Highway to Hughes

I love a good customer service “moment of truth” situation. Something that’ll either keep or boot a customer. Whether it’s B2B or B2C, this is a moment when you should delight the customer — or else.

HughesNet just blew it in Texas. The report, via the Austin American-Statesman

When a police officer in their driveway screamed for Ken and Linda Schutt to evacuate their home as a wildfire closed in, they grabbed two dogs, three framed photos and clothes in a suitcase. Two days later, they surveyed what was left of their double-wide mobile home and started taking care of business: call the insurance company, the utilities and HughesNet, their satellite Internet provider. That’s when the headaches began.

Linda Schutt said she called the Maryland-based HughesNet to cancel service and couldn’t believe how the customer representative handled the call.

“She wanted me to send back the equipment — the dish, the cable and modem. When I asked her what part of me saying that our house burned to the ground that she didn’t understand, she insisted I return their equipment. If we didn’t, she said we owed $100,” Linda Schutt said.

The Schutts temporarily put aside dealing with HughesNet. They’d lost everything in the Sept. 5 fire, including the American flag that was used on the casket of Linda Schutt’s brother after he was killed in the Vietnam War.

The week after the fire, she wrote HughesNet a letter complaining about the service and saying she’d never use the company again.

“I included the burned satellite dish because that’s all that we found. It wasn’t any good, but since they insisted they wanted their equipment, we sent what we could find,” she said.

On Saturday, Linda Schutt got a call from someone who she thought was a HughesNet representative. “I thought he was calling about my letter, but I later found out it was a bill-collecting agency,” she said.

That call also didn’t end well. “He also told me we owed $100 for the equipment,” she said.

On Tuesday, Schutt said she noticed Hughes withdrew $106.25 from her bank account, presumably the cost to replace the equipment.

Statesman Watch contacted HughesNet on the Schutts’ behalf. Spokeswoman Judy Blake said the complaint was referred to the company’s executive customer service team. Within minutes, HughesNet called Linda Schutt to tell her the $106.25 would be credited back to her bank account.

“I’m sorry that she went through that,” Blake said, referring to the customer service representative who first spoke with Schutt. “I don’t know what went wrong, but perhaps the customer rep didn’t have the authority to give her credit or thought about asking a higher-up.”

Schutt is happy to get the refund. “But that wasn’t the point. We could afford the $100. It’s just that after all we’d been through, they could have been a little understanding. It’s the principle. If Statesman Watch hadn’t called on our behalf, we’d still be fighting this,” she said.

The good people at Hughes should be reminded of the Two Rules of Business:

  1. The customer is always right.
  2. If the customer is ever wrong, re-read rule #1.


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