Sky’s the Limit

While COVID might be debilitating ever-increasing numbers of the population, Sky is following up with its own assault on the nation’s mental health, not to mention insulting its intelligence.

The TV/Broadband company is now spitting out renewal letters with a twist. Headed, ‘We’re now giving you another 12 months of savings’, it all seems a welcome development during a seemingly inexorable pull towards economic belt-tightening.

Helpfully and reassuringly, ‘The offers have simply been added and your package remains the same’. It was their ‘way of ‘thanking [us] for being with Sky’.

Now, in times of COVID and double-dip recessions, punters are increasingly likely to baulk at price hikes. So, businesses can either suck it up because ‘we are all in it together’, or they can take the opportunity to shovel up a few quid from any captive audiences they might have. Virgin Media are practised experts at the latter, given their monopoly on high-speed cable broadband.

This communication at first appeared to reflect the former, and I was momentarily filled with feelgood. But for all the fanfare of a doozy deal, cushioned on a table showcasing the savings to be made, what was not said was the most revealing.

You see, they never confirmed the precise amount that I would be paying. And on further examination, while the package was indeed the same – in terms of the service elements – the detail of my account reflected a cheeky 9% price hike because the amount of savings had actually been cut.

And there’s more.

For good measure, they had also rolled a one-off monthly package into subsequent months, which was not only unsolicited but had the effect of an under-the-radar pseudo-subscription at a rate that was 73% higher than if I had willingly signed up for the same service on a contracted basis.

At this point, my customer loyalty was crumbling like a Turkish hotel.

But at least Sky had been sufficiently service-oriented with a reassurance that I could sit back and ‘wouldn’t have to do a thing‘. Thank God for variable direct debits that would allow a greater slice of my wedge to flow out from my account to theirs. Well, that’s what the Sky droids would have been thinking, anyway.

And speaking of direct debits, if they did go ahead and charge me for an additional month of the one-off package, I would have to wait 45 days for it to be refunded after cancellation. That’s one of the smallprint rules. Do that to a fair few customers each month, and that’s a healthy piece of interest-free capital that can be held for six weeks or so at a time.

It is all rather unedifying.

Now, if you are a lucky recipient of this superlative offer, and if this all triggers an urge to cancel your services, take a deep breath. While customers can add to their services at the touch of a button, they can cancel only by speaking directly with an advisor. Ostensibly, this is so that Sky can confirm that any enquirer is the account holder.

And it is all risible blather. Even if you signed in online and securely messaged Sky from your account, they would still insist on a direct convo, whereas having logged in, a customer would be free to enter a new contract.

Doesn’t really add up, does it?

Of course, it is all a strategy to direct you into the clutches of the Retentions team. Following a price rise, it is a standard industry practice for services companies to hope that a certain percentage swallow the arbitrary hike and then that they can recover a further percentage of those who initially do not.

If the value of the customer base can be tipped over the predetermined commercial target, everybody else can go swivel.

Even the low-rent chatbots are programmed to ignore your requests to cancel and to obtusely and repetitively present their best deal. This is the reality of many so-called customer-centric businesses in spite of their pretence to, and purported appreciation of, customer loyalty.

There’s an old rule of thumb is sales and service contact centres: the size of your retentions team goes up at the same rate that your customer ethos diminishes.

Gearing everything towards retention mirrors the warped logic of a Government that would award Marcus Rashford an MBE for rescuing a colossal failure that they themselves deliberately caused. It is some sort of destructive national sickness that we cannot seem to shake off.

It would just make more sense to do the right thing and look after customers, perhaps even rewarding the loyal ones. But at all times, to be transparent and do not allow your customer policy to be hijacked by a clever-dick marketing copy-monkey who might win you a few battles but lose you the bigger wars.

As for actually being able to get through to an advisor, as is their wont, Sky is presently experiencing service issues owing to Coronavirus (guffaw). The bigwigs need to start googling their own brand. As far as I was aware, the bug causes victims to lose their sense of taste, not their memories, but perhaps Sky bosses are hoping that corona fatigue will preclude any challenges on the point.

I am now eagerly awaiting the next Sky edition of the ‘this is what we are doing to keep you safe’ CEO missives, but they would be better off immunising the custom of their punters through some old-fashioned care and respect.

To be fair, though, not many Sky customers will be breaching lockdown and catching COVID.

They are all spending countless hours sitting at home on hold.

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