At Home with Tech

It’s time to maximize the potential of all your gadgets.

Tag: streaming apps

Make a Friend when Calling Customer Service

You have more power than you think to find a happy resolution during your next call to customer service. Here’s how to access it.

Recently, I had a problem with a streaming app for a pay TV service that suddenly wouldn’t recognize my subscription. The app was tethered to my cell phone account as an added benefit, because I’ve maintained a higher-level data plan. The relationship always seemed a bit complex, but it worked… until it didn’t. And of course I realized my subscription had prematurely ‘expired’ right when I pressed play for a family movie night presentation of Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”

After I wiped egg off my face, I switched apps, and we found something else to stream. Later, I picked up the phone in search of a solution to my misbehaving app.

We all know the proverb that you’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. But it’s also easy to forget when having a frustrating moment with a customer service representative.

Customer Service 1.0
While growing up, I often observed my father apply negative pressure in any number of customer service moments to help mold his desired outcome. I think it was a simpler time when resolutions seemed more achievable, and customers had more power to influence them. But getting angry and threatening to take your business elsewhere is never a sustainable strategy. Even as a kid, I remember feeling that.

Customer Service 2.0
Not to over-generalize, but eventually business trends changed and customer service shifted. We can debate this decline, but I think a key ingredient is added complexity as a result of business efficiencies. Plus, much of the decision-making power has been taken away from the front line of customer service and replaced by the weight of following process.

Your dissatisfaction is likely not the fault of the person on the other end of your phone call. Sure, you may feel a sense of genuine disconnection with the conversation, but there could be other factors you’re not aware of, such as computer systems containing your account info that move much slower than the human mind (how ironic).

Customer Service 3.0
While I’ve been mindful not to practice my father’s bad customer behaviors, that doesn’t mean I’ve succeeded at living on a totally Zen plane when calling customer service. Sure, I get frustrated, just like the rest of us.

But when I made the call to fix my broken streaming app, I had an amazing ‘aha moment’ that changed my entire perspective.

Yes, I ended up speaking to three customer service representatives across two separate phone calls spanning two hours (including waiting on hold for 30 minutes for the first call to begin).

No, it wasn’t a great start. However, the three people I spoke with were all stellar in their positive disposition. They all truly wanted to help me out. Unfortunately, I think none of them had access to all of the information they needed. The third rep had the greatest understanding of the issue, but was still confounded why her technical fixes weren’t working exactly the way they should. Eventually, she moved around a final glitch to MacGyver a solution for me.

It was entirely imperfect, but I appreciated that all three were totally focused on working the problem for me. And, yes my app was reborn.

Throughout this experience, I didn’t see them as adversaries, even though the first two couldn’t solve my tech riddle. Instead, I felt they had joined me on a spontaneous road trip together. And that shifted my attitude.

Together, we needed to locate a hidden variable, and it was buried somewhere in the computer system. No person could totally solve my problem. The machine would need to play nice too.

Make a New Friend
The reality is the computer controls much of the customer service conversation. And if you’re open to this cold truth, that should shift the fundamental relationship between you and the customer service representative. In fact, it should create an alliance. Because it may take both of you to figure the problem out… together.

Your impersonal connection can magically shift. Now, it’s the two of you against the machine. This momentary alliance is powerful, and it can wash away all of the negative impulses you may be feeling.

Because, you can’t get angry at a inscrutable computer system that won’t behave. The only solution is to team up with that other human being on your phone call.

Then, you’ll have a fighting chance to resolve your problem.

Nice is the New Mean
Being civil as a customer is no different than how we should strive to act throughout life. But that’s easy to forget, especially during these pandemic years when patience can be even harder to maintain.

And if you can put aside your past frustrations with customer service, you’ll realize your perceived enemy can be your ally if you actively reach out to create that alliance with the other person.

Your most powerful weapon is simply showing your humanity.

And as we begin another year, remember that this truth applies far beyond customer service interactions.

Treat everyone well. See the big picture. We’re all in this together.

Make a friend.

Happy New Year.

Is It Finally Time to Cut the Cable TV Cord?

If you can stream more and more cable channels on your Apple TV or Roku, do you still need a cable subscription?

Since you can stream more and more cable channels on your Apple TV or Roku, do you still need a cable subscription?

I’ve been sharpening my scissors next to my cable cord for quite some time, but every time I’ve picked them up, I’ve back off at the last minute. But not yesterday…
(And this has nothing to do with the President’s recent support to open up the market for other technology companies to sell cable boxes.)

It’s not like I have something against cable television. I like cable TV. And those of you who know me from back when will understand when I say I have a strong connection to the cable world.

I don’t mind paying for my cable service… as long as I’m using it.

My Screens are Dark
But my viewing habits have been changing. I no longer spend significant time in front of my shrine-like media center I built over a decade ago in our family room. I think that’s partly due to being Dada to my little boy now in kindergarten.
(How did that happen so fast?)

And it’s also because technology has allowed me to watch my favorite shows remotely on my iPad and iPhone, and on the go and on Metro North during my commute to New York City. And I’m streaming a lot of my content on apps like Netflix and Amazon Video.

My home office iMac has longed replaced my old Panasonic Plasma TV in the family room as my daily viewing portal. And I’ve found that my secondary TV and cable box in my home office have largely sat dark over the past few months. The exception has been to serve up some of this year’s overwhelming political landscape… usually through CNN.

Who Needs Cable When You Can Stream?
So I woke up yesterday and suddenly felt compelled to cut the cord. And I said to myself… maybe I can simply stream CNN on my new Apple TV.

I ran over and took a look and found that in fact CNN does have an app that streams the live feed.
(CNNgo)

I immediately downloaded the app and activated it by confirming I had a cable subscription.
(I needed to type in a code on a companion CNN activation page on my iMac.)

BAM!
I was suddenly streaming CNN on my Apple TV!
(for no cost!!)

Then I picked up the phone and then almost dropped it, because I was so excited.

I dialed my cable company to downgrade my service to a sub CNN package level. I figured as long as I had a basic tier of cable TV service, the CNN app would still let me stream away. Right?

Wrong.

I told the cable customer service rep my nefarious plan, and she told me it wouldn’t work. If I wanted to stream CNN via my Apple TV, I would still have to subscribe to it through my cable package.

Huh.

So I hung up the phone, feeling rather deflated and thought a bit more about my half-baked strategy. Of course, what I attempted would be forbidden. Otherwise, the entire cable business model would come crashing down.

So where’s the value of a CNN live streaming app on a home Apple TV or Roku if you still need to subscribe and pay for the cable channel as well? Sure, it makes sense to stream cable content to a second screen if that screen is mobile or outside the house. You can see the added value in that scenario.

But if your Apple TV is sitting right next to your cable box, and they’re both connected to the same HDTV… I’m just not seeing the point of being able to stream a cable channel, when it also needs to be active on the cable box.

Wait… did I say, “cable box?”

I had an idea…

The Big Switch
I walked over to my dark home-office HDTV and cable box team. There they both were… gathering dust, except for occasionally serving up CNN.

I ran back to my aging media center in the family room. Actually, it really should be called my “Franken-center,” because it now had all of these disparate technologies bolted on…

Hmmm…

The truth is my Roku had been gathering dust too, ever since my new Apple TV showed up.

I stood there. And yes, a light bulb illuminated above my head.
(Ding!)

I disconnected the Roku and ran it over to my home office. And then the moment of truth…

I reached behind the cable box and unscrewed the coax cable. The old-school cable fell to the floor, and I think I felt a slight rumble caused by the magnitude of my moment.

I pulled out the cable box… and connected the Roku.

I then signed up for CNN on my Roku, just like I had done on my Apple TV.

And voila!
I was watching CNN live on my home office TV without the cable box.

Temporary Insanity
Then I jumped in my car and sped down to my local Cablevision office to return the cable box.

I gleefully handed over my box and companion remote control and was told I would receive a monthly credit… of just under $9 a month.

I ran back to my car and drove home. I walked up my basement stairs and back to my home office. I sat down at my desk.

What had I done?!

Still Married to Cable
Well, I had denied myself all of my cable TV programming on my home office TV except for CNN.
(And any other streaming app I could activate on my Roku that I already had a cable subscription to)

And I’d saved myself nine bucks a month, which you’ve got to admit is not really a game changer.

Did I cut the cable cord?
No, not at all… I just trimmed it ever so slightly.

You might be asking… what’s the point?

Overwhelmed with Options
I think the point is I’m a little frustrated and kind of cranky.

We’ve all got so many ways now to consume media.
And so many opportunities to pay for it…

The list goes on and on…

I simply want to use what I’m paying for.
And pay for what I really consume vs. what I’ve historically spent.

And that equation clearly takes some fine-tuning along the way.

Victory?
So I ripped one of my cable boxes out of my house. This little act of defiance only reflects on my own process of understanding what I want… and need.

Yes, the scissors are always within reach. And it may feel empowering to talk about cutting the cord. But for now, I’ve only done a little spring pruning.

…And I’ve got nine dollars in my pocket.

Does anyone want to place any bets on how long it will take me to replace the box?

At the very least, either way… I’m ready for the next debate!

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