Sony's Email Customer Service Is Extremely Unhelpful

Reader Dustin had a question about his PS3, so he emailed Sony. Now he’s starting to suspect that they don’t actually read the emails people send…

The other night I tried booting up my PS3 and got an error message that said “The hard drive is corrupted and needs to be formatted. Press X to format.” Grrr. I knew that formatting would erase all of my saved data, but I went ahead and pushed X. And waited. And waited.

The PS3 went to a status bar that said “Formatting…” but stayed at 0% and never did anything. I couldn’t get to the cross-media bar, couldn’t get it to load a disc – nothing. I turned off the machine, let it sit until the next evening and tried again with the same result: hard disk corrupt, needs formatting, formatting freezes.

I searched Sony’s website for a solution to this problem, but couldn’t find anything, so I called their customer service number. Unfortunately, the wait time was too long, so I hung up and sent them an email explaining in detail what my problem was. I got this response:

————-
Hello Dustin,

Thank you for writing us.

We apologize for any inconvenience you may have experienced. We would like to recommend the
following PlayStation Knowledge Center article(s) that may help resolve the problem:

- Troubleshoot HDD Problems on the PLAYSTATION(R)3 computer entertainment system:
http://playstation.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/playstation.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=441
In addition, if you have not already done so, perform the following recommendations which may also
correct the problem.

- Restore Default Settings
From the XMB(TM) menu, go to [Settings] > [System Settings] > [Restore Default Settings]. Once you
select Restore Default Settings, you will see a list of settings that will be restored. Scroll
through them and press the X button to restore the settings. After the operation is complete, you
will see the initial setup screen that appeared the first time you turned on the PLAYSTATION(R)3
computer entertainment system. You will need to go through the initial setup process before you can
use the PLAYSTATION 3.

- Install the Latest Firmware Update
To check what version of the System Software is currently installed on your PLAYSTATION 3, from the
XMB menu go to [Settings] > [System Settings] > [System Information]. The system will display the
System Software version number. You can visit the following link to determine whether you have the
latest version installed.

http://www.us.playstation.com/PS3/About/SystemUpdate

- Check your Environment
Make sure to allow adequate ventilation to flow from the PLAYSTATION 3′s vents (i.e., avoid
obstructing the vents with long/shaggy carpet, inadequate airflow from cramped entertainment cabinet
setups, etc.). Make sure to also keep the PLAYSTATION 3 away from excessive dust, smoke, steam,
extreme temperatures, humidity, or direct sunlight. Full details on Safety Precautions and Use and
Handling can be found in the PLAYSTATION 3 Instruction Manual.

http://www.us.playstation.com/Support/PS3/Manuals

- Click on the link below to search the PlayStation Knowledge Center for new and existing content.

http://playstation.custhelp.com

If you have followed these steps and would still like to speak to us, please call our Consumer
Services Department at (800) 345-7669. Our representatives are available to assist you, Monday
through Saturday 6:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., and Sunday 7:00 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., Pacific Standard Time.

If you have further questions regarding this message and are replying back via email, please refer
to your email case number:5782785.

Sophie
Multimedia Representative
Sony Computer Entertainment America
Consumer Services Department
——————-

Apparently they didn’t read my email, because their “solutions” all involved a PS3 that booted to the main menu and the cross-media bar. They didn’t address my problem, nor did they offer any helpful solution. So I sent them back this email:

“I don’t mean to sound like a jerk, but your response to my email was inadequate and unthoughtful.

If you look at my email, you will see that I am getting an error message when I turn the machine on. I can’t do any of the things listed in your knowledge center, because I can’t access the cross-media bar. I can’t even get my PS3 to boot up! For some reason, it freezes up when trying to format.

I will give your customer service center a call. Please know that most of us who have purchased a PS3 are familiar with technology and know how to search for an answer on a company’s website. I wouldn’t have written to you without first trying every solution I could find online.

Sending a form letter in answer to a detailed email is condescending.

Dustin”

And this was their response:
————
Hello Dustin,

We apologize for any inconvenience you may have experienced. We would like to recommend the
following PlayStation Knowledge Center article(s) that may help resolve the problem….

Sigh. Guess it’s back to the hold queue for you, Dustin.

Comments

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  1. henwy says:

    I had the same issue when I emailed Sony about my PSP. On some of the games the PSP would lock up and then with a loud clicking sound, shut itself out. The first time it happened, I was a bit disturbed. By the second time, I was a little paniced about it. I wasn’t sure if my PSP was on its way to an early death or what.

    I emailed Sony’s customer service and described the details of my problems in depth, providing all possible information possible so they could diagnose the issue for me. I got back the exact same sort of copied email with completely useless crap.

    With some more testing, I was able to find that the PSP only did it with certain games and I learned to avoid playing those games. No real problems since then but if it had been something serious, it’s clear that emailing Sony would never have resolved it.

  2. Score one again for Sony…. Poor guy.

  3. realstyle73 says:

    Dustin,

    or anybody that knows Dustin,

    if your reading this please call me
    at Sony Style
    (503)968-5279

    ask for Tyler

  4. MyPetFly says:

    I can’t figure out why companies, not just Sony, sacrificing long-term customer satisfaction for short-term earnings boosts. Cutting expenses like good customer service, etc. is going to eventually chase customers away.

    I can tell you that many of the companies I read about here will get little if any future business from me, just because I don’t want to face the prospect of fighting them for what’s rightfully mine.

  5. macinjosh says:

    I wrote to my bank with a suggestion once. (See link for a less-than-verbatim transcript.)

    Looks like Sony one-upped them by gettin’ all circular on Dustin’s ass.

  6. spinachdip says:

    @MyPetFly: Because corporations are run by a generation of MBAs who have been taught that every problem is a business problem that can be solved through rebranding, price cuts or product launches. They don’t care about customer satisfaction or improving products beyond simply adding features, because they don’t have a metric for those things.

  7. stinerman says:

    @spinachdip:

    Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

  8. Techguy1138 says:

    I found a similar response from Sony on a far less serious PS3 issue.

    It looks like the phone is the way to go.

    I called and complained to customer service. It looks like they didn’t get it fixed.

  9. Triterion says:

    I had GREAT customer service the one time I had to call Sony, the trick is to call after 9′Oclock at night, cause their call center is in India. I swear I only had to wait for about 10 seconds until a live person picked up the phone. (Of course their email system is going to be less helpful then a live person. (I think they use that email system to filter out the really stupid/obvious questions before taking up an actual person’s time)

  10. purplesun says:

    Now, I wouldn’t be too hard on the form letter the first time. This is almost an industry standard, because giving a personal reply to every single email would take too long, when problems can usually be solved by the automated response that comes out first.

    However, when he hit reply and responded, then it should have gone to a specialist who actually read the email, as opposed to an algorithm that just scans for key words.

    In fact, a company where I worked had that exact system – first the email was scanned automatically for key words and a form letter sent out. However, if there was a reply from the email that was sent out, it went into a queue for a live person to review. 95% or so of the problems were solved by pointing to the FAQ’s and the 5% that really needed help received prompt, detailed assistance on the second go round.

    Maybe their e-mail system is broken.

  11. Breach says:

    Sony is big and lethargic, it doesn’t care as long as they get that initial sale. Any EECBs for Sony on Consumerist?

  12. @purplesun: Unless the second email is not the verbatim quote of his response email, it seems more like the problem is Dustin’s reading comprehension. It specifically says that he is to refer to his problem number and nowhere in Dustin’s response does he mention the number. That problem number is probably what cues the system to send it to a specialist. I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t even respond, rather created a new email because it is probably an @noreply email.

  13. TheKingBoar says:

    That is, verbatim, the exact same response I got to my email about why my PS3 likes to drop my internet connection or only download at 5kb/s (and thats on the high end). I’ve got high, high speed so its rather odd. Of course, my Wii, XBox 360, and laptop all in the same area work fine. Sony’s worthless, but they’ll just loose my online business for it.

  14. macinjosh says:

    @male roof blower (CFB): Custhelp usually puts ticket numbers in the subject and uses that for matching replies with existing tickets. If he just reply, then it shouldn’t be a problem as the subject stays intact. I am curious as to what exactly happened there to see your theory is correct.

  15. numindast says:

    I have a Sony Card. That’s a credit card offered by way of Chase bank. I get tons of emails from them, each and every one hawking ways for me to make them money. Regardless, 90% of the emails had “red X’s” where images (jpg’s, etc) were supposed to be. I spent FOUR HOURS emailing every “contact us” link I could find. Guess what happened? ALL the emails BOUNCED back to me. Even the “Contact the Webmaster” link bounced as an invalid address.

    Sony doesn’t give a SHIT what you have to say to them. They want your money. Period. ZERO interest in actually providing customer service. MONEY MONEY MONEY. That’s it. Nothing else.

    Back in the 80′s and 90′s, Sony made some really nice stuff, and even backed it up with service. Welcome to the ’00′s. Sony doesn’t give a crap. They want your money, and then, they want NOTHING to do with you … except, of course, more money.

    Sony sucks.

  16. mzhartz says:

    What’s the point of even having an email address if no one’s going to look at it?

    I got a mysterious check from Capital One in the mail the other day. I couldn’t find any phone numbers on their site that would deal with a mysterious check. So I decided rather than doing the phone transfer runaround, I’d email to see what number I should call. Their email form reply was not to put personally identifying information in an email, and to call customer service, neither of which addressed my issue.

    Sigh, I guess it’s long hold times and many transfers for me.

  17. dakotad555 says:

    When will customer service become important to any large company? Only when enough people stop buying their garbage. I just wish there were more companies who were actually helpful, and answered their e-mails, their phones, etc, and answered a question with a real response not a form letter.

    The problem is that there are very, very few excellent corporations. I wish it was obvious so I would know where to spend my money.

  18. TacoDave says:

    Hi. I’m Dustin.

    For the record, I was emailing them from Gmail. If you know how it works, then you know that every email is a “conversation.” When I hit ‘reply,’ it sent them the entire exchange, which means that their email response number was included.

    I called them today (before this posted) and they were sort of helpful – they are sending me a box to send the PS3 in for service – but they are demanding a receipt showing proof of purchase. Since the PS3 was a gift (I love my wife!), I don’t have the receipt (she didn’t keep it like I would have). So now they say I’ll have to pay $150 to have the service done.

    I’ve only had it since October. *sad*

  19. vastrightwing says:

    A: Don’t buy SOny products.

  20. crazypants says:

    Nintendo customer care puts these clowns to shame – this is clearly all your fault for buying a PS3 in the first place. What on earth were you thinking you big dummy? :P

  21. Mike8813 says:

    @stinerman: It’s nice to see that the Consumerist is filled with “Simpsons” dorks like me.

  22. gnubian says:

    I emailed sony about a problem with a dvd player issue .. just wait until the nonstop sony spam starts

  23. sprocket79 says:

    @TacoDave: Dustin – did she pay for it with a credit card? They might be willing to accept a credit card statement. Alternately, I once had to get a receipt for something that I had long thrown away. I ended up going to the store and they were able to look up my order using my credit card and reprinted a receipt. You might want to try that.

  24. trolley says:

    I just emailed Sony support as well when my GTA4 got stuck loading the saved game. The game itself would load fine but when it get to loading the saved game it just sat there forever. I got back practically the same response as this person did. They obviously didn’t read my email. At least they sent me something though. Take 2 hasn’t responded in a week since I wrote them about the same problem.

  25. katoninetales says:

    It’s been my experience that various help systems (including the XBox 360′s, but I don’t own any Sony game systems) automatically send a form letter when any help request goes into the queue, including responses to the first letter, but that they then respond with a personalized answer. I’ve never failed to get a real response from someone who’s read the complaint within a week or so.

  26. dragonfire81 says:

    It’s not a matter of someone not looking at the emails. The problem is the person looking at those emails is undertrained, underpaid and quite possibly outsourced.

    They likely have limited knowledge of PS3 technical problems and are trained to simply refer customers to the knowledge base.

    Believe me, companies put knowledge bases on a pedestal. When I was at my call center and I needed an answer to something, the response was always “look it up in the knowledge base!”. The problem is knowledge bases sometimes contain contradictory, incorrect or incomplete information OR may contain NO information on certain problems at all!

    This is a direct result of cutting customer service costs and not training your reps properly.

  27. WingZero987 says:

    Sony is garbage. They’re the only video game hardware manufacturer out of the big 3 that requires a receipt for warranty exchange. That made me very happy when update 2.3 broke my blu-ray drive. I’m a Wii owner now after being jerked around by Sony Customer Support for 3 days. Thanks for all the rootkits and men in black suits serving cease-and-desist orders, Sony. Maddox was right. You do suck.

  28. tndb123 says:

    I emailed Sony’s marketing department. Even they sent out a canned email.

  29. m1k3g says:

    The name SONY & the words ‘Customer Service’ are completely incompatible. SONY couldn’t care LESS about customers, let alone service. The ONLY thing SONY obviously cares about is CUSTOMERS MONEY. The sooner people realize that and stop giving the steaming pile of sh*t their hard earned dollars for ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in return, the better.

  30. rick_in_texas says:

    What you got a “bot” or computer that responded to your question. Most email systems have you choose a “topic” based on that “topic” (sometimes it’s the subject line) they will send you a generic response.

    I am suspecting a “bot” since you got the same answer twice.

  31. Megatenist says:

    Personally, I think all of the “Big 3″ (Sony,Micro$oft, and Nintendo) have poor customer service.

    It’s enough to make me a jaded gamer.

  32. Dyscord says:

    Nintendo runs circles around Sony’s customer service. My DS screen became cracked about two months after I bought it. Physical damage isn’t covered under warranty, but since the system itself was still under warranty, they knocked off 20 dollars from the normal repair price. It was a very quick and painless experience.

  33. be2443 says:

    I have a PS3 sitting in the nice box they sent me (after 5 calls and holding for more then 20 minutes) they wont take it back because I don’t have the receipt. I spoke to a supervisor by the name of Jason and he was no help! He was rude, I asked to speak to his supervisor and he said there was no one above him. They want the 150.00 out of warranty fee. It was a gift for my son for Christmas. Their customer service sucks! I will have it sitting in the box and collecting dust until it is really out of warranty. I will never buy another Sony product again!

  34. Radoman says:

    @TacoDave: Hi Dustin. Sorry to hear about your PS3. I’m also sorry to hear about them requiring a receipt for repairs, as mine too was a gift. (Bummer) Seems openly hostile towards consumers who might buy one as a gift.

    I was just thinking, this sounds exactly like a crashed harddrive in a PC. Many people upgrade their PS3s with a new larger harddrive. You can access it from the left side of the unit. (When looking at it from the front)

    A new, much larger harddrive would cost considerably less than $150 at Newegg. Something to consider if they aren’t technically honoring your warranty anyway.

    What’s the deal with PS3s using so much hardrive space anyway? I have a 40 gig that shows 27 gigs free with zero games installed. Odd…

  35. trujunglist says:

    I concur, go with the new HD install yourself. That way you save the money, get a bigger HD, and give the finger to Sony for being so unhelpful.

  36. @Megatenist:
    apple fan boy?

  37. Anonymous says:

    I’ve just purchacdc a 40 inch lcd sony tv and was happy untill I tried to register it in Puerto Rico
    The questions are discriminatory, personal,and degradeing to the latin people and the site is NOT user friendly
    I WILL NEVER BUY OR RECOMEND SONY AGAIN

  38. Brian Cronin says:

    I HAVE A GOOD IDEA ABOUT SOME THING AND I WANT UR CO. TO BE THE ONE TO MAKE MONEY AS LONG AS I GET A LITTLE