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a blog by ken pardue

An Open Complaint about Suddenlink’s Incompetency

I decided to get the Suddenlink TiVo box after not having TiVo since 2006. When Suddenlink upgraded to an HD lineup in 2006 I thought it more convenient to use the new Suddenlink HD DVR instead of TiVo because TiVo’s HD box was prohibitively expensive compared to renting the Suddenlink DVR. When I canceled the TiVo rep was very friendly, and said that he was sorry to see me go but that he understood the price advantage and didn’t blame me. Over the years I’ve heard horror stories of inept or misinformed Suddenlink service technicians pairing CableCARDs with Tivo devices. Some people were told that they couldn’t get premiere channels, others that they couldn’t get HD channels, and others still that CableCARDs wouldn’t work right at all with the TiVo. In light of such inconsistency, I decided to stay away from TiVo, despite far preferring TiVo’s service to the clunky Suddenlink DVR.

A week ago I noticed a commercial that Suddenlink was now offering TIVo service in my area. I thought, “Surely this is a great way to get back on the TiVo bandwagon. Suddenlink must have worked out the kinks in the installation process *in their own implementation* of the TiVo box. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The Suddenlink rep came to my house, installed the TiVo box, and paired the remote with my television so that it would control the volume. Fine and dandy. I tried to locate the Media Access Key so that I could configure the iPhone and iPad apps to work with the box, but couldn’t find it. I suspected that Suddenlink may have disabled this functionality (which wouldn’t have surprised me), even though the iPad app (and detailed instructions from TiVo on setting it up) is a feature linked to from their TiVo promotional website at suddenlink.com/tivo. If this was the case, Suddenlink was being disingenuous at best, and engaging in false advertising at worst.

I contacted Suddenlink’s email support. They wrote back and told me to log into my TiVo account at TiVo.com to see if the Media Access Key was located there, and to try the online chat for more assistance. I wrote back saying that I had already tried this, and I hadn’t received any login credentials for accessing my TiVo account that Suddenlink enabled for me, and when I tried to activate the TiVo on TiVo’s website, I got the message “You cannot activate service on this DVR. Please contact Suddenlink Customer Support at 1-877-457-9849 for assistance.”

I tried the Suddenlink chat. I spoke with a person named LaShonda I believe. After explaining my situation, she resorted to finding different ways to tell me that she couldn’t help me, that all she can do is activate the TiVo box, and that I need to contact TiVo for more assistance, since it looked like the issue was on their end. After explaining to her that I had already tried activating the box with TiVo and they referred me back to Suddenlink, she gave me a phone number to contact Suddenlink’s phone support for more assistance, but again implying that the problem wasn’t with them, it was with TiVo. Before ending the chat, I asked her to confirm that the number she gave me was for Suddenlink since it seemed to be on their end. She said that yes, it was for Suddenlink Customer Support.

I called the number.

“Hello. You’ve reached TiVo Customer Support.”

Clever.

I spoke with Andrew with TiVo’s customer support. He was friendly and conversational, the only person I spoke to during this whole fiasco that made me feel like a valued customer and not like an obligation to satisfy. He convinced me that Suddenlink probably wasn’t being disingenuous and that it was more likely a technical issue. He walked me through updating my address and other information that had changed since I left TiVo in 2006. He pulled up the TiVo box and noticed that it wasn’t properly setup in Suddenlink’s system. It was in a Staging mode, activated but not associated with a customer. The problem was worse than simply not being able to find a Media Access Key; the TiVo would actually stop working after a few days. He told me what I should tell Suddenlink to resolve the issue, and said that after it was set up properly in their system all that would likely be needed was a quick reboot of the box.

I called Suddenlink back.

I spoke with a lady who’s name I didn’t catch. She said she had just gotten a TiVo two weeks ago herself. I told her what the TiVo tech told me and she said, “You know, I think you may be right.” I was put on hold for a time. She asked me to navigate around the Tivo and tell her what the menu options were. Apparently they don’t have that information in front of them. Asked for my email address to update their records. Put me on hold again. Asked for my email address again. Finally she told me that she thought it was taken care of but they would have to send a tech support out to my house to manually enter some information into the TiVo box. I agreed, even though it was an inconvenience.

The Suddenlink tech support person came to my house (my wife was home; I was at work), fiddled around for a bit, and finally declared that everything was fine on Suddenlink’s end. He wasn’t sure why Suddenlink sent him out there, because the problem was on TiVo’s end. He said I needed to go to TiVo.com and register the box using my TiVo’s service number. Remember now that trying to do so prompts an error message referring me back to Suddenlink. He left before I had a chance to call and talk to him, but not before telling my wife that they were having a lot of problems with the TiVo’s, and that ours was the first one he had seen that was actually working right. Except… it wasn’t working right! It was still in Staging mode!

I called Suddenlink back. Livid. I told the rep that I wanted to speak with someone who knew what they were talking about because I was about two seconds away from canceling all my Suddenlink services. I spent maybe a half hour waiting while he checked and rechecked things on his end while working with someone else on the problem. Finally he said that he had corrected the communication problem between TiVo and Suddenlink, but that he would have to send *another tech* out to our house to manually register the TiVo box with the system. Again. That’s where I stand now. I’ll be there this time so that I can badger him until things are working, but the sheer incompetence and failure of Suddenlink to know how their own system works across some 5+ customer support agents and no less than three visits from tech support personnel is absolutely stunning. If Suddenlink doesn’t resolve this this evening, I will be switching all my services to DirecTV.

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