For the first few days, my wife and I dismissed the shows popping up in our Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) queue that we did not recognize. We assumed that our Spanish-speaking guests at our second home were using the service and logging in as me, rather than under the guest account.
After they had left, however, my wife noticed a problem when she logged in and my name was no longer one of the choices, and our entire account was displayed in Spanish. At that point, she correctly assumed that our Netflix account had been hacked.
Seeing shows pop up in your recently watched list that you did not watch is a sign your Netflix account may have been hacked. Image source: Netflix.
What happens next?
Once my wife let me know what she believed had happened, I jumped on my computer and attempted to log into my account. My credentials did not work, and I was told that there was no account associated with my email.
At that point, I used the login option for people who have forgotten their email address. That allows you to reset your password via an email sent to the account on file if you have the credit card used to create the account.
I had that and typed it in, and got a message saying that a password reset link had been sent to an email address that was most certainly not mine. At that point, all of my self-help options had been exhausted, and it was clearly time to call Netflix.
The problem gets solved
Unlike many digital services that make it difficult, if not nearly impossible, to find a customer-service phone number, Netflix displays its number multiple times on the screens you see when trying to rectify a login problem.
I called the number, was told that the wait would be one minute, and then had my call immediately picked up. The service agent was friendly, asked about my problem, and verified my account ownership by asking for the last eight digits of the credit card number on file.
He was able to see that my account info had not only be altered, but that my plan had been upgraded to a more-expensive tier. As he rectified those things, the agent stayed on the line while I received an email allowing me to set a new password.
The entire process took only a few minutes, and once it was completed, everything was back to normal and the hacker had been locked out of my account. It's also important to note that the phone agent assured me that gaining access to my account did not allow the thief to see my credit card information.
What does this mean for Netflix?
While being hacked was disturbing, and I continue to wonder how it happened, Netflix did an excellent job quickly correcting the problem. The company's fast-acting customer service made me feel valued as a customer and gave me confidence that any future problems would be easy to correct.
This is an area where many pure-digital and service companies fail. They may make telephone numbers hard to find or bury callers in an array of self-serve options designed to minimize contact with an actual person.
Not doing that costs more money. But by not skimping in this area, Netflix saved me from more-drastic steps likes having to call my bank to cancel the recurring payment (which may not have worked because while my card is on file, my account is paid through a promotion offered by my wireless carrier).
Letting me talk to a person empowered to fix the problem made a potential bad situation not a big deal at all. This is how customer service should work, and other companies would do well to take notice.
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