Netflix And Great Customer Service

I mentioned back in December how much I liked my Netflix player. I still do, but last week I ran into a problem. I have finally caught up with the rest of the world and realized what a great show Heroes is, and I’m happily working my way through season one. Everything had been going great, until I got to episode seventeen. The picture was flawless, as was the playback, but the dialog track was about two seconds behind the actors’ lips. I hate that. We soldiered through, pretending that we were watching a foreign film that had been dubbed into English.

Hoping for properly-synced dialog, we fired up episode eighteen. This one had music, but no dialog at all! I tried fast-forwarding, rewinding and restarting, but nothing worked. Since you can’t really skip an episode of Heroes and know what the heck is going on, we didn’t want to move on, but I did want to see if any other episodes were borked. I watched the first few seconds of episode nineteen and it suffered the same fate as eighteen: music but no dialog. Grrr…

I kept trying episode eighteen over the next few days to see if the problem would correct itself, but it never did. As a test, I tried viewing these same episodes from my Mac, just to see if it was a problem with the player or the source. Seventeen had the same sync problem, but eighteen did have dialog. Nineteen was silent, just like on the player. I decided the problem was on Netflix’s end, and that eighteen on the Mac had been served from a different server.

So, with this information in hand, I decided to contact Netflix. I assumed that all interaction with Netflix would be through email or “customer service” forms, like so many web businesses, but I was wrong. There’s a toll-free number that is staffed 24/7. When you check the support page and see the phone number, they give you a “priority code” and tell you how long the call queue is. On Sunday night, it was listed at “about a minute.” I called, entered the code, and in under a minute, I was speaking to a real, live human, who spoke perfect English (she sounded like a Texan to me, but I could be wrong). I described the problem to her and she checked their system to see what she could tell me. She said that the three episodes I reported, plus episode twenty-two, had already been reported and that they were already working to correct the problem.

Now, the call could have ended there, but here’s where the good customer service comes in. I asked if there was an ETA for getting them corrected. She didn’t just say “no,” or “not yet” or “we don’t know.” Instead she explained the process that Netflix has to go through to not only get corrected content, but to get the content in the first place. I had assumed, naively, that Netflix was just ripping DVDs to their servers and serving them up, but in fact, they get the content in ready-to-stream format from the studios, themselves. In the case of problems, they have to contact the studios, re-sign distribution agreements, and wait for the studios to provide them with corrected content. While I still didn’t have an ETA, her description of the process gave me a much better feel for how long it would be before the content was corrected. That’s good customer service.

So, in order to continue getting my Heroes fix, I figured out which discs I needed and put them on the top of my DVD queue. They should be here today.

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