Monday, April 20, 2015

EVOLVE and Customer Service

Scene from the EVOLVE 42 feed Saturday night
EVOLVE 42 took place this past Saturday night in Orlando, FL, and I would love to say that it went off without a hitch. However, people who purchased the show saw feed problems, and then at intermission, the building shut the building's Internet connections off, forcing said intermission to run long while the crew scrambled for a solution. One would think that Gabe Sapolsky and his WWN Live service would have this Internet-pay-per-view thing down by now since they were among the first to adopt the medium. One would also think that the group would have learned a thing about customer service over the years, but when you answer a reasonable request for a video on demand access point for a show riddled with technical failures with KEEP WAITING as a response, well, that speaks louder than the promise of a "makegood" after the right people got a hold of the initial bullshit response.

I understand shit happens on a regular basis, and for companies that still live and die at the margins like EVOLVE, getting the medium absolutely correct on a regular basis may be a bit too much to ask. Even WWE, with its infinite resources comparatively speaking, fucks up pay-per-view broadcasts over The Network from time to time. But to continually shit in the customer's mouth is completely unacceptable. It was unacceptable when Sapolsky and loyal stooge Lenny "Lenny Leonard" Leonard blamed Philadelphia fans for the execution of the ending of EVOLVE 10 instead of their own retread booking practices. It was unacceptable when Sapolsky bitched out fans on Twitter for using the medium what it was created for and directly interacting with him in attempt to get Aaron Epic booked. It continues to be unacceptable when WWN Live jacks up the price of iPPV purchases within a day of airing the live feeds in a transparent moneygrab, thus discouraging impulse buys. And by God, it's unacceptable now.

The dirtiest secret in customer service is that the customer isn't always right, but as a retailer or a provider of goods, you can never outwardly act hostile to those who pay you. Even if the fans were in the wrong here, the treatment given by WWN Live has been borderline hostile, but in nearly all situations, the paying customers have had legitimate concerns and gripes, especially in this situation. When someone pays for a streaming service, that person should reasonably expect to get a nearly flawless stream, a chance to watch the show that person paid for in full without interruption. If the provider can't do that, then it should give that person an avenue in which he or she can watch the show uninterrupted at a later date for no extra charge WITHOUT having to ask for it. It's that lack of courtesy that I'm surprised hasn't cost Sapolsky and WWN Live even more customers than it probably already has.

But to hear it from representatives within that group, their bad habits are not the problem. Their reasoning for the flagging business is that piracy is ruining them. Yes, piracy exists. Yes, in theory, watching footage that you haven't been given or have paid for is dreadfully wrong, although the argument that piracy is Actually Good™ is compelling. But if you're talking about pirating wrestling shows that are attended by maybe 200 people if you're being generous about the average non-China EVOLVE gate, then maybe your company is just not in that much demand? Again, companies like EVOLVE that live and die on the margins can use every single iPPV buy they can, but at the same time. what would be a better course of option when the sales figures are that low, shaking down every potential viewer for their last shekels or actually fostering a tremendous product with great promotion backed with superior customer service?

Whether or not WWN Live promotes its family of products well is not a debate I wish to have right now, but the customer service side is several orders of magnitude below "superior" that it's not even funny. If you're going to be in business of serving wrestling fans, you can't hold them in obvious contempt. Saturday's debacle is just another piece of evidence against Gabe Sapolsky and his WWN Live cronies that they hate the people they serve. Maybe if they want better business, they all ought to change their outlooks and start practicing real customer service instead of lip service to the concept.