Great Customer Service Smoothes Out Bad Self-Service

Success at switching to a truly bundled Disney+ and Hulu experience (both with no ads) from the janky status quo where both services were billed separately and Hulu had ads but Disney+ didn’t required the great customer service experience I had earlier today. In prior months, I’d made the mistake of following the instructions provided as the self-service approach to accomplishing this, and failed miserably. I switched from annual billing to monthly on Disney+ and tried to switch to the Premium Duo multiple times over multiple months, only to be redirected to Hulu and be blocked from signing up for what I wanted.

Today I tried the chat option (with a live human being) and finally got the bundle I wanted–and a refund for the price differential between the new bundle and what I’d been paying. It ultimately took being manually unsubscribed from both Disney+ and Hulu, which the customer service rep accomplished by reaching out to whatever department and systems she needed to, in the span of about 20 minutes. Definitely a 5-star customer service experience–unfortunately made necessary by terrible self-service options.

Plenty of companies almost certainly believe that they will be able to use ChatGPT (or something like it) to replace the people that do this work. But at least initially (and probably for quite awhile after that) the fully-automated customer service experience is likely to be worse (if not much worse) than the experience of customer service from people. I’m very skeptical of the idea that an AI chatbot would have driven the same outcome from a customer service interaction as a person did in this case. And this is in a low-stakes situation like streaming services (some number of which will very likely end up on my budget chopping block in 2024). High-stakes customer service situations will not have the same tolerance for mistakes, as shown in the FTC’s 5-year ban on Rite-Aid using facial recognition for surveillance. These are the sorts of mistakes warned about in the documentary Coded Bias years ago, but I have no doubt that other companies will make the same mistakes Rite-Aid did.

In an episode of Hanselminutes I listened to recently, the host (Scott Hanselman) used a comparison of how AI could be used between the Iron Man suit and Ultron. I hope using AI to augment human capabilities (like the Iron Man suit) is the destination we get back to, after the current pursuit of replacing humans entirely (like Ultron) fails. Customer service experiences that led by people but augmented by technology will be better for people on both sides of the customer service equation and better for brands.

Ahsoka Fell Victim to the Marvelization of Star Wars


I hate to say this about my oldest fandom, but Ahsoka wasn’t good. I’m not here to set Dave Filoni’s entire filmography on fire. Contrary to some, I think The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels were better than the prequel movies. Ahsoka is a key character in both The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels, which is why so much of the fandom (myself included) was excited to see her in live action in The Mandalorian. Grand Admiral Thrawn wasn’t just a key antagonist in the last couple of seasons of Star Wars: Rebels, he’s one of the best villains in Star Wars–and notably one who George Lucas did not create. Timothy Zahn is the author behind Thrawn (and each of the 13 novels that feature him), including a trilogy set after the events of Return of the Jedi that would have made for a much better sequel trilogy than the one which ultimately made it to theaters.

In retrospect, this interview where Dave Filoni essentially agrees with the perspective that Ahsoka could be seen as season 5 of Rebels was a warning. This confirmed that viewers would basically have had to do the homework of watching most everything with Ahsoka in it to grasp everything going on in the show. Enough time has passed since I watched Rebels in full that there were multiple points in the show where I didn’t get what was going on. And that’s before you get to the now infamous “space cartwheel”.

Even viewers who did the homework must contend with the addition of a master-padawan relationship between Ahsoka Tano and Sabine Wren that wasn’t in any of the shows. This was far from the only opportunity missed to use flashbacks to add missing context and flesh out characters so they actually mattered to the audience (whether they’d “done the homework” or not). I’ve said on social media that Dave Filoni did better character development with The Bad Batch than he did in Ahsoka. The same is true of Jon Favreau and The Mandalorian. With this show, Filoni leaned far too hard on “unearned, MCU-level ‘remember this?’ tropes that rely more on good memories than actual character development.”

Beyond the “homework” problem and lack of character development in the show itself, Ahsoka was stuffed with too many competing storylines to do any of them justice. For me, there wasn’t enough in the show to explain the loyalty of the Night Sisters of Dathomir to Thrawn’s cause, or Hera Syndulla’s fear of his return. As I write this, I have yet to see any confirmation of Ahsoka being renewed for another season. Assuming it doesn’t get cancelled, I’m pessimistic that a second season would improve on the shortcomings of the first.