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BREAKING: Check Out Sky's Latest Spin...
9:00am NZDT, Dec 29th
"Sky Television hopes to have the bugs in its new digital format ironed out within the next few days, ending the teething problems that have had the service's subscribers complaining" according to a story published in the NZ Herald today. Tony O'Brien is quoted as saying that "the new system would be slower than the previous one, it was hard to say by how much". So they don't know? This obviously means that the recoding isn't finished yet -- and yet it will be out "within the next few days"? I guess recent events haven't yet taught them the value of thorough and protracted software testing eh?

BREAKING: Sky TV Website Crashes Too
2:40pm NZDT, Dec 28th
If you thought the new code downloaded to the set-top boxes was bad, check out the Sky TV website! Just in case it's fixed now, this is what it looked like at 2:40pm today. These people need help! If you're reading this Sky, call me!

Note: This column represents the opinions of the writer and as such, is not represented as fact
Lies, More Lies, And Satellite TV 27 December 2001 Edition
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Million $ Ideas
At last, the contents of Aardvark's "million-dollar ideas" notebook are revealed for all to see!
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Regular readers will recall that a couple of weeks ago I published a piece on the Sky TV fiasco and resulting problems with its set-top box.

Well, here's an update on the situation.

First up I have to say that Sky are doing an atrocious job at handling this matter. They have repeatedly lied to customers and downplayed the negative effects of the problems the upgrade has produced.

This lack of honesty has shot their credibility to hell and back.

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For example:

During November and early December, people who contacted Sky TV to complain about the slowness of the new software were told that this was because the downloads were still in progress -- and that the problems would disappear when the downloads were complete.

Clearly that was a lie. Even after the downloads were done the problems remained. This excuse was actually an insult to the intelligence of anyone with the slightest technical knowledge anyway. After all -- how could the fact that some of the satellite bandwidth was being consumed by software downloads to other set-top boxes affect the ability to change channels at a half-reasonable speed?

Readers Say
(updated hourly)
  • Changes to Sky... - Frustrated
  • Sky Digital Bites... - Andrew
  • More Lies... - Melvin
  • some changes but... - Debs
  • everything about Sky... - Philip
  • Sky volume... - Steve
  • now an ex-Sky customer... - Jamie
  • Have Your Say

    People who complained after the downloads were completed were told that the problems were being fixed and that a new, faster version would be downloaded by Christmas.

    Another lie... it's now the 28th of December and there has been absolutely no improvement in the speed of operation.

    Sky TV are now admitting that the planned pre-Christmas update didn't take place but I've been told that the promised performance improvements would now be delivered some time in the next two weeks.

    Do we believe them??? Of course not!

    So why am I writing this piece today when I should be putting my feet up and enjoying the festive season?

    Well it's because (gasp, shock, surprise) -- I received an email from Sky TV today inviting me to ring Robert Vowles to discuss my concerns regarding their service.

    Just why did Robert invite me to contact him?

    Well it's probably got something to do with the email I sent to the nice folks over at the Sundance Channel to advise them that I'm cancelling my subscription to their offering.

    Let me make it quite clear that I've got no gripe with the Sundance Channel -- it screens some pretty good stuff. The problem is that most if it is so eclectic that I've never actually keyed in the SC's channel number directly. Until Sky updated the software, all my SC viewing resulted from "stumbling across" some interesting film while scanning up through the movie channels using the channel Up/Down buttons on the remote.

    Using this channel-surfing technique I found myself running into enough SC material to justify the expense of its additional fee.

    Now that Sky TV users can no longer use the Up/Down channel buttons on their remotes without bursting a blood vessel out of frustration at the slow (or non-existent) response -- I find that I can't justify that extra monthly premium.

    Sundance forwarded my email to Sky TV and it appears that although Sky TV doesn't give a hoot about its customers, it is a little more inclined to take note when its content partners are unhappy.

    But wait -- how do I know that Sky TV doesn't give a hoot about its customers?

    Well I'd like to hear from *anyone* who was asked whether they wanted the UK TV channel replaced with BBC World news. Apparently someone was asked -- but it sure as hell wasn't me or anyone else I've heard from.

    Quite a number of people I've spoken to are pretty annoyed that Sky are replacing a channel that was exclusive to the Digital service with one that already screens free to air on TV1 for almost 20 hours a week.

    So I restate my claims that while bathing luxuriously in the privileges offered by its monopoly, Sky is totally ignoring the wishes and needs of its customers.

    Now I'm certainly not advocating that anyone cancel their Sundance subscriptions as a way of making Sky wake up and take heed of their complaints -- however, if you have, or are planning to cancel because of the firmware changes then please do the courteous thing and let them know the reason why.

    I don't wish to make Sundance the meat in the sandwich -- but clearly it's just about the only way to rattle Sky's cage enough to provoke some sensible response.

    A Note to Sky:
    If you want to regain customer confidence and some level of satisfaction, you really need to do the following:

    1. Acknowledge the severity of the problems with the new firmware -- don't make disingenuous statements such as "In order to enhance our services you will notice a slight trade off in performance." This insults the intelligence of the average customer -- we know that the problem is more than "a slight trade off in performance"!
    2. Don't lie! You might be able to get away with blatant misrepresentations as to the cause or remedy to a problem once -- but you've already done massive damage to your credibility in this area with the lame excuses and promises already offered to an annoyed and frustrated public.
    3. If you can't restore the functionality of the Up/Down channel function to at least its former level then give people the option of returning to the old firmware. We know there are no technical reasons why this can't be done and you owe it to your customers to give them the choice. If, as you claim, the performance trade-offs are slight compared to the improvement in features, then few people will opt to go back. What are you afraid of? Could it be that your assertions in this area lack credibility?
    4. You have a website and internet presence -- damned well use it to stay in touch with your customers and actively solicit them as to what they want and need from your service. Don't make important changes to the system without consultation -- that is at best a very lazy attitude and at worst it shows a level of arrogance that can only be found in marketplaces where there is a powerful monopoly of supply.
    5. Smarten up your Public Relations. Denials, promises and excuses will (after the events of the past two months) no longer cut it. You need to organise and implement a PR campaign that will dispel the illusion that you're just a monopoly supplier who treats its customers like idiots. Thanks to your monopoly you may have a temporary strangle-hold on their wallets -- but if you're to withstand competition when it arrives (and it will) then you also need to win their hearts. You're currently scoring a big fat zero in this department.
    Okay, am I going off half-cocked on this? After several weeks using the new system have you now learned to live with the problems? Are you now a happy Sky Digital user?

    Or are you still really annoyed that they appear to be doing nothing but paying lip-service to the matter of customer support?

    Have your say (remember to select For Publication if you want to see your comments on this page).

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