at 5:30pm, expecting it might be able to make it back to you by the next day. It's Friday now, and it still has not made it to you... Well, ok... Mail problems happen, I'm ok.

I had moved it up the list, however, for a replacement, and it shipped again for Saturday, and I received it this evening. Again I pop it in with a certain anxious excitement, and again find the 2003 miniseries.

Personally, I think I got the exact same goddamn wrong disk in the wrong sleeve sent to me without being recorded as received or checked over for the error reported!

But even in the event that this is a coincidence, and there are two sets of these disks in the wrong sleeves floating around, inconveniencing me and the people trying to see the 2003 miniseries, it's a pretty poor showing.

I don't know if there's new management or the business has increased past your ability to handle it properly. I hope you're able to figure it out sometime soon.

Good luck.

Ok, so I get my response -
Thank you for contacting customer support!

We appreciate you taking the time to provide us with your feedback and comments. I sincerely apologize for the difficulties you've experienced. Please be assured that we are continually striving to improve our service.

Here is how we process and ship our DVDs:

We receive rental returns Monday through Friday, except holidays. We process nearly 100% of returns the same day we receive them. When we check-in a return, an e-mail is automatically and promptly sent to you to let you know that we have received your DVD.

Our goal is to ship you the DVDs listed highest in your Queue. We try to ship you DVDs from the distribution center closest to you so that you get movies quickly. Often, on the same day that we receive a DVD from you, we will ship the next available DVD from your Queue. In certain instances, your next available DVD will not ship until the next business day following our receipt of your returned movie. This can occur, for example, when your top choices are not available to you from your closest distribution center or the number of shipments to be processed by the distribution center on that day has been exceeded. When this happens, your DVD will ship on the next business day and may come from an alternate distribution center.

In determining priority for shipping and inventory allocation, we give priority to those members who receive the fewest DVDs through our service. As a result, those members who receive the most movies may experience next-day shipping and receive movies lower in their Queue more often than our other members. By prioritizing in this way, we help assure a balanced experience for all our members. Those that rent a lot of movies get a great value and those with lighter viewing habits are able to count on our service to meet their limited needs.

When we ship you another DVD we automatically and promptly send you an e-mail letting you know that it's on the way and telling you the estimated arrival date.

Our records indicate our warehouse has received one of the titles. For future reference you can check the status of returns via your Rental Activity.

I have issued a discount of 25% off your next Flat Monthly Membership Fees. You will be able to view this discount on the Terms section of your account.

We sincerely appreciate your patience and understanding.

A nice try, but it was clearly cuts and pastes of some form answers to the most common problems that my complaint resembled and failed to address some key points, so I wrote back.
Look, I work in customer service. I appreciate that there are times for a form response, but I promise that this wasn't one of them.

I have what I consider a larger problem than disks not shipping correctly, although that is a significant problem. I have a movie waiting at the top of my queue listed as not returned, that I not only sent, but firmly believe got back to you and was merely sent back to me and returned again with the same problem. Unless you make a habit of putting the same wrong disk in the same wrong envelope.

Should I start marking returned envelopes to ensure I didn't get the exact same disk as a replacement?

And I don't have a problem with movies shipping the next day, I have a problem with having a movie in the number one spot listed as "Available Now", but a later movie down the queue shipping the next day in its stead. I can't see why, at the very least, that supposedly available number one couldn't be the one that's held for shipment the next day.

I know, you've given the official responses, which I understand, is sometimes all you're able to do, but I don't feel you've given me particularly satisfying responses to my issues.

So, I reply that information I've received is not useful or specific enough to suit my needs, so I get a response by a different person, that's altogether less useful or specific. The guy who sent this must be dumb as wood.
Thanks for your message.

The wait time you see in your rental Queue is not "real time". Inventory fluctuates when movies are checked in. So if the movie is available when we are processing your order we will ship it out. I have forwarded your information on about receiving the same disc in the wrong sleeve. Hopefully this will take care of your problem.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us.

Now, maybe I'm a complete ass, and I do know my customer service, but in the terms of my job, it feels a lot like I've told them my pizza was burnt and they've offered me a brand new salad and spent a lot of time explaining why the soda sometimes is a little off.
That certainly would have been an appropriate response if the movie that shipped instead of my number one had shipped on the same day. In fact, it has happened to me countless times to me during the time of my service and gone unmentioned.

It seems a remarkably pat and unconcerned response under these circumstances, however.

So, they respond with a rather tepid, but oddly thoughtful offer.
Thank you for contacting customer support!

We appreciate you taking the time to provide us with your feedback and comments. I sincerely apologize for the difficulties you've experienced. Please be assured that we are continually striving to improve our service.

I do show that your number 1 title dose have a wait status but, As a courtesy I have issued a bonus disc outside of your plan allotment, in the hope of accommodating you for the trouble you have experienced. Please keep in mind this is a temporary release of an additional title. Titles in transit do count towards the total number of titles checked out.

We sincerely appreciate your patience and understanding.

Unfortunately, at this point, that was too little, too late. I needed to cancel today to not pay for another month of lousy service, so I had to cancel without getting that last Netflix movie.

Oh, well...

Anyway, the point of it all is, for those of you with lives, there are many fine services out there, I've had much success with my trial with Blockbuster, and they've been much more receptive to my comments, and Greencine is supposed to be a fine service and have made a lot of effort to create a film community atmosphere as well.

I hope people will consider some of these, or other, alternative services, since Netflix seems unable or unwilling to deal with customers as individuals.

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