Parks Associates Blog

Monday, May 21, 2007

Whole-house DVR video, come heck or high water

Having not been able to get the Media Center's recorded television working successfully with a media adapter solution, I could have easily given up. I'm sure my wife would have appreciated some efforts put to other household chores, like patching and painting over those holes in the bathroom wall. But, I was determined to see at least one project through to completion.

We subscribed to the FiOS TV service last November, and we added the high-def DVR (the Motorola QIP6416) a bit later. So, according to my FiOS contacts and their partners at Actiontec and Jungo, initiating the Home Media DVR features (allowing access to recorded TV programming from any QIP2500 set-top as well as photos and music on a home computer) was a mere order from reality.

On Friday, I placed the order from Verizon's Website, and was told that service would be initiated on 5/18/07. I drove home Friday safely, but with a heighted expediency. Kissed the wife and child quickly as I breezed by them to flip on the televisions. And, faithful blog readers, you know the drill...

No whole-home DVR service. No Media Manager service.

Nada

Zip

Zilch.

I called Verizon's customer support and got connected very quickly with a friendly rep. He assured me that he saw my order and that service would begin in "a couple of hours." Sometimes, he noted, it can take up to 24 hours to start. Okay, so I could live without whole-house recorded video until Saturday.

Saturday came, and still no service. Fortunately, we had better things to do in the morning, but I decided to connect with Verizon via their online chat feature to find out what was happening. I was still convinced that activating the service couldn't be as easy as sending a simple command to the RG and updating the set-tops. I was sure that there was an inside wiring problem, or one of the set-tops was going to need swapping out. My problem, however, turned out to be a whole lot simpler.

The online customer support agent couldn't find any record of me having placed the order on Friday! Even though I had a confirmation for the Friday order, he told me that the numbering and codes were different than the ones his customer service department used. This tells me that Verizon's got a database and CRM problem, at the very least. If an online order confirmation can be seen by one help desk agent but not another, I would think that this is leading to all kinds of confusion. And, keep reading ... you'll find this to be definitely true.

My online agent - Daniel - was great. He got on the phone with someone from FiOS TV, and got a new order placed. He told me that he'd see the order in 10-20 minutes, and we could expect to have the service up and running in no time. To quote from our transcript:

Kurt Scherf: Great. Thanks for your help, Daniel. So, I should expect to see this activated in the next few hours?
DANIEL: Easily.

Best news I'd heard all day!

We ran some more errands and came back to the house later in the afternoon. I ran to the back bedroom, flipped on the TV, and there it was - Recorded TV! I tested it a couple of times, and had shows from the living room up and running in the bedroom. Play, rewind, fast-forward ... it was all there! Finally, an entertainment network up and running! I haven't downloaded and installed the Media Manager software yet, but I'm looking forward to see what the TVs can display in terms of our stored music and photos from the Media Center PC. We recorded the movie "Sideways" yesterday afternoon, and we were able to enjoy watching that before bed last night. Total thumbs-up on the feature!

But of course, the story doesn't end there. Yesterday, I received a voice mail message from Verizon, telling me that a FiOS technician would be at my home on Tuesday, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Uh oh. So, while driving to work this morning, I had to patiently explain to two customer service agents that, yes, I do have the requisite hardware, no, I didn't order an additional DVR, and yes, I'm very happy with the Home Media DVR service. My exact words, "Please do not cancel this service!" I'd better not return home this afternoon to find the feature disabled!

Any service provider that is looking to expand the scale and scope of its service offerings is going to experience some hiccups along the way. Verizon's FiOS service is certainly representative of the challenges facing the company as they seek to better integrate products, services, customer databases, and support. I'm a big fan of the FiOS service itself, and I think that the competition that's here thanks to both AT&T and Verizon's initiatives are going to be quite beneficial to consumers in terms of competitive pricing, new and intriguing value-added features, and improved customer service. It's the customer service issue that worries me a bit, however. As a customer, I shouldn't be expected to have to follow-up three times to check why an order wasn't processed or to cancel an on-site service that wasn't necessary in the first place.

In addition to the spending that the service providers are doing to enhance their networks and deploy new services, my hope is that they're spending as much time understanding what the implementation of new services is going to mean to their customer support efforts. Somehow, disparate operations support systems (OSS) are going to have to be merged in such a way to allow agents for different divisions to have a more seamless look at a customer's records, recent orders, and trouble tickets. And, I suspect that more in the way of automated systems are going to be seen in growing numbers. For example, clients in the home that can detect the types of set-tops installed and whether they're properly configured would go a long way to helping an agent determine if a service such as Home Media DVR can be activated with little hassle.

We recently completed a white paper on the requirements for true end-to-end customer support for the triple-play experience. We have a paper titled Monetizing the Triple-play: The Role of the Customer Experience. We not only walk through the key requirements, but we also outline several opportunities available to service providers and other third-party entities for enhancing customer care with automated as well as remote and on-site technical support services. Feel free to e-mail me if you'd like to request a copy of this paper (scherf@parksassociates.com).

Despite the slight hassles I experienced over the weekend, the feature is great, and I'm looking forward to a little more quality TV time!

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