Sunday, May 14, 2017

Netflix shows us how it should be done

By Tom Walker

I love Netflix.
According to company records, Linda and I have been Netflix subscribers for at least 11 years. I think it’s been even longer than that, maybe not too long after Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph founded the company in 1997. It didn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that getting DVDs in the mail was easier than renting one from a surly teenager at Blockbuster and returning it within two days.
Across the country -- and the world -- people were coming to the same conclusion. Hello, Netflix, goodbye Blockbuster. In April 2017, Netflix reported having over 98 million subscribers worldwide, including more than 50 million in the United States. Blockbuster, meanwhile, has a bunch of former
stores that got turned into Beyond Bread and other businesses.
We recently started subscribing to Netflix’s streaming media, which got us addicted to programs like “Bosch” with Titus Welliver and Glenn Close in “Damages.” But we still get the DVDs, which lets us see movies sooner than the streaming service.  We’ve recently seen some Academy Award winners and nominees that way, such as “Moonlight,” “La La Land,” “Fences” and “Hidden Figures.”
Through the years, we’ve never had a problem with any Netflix movie. Until now.
It wasn’t Netflix’s fault. We watched “Hidden Figures,” which we enjoyed a lot. I reviewed it on recently.
And the next morning, we put it in our mailbox to send it back to Netflix. I had a doctor’s appointment that morning, and when I came back home I noticed that the mailbox was open and the Netflix envelope was gone. The plot thickened when, soon afterward, the mail  carrier arrived. No, he said, he hadn’t picked up our mail.
He gave us the phone number of the Postal Inspector to report the theft of our mail. Linda called it and after wading through a thicket of automated options, finally got hold of a human who took our report. Apparently that was the extent of what the U.S.  Postal Service could do for us.
So then I dialed the customer service number for Netflix, dreading what they were going to do to us for losing “Hidden Figures,” for which Octavia Spencer won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. I’m not sure what Oscar-winning movies are going for these days, but I’m sure it isn’t cheap.
What happened next was surprising. No, not surprising. Astonishing.
First, there was no automated answering service. Instead, at the bottom of the “Help Center” page, there was message that gave a phone number and said, "For faster service, enter (a six number) code when prompted ..." 
I did that, and in less than a minute found myself talking to a real-life human being who listened attentively to my tale of woe. And when I had finished, virtually sobbing over my cruel fate, the Netflix guy said something to the effect of, “That’s all right, I’ll take that movie off your At Home list so you can get the next one in your queue.”
I had to ask, “That’s great – and how much is “Hidden Figures” going to cost me?”
“Nothing,” the Netflix man said. “It’s not your fault – you didn’t drop it or break it or anything. Someone took it out of your mailbox.”
At this point, I was virtually groveling at his telephonic feet. I told him we had reported the theft to the Postal Inspector, and he said that was good.
And we parted, friends forever. And I will be forever a fan of Netflix, for its movies, for its streaming service, for its programs like “House of Cards,” and whatever else it does in the future. And most of all, for its customer service, which seems a dying breed at most places but is alive and well at Netflix.
Thank you, Netflix, for showing us how successful business can be run.

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