Sky TV Needs to Treat Loyal Customers Better

Do you know what date Sky Digital started in the UK? I do. 1st October 1998. How do I know this off the top of my head? Well, it all started in the summer of that year…

Our analogue Sky box had started to play up in late July, early August. I remember this vividly because I was still at school and I had spent all year looking forward to wasting my six-weeks-holiday watching every episode of Quantum Leap on The Sci Fi Channel and Clarissa Explains it All on Nickelodeon. (Ah, Melissa Joan Hart, how many teenage hours did I waste yearning to climb a ladder into your bedroom window…). Instead, I was forced to watch the monotony of a a blue screen while garbled audio played behind. My Dad took it into town to an “independent electrical specialist” who gave him some very odd advice.

He was told that, for some bizarre reason, that when this had happened to this particular model of Sky box in the past, holding a hairdryer to the vents on the top for a minute or so would bring it back to life. By jove, it worked! So, during August, Mum’s Morphy Richards lived next to the Sky box and we would have to interupt our lives to blast the poor, dying analogue receiver two or three times a day when the blue screen reappeared.

“It’s time to get a new one,” Dad said. It was sometime in September and I was back at school. He rang Sky and prepared to hand over an obscene amount of money for a new box. I forget the actual figure, but he was told he could either pay that or wait until October 1st and get a free Digibox. Sky was pushing their new Sky Digital as if its life depended on it. (In reality, Sky’s future did depend on getting punters onto their digital TV platform. They had bought half – 28 – of the available transponders on the newly launched ASTRA 2A satellite for this new digital service, a not-inconsequential transaction).

So on 1st October 1998, as if by magic, the analogue Sky box refused to be revived by our hairdryer and it was confined to the wheelybin. We were contacted by Sky and told our box would be installed on 7th October. It was the longest week of my life. Sure enough, on the 7th October an engineer turned up and installed it. It was a Wednesday and I was at school not concentrating on anything except the thought of arriving home to see digitally-enhanced, SCART-delivered, interactive Clarissa.

Sky Digital is a brilliant system. There are now hundreds of channels showing high quality entertainment at all hours of the day. As services go, this is definitely one that will be written into the history books as game-changing and amazing. Now you can get Sky HD for high-definition and Sky+ for when you want to watch programmes on your schedule, not their’s.

That Digibox that got delivered on 7th October 1998 is still under my parents’ TV stand. It is still running and still, albeit very slowly now, serving up all of Sky’s non-HD channels. Since getting the box, assuming a £40/month average subscription (I know for many years they were paying much more than this) they have paid Sky £6,240 for their services.

They are the very definition of a low-cost, low-hassle, high-margin customer.

So now that their remote control doesn’t work very well – the ‘0’ is broken, so you have to type in a number near the one you’re actually after and then use Channel Up/Channel Down buttons – and they don’t have HD channels or Sky+, you would have thought Sky would jump at the chance to keep them happy.

My Dad has rang them multiple times this year and has been told that he will have to pay for a new remote control if it is broken, and they won’t budge on the full cost of a Sky+ digibox.

Recently, my wife and I found that our Sky+ box wasn’t recording properly (“Technical Fault – 7”) so a quick email to Sky nabbed us 2 weeks free credit – in money terms, that’s £20, enough to pay for a replacement remote control at least for Mum and Dad. So why are us, new, high-hassle, highly-subsidised, low-margin customers favoured over the ones that have actually earned Sky all their money this past decade??

Sky, you have no excuse to treat your loyal customers like this. My parents deserve a new Sky+ HD box for free, delivered, installed, and with a big bunch of flowers to apologise for the hassle. So do any of your other customers who wait 13 years inbetween getting their subsidised digiboxes off you.

Get a clue, pull your fingers out, and give these people who have kept you in business the good customer experience they deserve.

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