Musk's Starlink Pre-Order Subscribers Say Customer Service Is A No Show
from the innovative-to-a-point dept
The narrative du jour is that Elon Musk’s companies are just so damn innovative that they don’t have to adhere to basic norms. His companies don’t need a functioning PR department, for example, because Musk is just so damn charming on Twitter. As you may have noticed, this narrative isn’t always particularly accurate.
Take Starlink, Musk’s attempt to disrupt telecom with low orbit satellites providing pretty impressive broadband speeds. The service remains in beta, and because there’s limited satellite capacity (an unfortunate side effect of physics), it won’t be able to provide service to more than say 500-800k subscribers for some time (for scale: 42 million lack broadband and 83 million live under a broadband monopoly). So needless to say, those slots are going to be relatively precious for folks out of the reach of traditional broadband who’ll genuinely be helped by having a new option.
The service, which provides speeds sometimes faster than 100 Mbps (at least on non-commercial beta network) costs $100 a month, plus a $500 equipment fee. But the users who say they plunked down $100 early this year aren’t receiving any communication from the company… at all. Attempts to inquire where they are in the process or when they’ll get a working satellite broadband terminal wind up being thrown into a void:
“The Starlink app doesn’t have a customer service option for people with deposits, said Corey Gordon, who is based in Alberta, Canada, and paid 129 Canadian dollars ($103) for the deposit in May. “I have left a couple of detailed voicemails on an answering service at SpaceX over a month ago and still have heard nothing,” he told Insider.
Reviews for the service have been decidedly mixed, though updated hardware and satellites may help mitigate many of these early complaints. Still, early adopters are, understandably, a little perplexed at why a company that designs rocket ships can’t answer basic email inquiries:
“If they can send a rocket to space, why can’t they figure out how to provide customer service?” he said. A deployment map would be useful to check when to expect Starlink, he added.”
Granted dodgy customer service for Musk-owned companies isn’t all that uncommon, especially if you spend more than twenty seconds looking at customer experiences with Tesla’s rooftop solar system installations. As for Starlink, the service has already signed up 500,000 users, and it will take several years before it’s able to provide service to many more than that. With so many Musk fans jockeying for those remaining slots, things could get very Lord of The Flies-esque in short order. And that’s before you get to supply chain issues or potential congestion problems on a fully launched and loaded network.
Regardless, it’s odd that the Musk companies’ reputation for boundless innovation apparently often doesn’t apply to customer service. Or a functioning PR department capable of explaining why such an innovative company can’t seem to design a basic, working, automated confirmation system for Starlink subscribers.