Tuned In

Tivo-vival: Lessons From Tech Support

  • Share
  • Read Later

My TiVo lives! The TiVo which replaced the one that died, that is. Which replaced the one that died eight months ago. Last December, I let you know in detail when replacing my defective TiVo box required 14 hours on the phone with TiVo and Time Warner NYC customer service to finally get the CableCard decoders properly installed. So, credit where it’s due: this time, it took a mere two hours and change. Progress! We’ve gone from tech support hell to tech support heck.

Last night, I (and by “I,” I mean “Mrs. Tuned In”) was able to get the machine up and running after a few conference calls with the TiVo and cable techs. The hitch, as it always was, was activating the CableCards, big chips that enable the TiVo to descramble the cable signal and act as a cable box. So that our (and by “our” I mean “her”) efforts are not completely wasted, here are a few lessons we (and by “we” I mean “she”) learned:

* Every cable company is different, and I can only speak as a (bitter, resentful) customer of Time Warner Cable NYC. But at least for TWCNYC customers, and quite possibly for you: You do not need to have a cable tech come to your house to install the CableCards. The cable operator you call will tell you you have to. It is easier for them to just set up an appointment, and it gets you off the phone fast. Do not believe them.

* Instead, call TiVo tech support and have them conference in your cable techs. It may involve a few tries, to get a cable tech who actually knows what he or she is doing, and then they in turn may have to spend a long time calling someone else in their company to flip the magic switch–but it can all be done over the phone, not via an appointment a week later between the hours of 10 and 2. 

* If you have problems, your cable company tech will give you all sorts of suggestions as to how to get the cards properly working in your TiVo: unplug it and plug it back in, etc. Let me put this tactfully: they do not work answering phones for the cable company because they have encyclopedic knowledge of other companies’ hardware. You are lucky if they have a passable knowledge of the cable company’s hardware. Again, ignore them, call a TiVo tech and ask them what to do. 

* I’m speaking well of TiVo techs, and it’s true that this time out our experience of them was better. (Mad props to Paul.) They seem to be better trained now about cable cards and interfacing with the cable company–which, after all, is essential to their business. But they still vary, in their knowledgability and helpfulness. If you get someone who seems clueless, be willing to call back and get someone who knows more. If you get someone who is unwilling to conference with the cable company to solve your problem, that is unacceptable; TiVo has based a business on making a product that has to interface with cable systems, and their support team needs to do the same. Let TiVo know about it (they have a corporate presence on Twitter, as does their director of operations and some other staffers). Or let me know

* Get your spouse to call tech support. It just makes the whole thing much easier. And if you’re anything like me, people like talking to your spouse much better. 

My overall impression of TiVo is much like it was after my last box broke down. It’s a beautiful thing when it works; I wish that it would work more reliably than it has in my experience. Nonetheless I stick with it, because (1) I’ve already made the investment in an expensive HD box and (2) I and my family probably have a greater brand identification with TiVo than with any actual TV channel. (The interface! That cute little guy! That boop-boop sound!)

But will I buy another? Ask me when my new TiVo finally breaks down. Which had better not be for a long time. 

Now I need to get my iPhone fixed. Pray for me.