Dear Foxtel

Dear Foxtel,

As you would know if you read my blog, and you probably don’t, but I’ll indulge my narcissism, I am a viewer of Soho Channel’s truly excellent show, Wentworth. Last night I sat down to watch the latest installment at my parents’ place, only to discover that the channel was locked. I checked with my father who assured me that, though he’d changed the package, drama channels were still part of it.

So I did some yoga, made myself a chamomile tea and dug out my emergency supply of valium.

Oh, sorry, you thought that was just to quell my distress at missing Wentworth. No, unfortunately that’s a procedure in my life handbook, under the section, “Dealing with Overseas Call Centre Staff: Disaster Level.”

I called the helpline number and began the challenge of getting assistance from “support” that reminds me of Spanx when they’ve been overused: there’s a label, but not much else.

Initially it wasn’t too bad. I rather enjoyed dealing with the automated voice recognition software. Indeed, I can see why Foxtel employs such an inefficient and communicationally-challenged system: it prepares people for when they have to deal with an actual human.

Eventually I found myself speaking to a person, let’s call him Sunny, not due to his personality, but because I am not particularly original when it comes to satirical names. My father, the account-holder, dealt with him first. He outlined the issue clearly: the drama channel, in fact, all drama channels were locked despite them being part of his package (and something he’d actually paid for) and this had quite possibly occurred by accident on Foxtel’s end when he’d made some recent alterations to the complexion of his package. Pretty straightforward to most people – check the Account, see if that’s what happened and rectify the situation.

15 minutes later, he’d reiterated the issue multiple times and was being questioned about the broadband speed despite saying that other channels were working fine, without interruption. Because, obviously, Foxtel have such an advanced system that it can modify a user’s broadband speed depending on the channel they’re trying to access. At this point, as my father had not prepared himself via the important steps in my life handbook, I took over the call.

Sunny and I continued this debate (if talking about completely different things can be classed as a debate) for some time and then I redirected the conversation to the Accounts and activation issue. “No Ma’am,” he assured me, “I can see that Drama is included in your package so it is a technical issue.” (Feel free to choose your own accent.)

Now, this is where I get really angry. It was OBVIOUS he was just saying that. Of COURSE it was an activation issue. Foxtel was working fine. The drama channels were all locked. Changes had recently been made to the composition of the package. It doesn’t take Einstein to figure out the problem, just a bit of, well, not even common sense. Some grasp of the English language might be handy, though.

Sunny then told me that he had to fill out a form to enable the technical team to diagnose the problem. Scrounging around for the bottle of valium – surely I hadn’t already consumed the lot? – I shifted from irritated to enraged. That form was going to be useless, and I, as the customer, knew this better than the Spanx person, and yet was rendered completely powerless to do anything about it.

Sunny had absolutely zero understanding of what I was saying and merely kept repeating that he “understood” (training for Foxtel Call Centre staff should include a dictionary) and was undertaking the necessary steps to resolve the problem. Later in the night I watched an old episode of Utopia and a scene where a staff member in a performance review merely kept repeating jargon could not have been more appropriate. Apparently it is too much to ask that some of the fees from subscribing to Foxtel go to training support staff in how to carry on an actual conversation. You know, the communication where someone listens, comprehends and responds to what’s been said.

Then Sunny dropped the clanger: “I need your IP address.” Er, what? Apparently, Foxtel thinks it sensible to get customers to hand over IP addresses to random neanderthals in countries with a high scam involvement rate. Indeed, at that point I started to wonder if I’d accidentally called the Nigerian scammer I’ve been toying with in recent months. The quality of communication and sense in the conversation with Sunny was only slightly worse. And when I asked why the IP address was necessary, I was treated to the 10th installment of the Utopian jargon.

We reached a stalemate when Sunny’s form wouldn’t allow him to proceed without the IP Address and he had to find a supervisor.

Said supervisor uncovered within 2 minutes that, lo and behold, it was an activation issue. Drama channels were not currently activated and she would make a note for someone to look into this within the next 48 hours. She was also very sorry that Sunny had behaved like a cross between a pair of worn out Spanx and a Nigerian scammer and she would note that as well.

In summation, I didn’t get to watch Wentworth, my father has been billed for a service he didn’t receive and he and I wasted 40 minutes of our time on something that should have taken 5 minutes. Oh, and it’s going to take up to 2 days to sort out the problem, a problem that is probably as minor as checking a box.

I am sure, Foxtel, that you will tell me you’re very sorry, the staff member was just poorly trained, you apologise for the original activation oversight. Thing is, that’s rubbish. Sorry is a word used to denote regret and quantify something as a mistake. But this isn’t a unique experience dealing with your organisation, it’s the norm. I am stunned when the person I’m talking to is any different. And it’s preposterous that in this day and age simple technological issues cannot be fixed on the spot.

It’s no wonder the business is struggling with such ineptness and inefficiency. Not just Sunny, but whoever thinks this is an acceptable level of service, and the prevalence of antiquated systems creating a whole lot of busywork while achieving very little.

Can you imagine if you were billed for your customers’ time? With that level of efficiency you’d be bankrupt in a week. If you also had to pay your customers’ medical bills from the anxiety and stress, probably a day.

And the worst part? Before this situation is resolved, either my father or I will have to engage with someone again, when we receive a call back about the problem. Which reminds me: first thing tomorrow I must refill my valium script.

Regards, Jo

Dear Foxtel

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