Sunday, April 8, 2012

MLB shows how not to do customer service; app issues are annoying, customer service issues are fatal

Based on the way my teams are playing early in the season it looks like 2012 might be a good year to go light on baseball. But I'm generally a closet optimist, one of those guys that cusses at the TV when their team plays poorly but secretly turns on the television to watch the bottom of the ninth just in case my team scores the ten runs needed to send the game to extra innings.

Last season, following the WS win by the Giants, I ponied up for the monthly subscription to MLB.TV so that I could watch my games on my Apple TV and iPad. Baseball fans were forced to choose between paying for the iPhone or iPad app, but at least a subscription to MLB.TV meant that you could move from your iPad to your Apple TV to watch the games.

This year MLB took a different approach, one universal app, and the promise to be able to watch games on any device. Well, it's not working out that way, and so yesterday I cancelled my subscription.

A few app bugs won't make this veteran of mobile apps cancel a service, but poor customer service will.
While surfing back and forth between two games yesterday my service suddenly stopped. I got an error message on my Apple TV – something about multiple locations, as if I was watching games in two places. I wasn't, just on that one TV.

I then moved to my desktop computer to try and watch the end of the games but could not sign in because it said I had used my email address too often. Really? I don't even know what that is supposed to mean.

I called customer service.

Now, it is important to understand that at this point I was merely annoyed. Bad things with technology sometimes happen, no reason to lose it over a game you really don't care that much about (Blue Jays against the Indians).

But things went down hill the minute I tried to communicate with MLB.TV.

First came an long, long introductory message about blacked out games that day. Clearly MLB gets lots of calls on this issue, I understand that. But the message here was 'we don't want to talk to you, go away."

Eventually I got to a message about canceling my service or customer support. Ont o support where the guy on the other end of the line could offer me no help. Frankly, he didn't even try.

Enough, it's time to cancel. To do so one ends up calling The Philippines. There they are more than happy to process your cancellation. They didn't ask why I wanted to cancel or what they could do to reverse the decision. I even offered up an explanation. They weren't interested. My account had been cancelled and that was that.

But that's not even the end of it. I then received my email telling me my account had been cancelled but that the service would continue until some time in May (it's a monthly subscription, remember).

OK, I thought, that's fair. After all, when one cancels a magazine subscription in Apple's Newsstand you know that you must deal with the fact that it won't really be cancelled until after that month or that year, depending on the subscription you purchased.

So I called customer service again and explained that if I was forced to pay for the month we should at least get my service to work. Their solution? A refund.

It was at this point that I wanted to give the finger not only to MLB but to all those Apple haters out there that can't deal with Apple's new position in the world. You see, as a long time Apple customer, I can remember all those times I needed to customer service. I remember all the call centers I reached, as well: Mississauga, Ontario, Winnipeg, Nashville, Austin.

Every time I either reached some one who would patiently help me, or was passed up the ladder to some one who definitely could. The goal was to solve the problem and keep me as an Apple customer – even when I was really angry about something. And in other cases I was directed to go to the Apple store, where I could speak to someone in person.

Now, this is not to say I've had lots of troubles with my Apple products, but when you can trace back your experiences to 1983, you know there are going to be issues at some point. The key is customer service, something MLB apparently knows nothing about.

So 2012 will be the year without baseball, or at least, with a lot less baseball. It's probably just as well. It was 56 years between World Series victories for my Giants, the chances I'll experience it again are slim. But I'm one of those guys that played baseball, loves baseball, if only because it means summer, good memories, and leisure time.

But MLB.TV has me rethinking my love of the game. Maybe I'll catch some high school games this spring – the local team, I see, won 4-2 yesterday. That's the ticket, a return to local baseball.

MLB, you're outta here. Ejected from the game.

Boy, that felt good.