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Airtel DTH: Customer service needs improvement
Dec 07, 2008 01:54 PM 4454 Views
(Updated Mar 19, 2016 01:43 PM)

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Edited March 19, 2016.

It has been about 8 years since I last reviewed Airtel DTH service.

Since then, I have upgraded to HD connection for my primary connection and SD(standard) connection for my secondary connection.

Airtel now supports 33 full HD channels with 1080i resolution. They were initially slower to introduce HD channels, and I was considering switching to another operator such as Tata Sky or Videocon for more HD channels. Basically, I wanted to take full advantage of my Full HD LCD TV(yes, it is the same LCD TV that I bought in 2008).

Customer service - for standard customer service, e.g. STB not working, weak signals, etc. Airtel customer service is still responsive and you should get response within about a day. However, the problems start when you have to use their website or use their IT systems even through Customer Care. Customer care frequently keeps you on hold while their systems are responding/fetching data.

I can't believe that after 8 years Airtel still hasn't invested in building a fully functional IT backbone for DTH customers' self service. Their website is buggy, unstable and lacks functionality. You cannot recharge your individual connections, You cannot even check your account transactions beyond 6 months!

A case in point: Last year I upgraded my primary subscription pack from Value Sports with HD Top-up to Eco Sports Plus 33HD with Annual subscription(about Rs.5700 per year) using their website's change subscription function. Now I would expect that since the new package already includes all available HD channels, and it has superceded my previous package, there is no need to'cancel' my HD top-up correct? But according to Airtel, I should have called them explicitly and asked them to'cancel' my HD top-up, since the software does not automatically deduce this! So for almost one year, until Jan 2016, I was getting charged for HD top-up despite having subscribed to all 33 HD channels in my new subscription. Someone should fire their CIO and their testing team!

Another case - in September 2015, I switched my secondary connection to annual subscription of Value sports, through the website, by paying around around 2600 through net banking. This means that my new subscription would be valid till August 206. In Jan 2016, I got reminders that my balance was low and needed to top-up the funds. On calling customer service, I was told that Airtel does not support Annual subscription for secondary connection. Hello - how the hell did your website then provide me the option of switching to Annual subscription?

A company with billions of rupees in turnover can't invest a few crores in building a stable, functional customer service portal? What a joke! If this is how you choose to attract and retain customers, is it any wonder that your DTH business is making losses?

Quick Review:

Pros: Cons: Un-informative website, average STB capability(no ComponentHDMI out), no a-la-carte channel option, average image quality


I was totally frustrated with my local Cable Operator - Rohit Vision - who is a franchisee of SitiCable(i.e. Zee Teleservices). They have no sense of customer service, professionalism or even know how to do business. I wanted to renew my susbscription and add a few channels. Inspite of calling the local operator atleast 10 times and even calling the SitiCable call center - there was no response. Imagine - here I am calling them to give them additional business and they dont even bother to turn up despite promises. Imagine then how will they fare on any support issues. Basically the cable model has failed in India due to indifferent attitude of the franchisees, poor training and lack of professionalism - the parent company has no control over them.

Anyway, I was looking at DTH as the only other option(local cable operators still hold a monopoly over their service areas). Was considering TataSky, Reliance BIG, and Airtel. Our society is pre-wired for TataSky - they have already setup MDU installation in our society. However, TataSky installation is again managed by franchisees - so I did not want to take a risk with installation and customer service. Moreover, the package options did not seem attractive - they were expensive too.

Reliance was ruled out due to its brand name - I don't have a high opinion of Reliance due to the strong-arm tactics it is known to employ when recovering mobile bills from Reliance Power customers - I have heard they threaten to disconnect your electric supply if you protest unfair billing for your Reliance mobile. Moreover, Reliance is renowned for introducing cheap packages and then raising prices - basically unfair trade practices.

That left Airtel. I had read numerous feedbacks on this forum on the positive experience at installation, decent packages, etc. Airtel also had a positive brand image due to its customer service for mobile customers.

Here is how it went:

The Aitel DTH website has inadequate information. The whole launch seems to be premature - no information on monthly packages, not enough information on Set Top Box(output interfaces, resolution supported, etc). The list of places where one can buy DTH starter pack is incomplete - atleast for Mumbai. For e.g. DTH pack is available at all Vijay Sales outlets and other electronic retailers. I went one Saturday at Vijay Sales, Mahim outlet - they don't have enough brochures or any information on various startup options. Luckily I had already done my research and chose the Mega starter pack(Rs.2500, with Mega pack 6 months free).

Got my DTH pack at 11.30, came home and called the call center for installation appointment. One thing to note when calling their call center - the IVR option 3, for scheduling an installation appointment does not seem to work - I tried twice and my phone got disconnected. Next I chose option 2 - support for existing Airtel customers - and then it worked. The call center agent was quite helpful and could answer all my questions. I got an appointment for 4:00 pm the same day. Was told the installation guys would call half an hour become they come in.

I was surprised to get a call from the installation team within an hour itself(at about 1:15 pm) and they told they will reach soon - they confirmed that I had permission from my society for the installaton. At 2:00 pm, two guys in Airtel uniform and equipment came. I quickly explained how I wanted the installation to be done - I have concealed wiring with points outside my house for connecting cable wires. I took them to the terrace and they went about their job professionally - very competent and courteous folks - full marks to them.

Installation on the terrace done, we returned home to fine tune the signals - one guy went back to the terrace to fine tune the dish position while the other guys switched on the STB to measure signal strength. They kept communicating over their cell to fine tune until the signal strenght was maximum. All this while, they patiently answered all my technical questions - I am a a techie myself. Another thing to note - they carry high quality, latest equipment. They even updated the installation details over their PDA, which is networked to the company systems - impressive!

Fine tuning done, they did a quick demo and setup my the STB remote with my TV's remote codes. Before leaving, they left their cell phone number and asked me to call them directly in case of any issues. Soon after they left I had the opportunity - they STB went blank after a few mins. They advised me to reboot the box - basically pull the plug, wait for a minue before starting it. It worked!

First impressions - Very professional and courteous installation team. High quality of installation. STB seems to have some issues. Moreover, STB does not have component or HDMI outputs - I have a 42" LCD, so not able to exploit its full potential until I have atleast component out. A note: Reliance STB has component out. None of the STBs in India so far have HDMI out. Image quality/resolution needs improvement - this is noticeable only if you have a large screen LCD/Plasma TV like I do.

Channel packages - Mega pack(Rs.249 a month) seems adequate for us - We are interested only in movies, news and infotainment(Discover, History, National Geographic). Kids are interested only in Kids channels. Website needs to be upgraded with more information. The whole launch process should have been better managed.

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