BlogGeneralWhen Customer Service Goes Wrong

When Customer Service Goes Wrong

Sonos is a legendarily successful audio products manufacturer renowned throughout the world for the quality of its systems. Indeed, it is so respected that it has hundreds of partnerships with world-leading brands across the globe, including Amazon Music, Spotify, MOG, QQ Music, Pandora, and iHeartRadio.

The company recently experienced a customer service blunder that has jeopardized its reputation. Not only have customers experienced (and still experiencing) an issue with audio, but Sonos botched its response to complaints.

What Went Wrong?

Sonos regularly releases software updates for their audio devices to improve functionality and stability. However, patch 14.6, which dropped at the end of April, has seemingly introduced  (directly or indirectly) an issue that causes subs and rears speakers to disconnect. 

At first, many customers entirely forgave the brand, understanding that technical glitches with complex products can occur. They politely asked the company’s community forums whether anyone else had experienced the same issue since 14.6 and if there was a fix or workaround. 

However, as the problem dragged on, the tone changed. Many customers expected Sonos to respond, as any other company would, by providing quick updates on fix progress and acknowledging customers’ problems. But that didn’t happen. Instead, there was radio silence, aside from the odd remark from forum staff suggesting that the problem was with customers’ setups and not with Sonos’s products.

To compound the issue, Sonos’s speaker systems cost thousands of dollars, so customers expect a high level of support when they don’t work. Unfortunately, such help wasn’t available, leaving many feeling robbed. 

Sonos’s Customer Service Failings

As the issue dragged on, Sonos continued to make customer service mistakes. The brand initially said they had found the problem and were working on a fix. Staff member Corry P said:

“Just to let you all know, we have now identified an issue whereby some Sonos Home Theatre satellites will experience audio interruptions after the latest 14.6 update.We are investigating the situation and hope to resolve it soon. At present, we have no further information to share.”

But then the company retracted their statement in a short message that didn’t offer any real help, leaving many users without working systems: 

“I was a bit premature with posting the original best answer message in this topic. While we have been investigating [this] issue, we have not seen an increase in surround audio errors and do not see anything that suggests that you all will experience the same issue following the recent update.” 

Incredibly, Sonos has had no further communication since May 4, and now many customers are worried that their speakers will never work again. 

“This is unacceptable from Sonos!” said one customer, “the worst is that we will not even have the right to compensation.”

Another said, “I don’t know what you are waiting for … rollback to the previous stable version? If you don’t have such a “feature” built into your update system (and it should be obvious by now that you should), just release the previous version as the next point update.”

Another user remarked, “I couldn’t agree more! I’ve paid thousands of dollars for my setup and now I can’t use it.”

For many, the fact that Sonos sent out a dysfunctional patch wasn’t the issue. Instead, the real blunder was how the customer service interaction unfolded. 

Mistake #1: Keeping customers in the dark and maintaining radio silence

By reading the company’s responses above, you could be forgiven for thinking that Sonos promptly responded to the problem. Unfortunately, however, that wasn’t what happened. Instead, company representatives took several days to respond to users in the first instance and then have been silent ever since, leaving many without a solution for more than 25 days. 

“Not sure what’s to be done keeping owners in the dark with no ETA; downgrade the software release and work on a stable release. How is every user who gets the issue has just moved to 14.6 ???” one user commented. 

Another said, “I contacted support and got told it was a network issue (as I suspected I would). However nothing has changed with my setup for months. When the bass is lost, I check the room setup and the Arc, Sub and surrounds are still there. I have Ubiquiti APs with the channels manually selected to minimize interference.”

There would have been a simple solution: simply tell customers that there is an issue and that they are working on a series of fixes. Then, Sonos could have backed up its original communication with subsequent statements on its forums promising updates soon. For instance, it could have said:

“We are still working on potential fixes for issues some customers have encountered since the 14.6 update. As fixes come through, we will keep you informed. In the meantime, please contact customer service to check your current setup.”

However, customers with faulty systems have not received community messages since the original retraction.

Mistake #2: Blaming Customers For Problems With Their Sound Systems

Other owners became annoyed with Sonos’s attempt to shift the blame onto them, suggesting it was a problem with their home setup. Support staff at the company told the community: “If such a bug were introduced, we’d be hearing much more about it,” implying an issue at the users’ end, not with the Sonos system. In an attempt to help, the brand recommended that users turn off satellites, unplug the TV, Arc and router, and then reset, but these suggestions only made customers feel angrier. 

“Please stop saying it’s a network or IP address problem!” one user remarked. “It’s your 14.6 Sonos update that’s causing the problem, so get to work on a new update that fixes all that! otherwise it will be back to Bose for me!!!!”

Mistake #3: Failing To Provide Feedback From Escalated Calls

Lastly, the company failed to link customer feedback coming through its customer support channels to its technical troubleshooting teams. Customers were clearly convinced that patch 14.6 was problematic (and so too were some 1st line support staff), but internal departments didn’t compare notes. As a result, Sonos still hasn’t provided a fix, and customers are becoming increasingly desperate and angry. For example, a customer support staff member told a customer fifteen days after the patch dropped that the team had not discussed the issue and would be talking about it “in their internal meeting on Tuesday.” 

Waiting over a fortnight for a fix is unacceptable to today’s customers. According to research, 46 per cent of customers expect companies to respond faster than four hours, and 12 per cent expect a response in fifteen minutes or less. 

What Sonos Should Have Done Better

The strange thing about this incident is how easy it would have been not to escalate it. Sonos never had to issue statements implying that any of the issues were customers’ fault. Instead, it could have simply kept them apprised that they were working on a fix in the form of regular updates. 

Similarly, the company never had to keep customers in the dark. Just a simple update every day telling customers about the progress of the investigation would have been sufficient to keep most of them happy. 

The sheer length of time that customers had to wait for official company responses on the forum was also unacceptable. It took days for Sonos to respond, and when it did, it suggested that customers were to blame, not the patch. A faster response would have only taken a few minutes and considerably improved the brand’s image. 

From a technical perspective, it was also a significant blunder. Many customers had been happy with their systems up to that point and were perfectly willing for Sonos to temporarily roll back to the previous patch until it ironed out all the errors. However, that didn’t happen either, much to the community’s dismay. Speakers continued to cut out even after applying every non-patch-related fix offered. 

Over time, customers began to learn more about Sonos’s internal communication issues. It soon became apparent that various teams weren’t lining up and that the company wasn’t prioritizing the 14.6 issue in the way it should. Information silos and, perhaps, an unwillingness of specific departments to listen to each other prevented customers from getting the support they needed. 


Ultimately, this experience with Sonos has hurt the brand tremendously. Now, many customers are wondering how they can get their voices heard in the future if they encounter similar problems. 

For some, the only outlet is media coverage. There are already articles discussing the patch 14.6 issue, but they were written early in the saga when Sonos released its original statement, painting a rosier picture of the incident. 

The other option is for customers to choose other brands. However, that doesn’t help when you’ve spent thousands of dollars on a state-of-the-art surround-sound system. 

Sonos continues to remind customers that they can call its support staff. However, the issue appears to be code in the patch itself, and that’s not something that regular troubleshooting reps can fix. In the meantime, users remain with a high-end system that only half works.

SaneChoice started in 2004 when a customer was frustrated by their hosting provider at the time. Since that year, SaneChoice has been providing technology services to clients worldwide, with a strong focus on helping small businesses understand technology.


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