My favorite broken website of the day: the “Request Credit for a Referral” page of TiVo Rewards.

Back in mid-November, some friends of mine bought a TiVo, and when they activated their service, they put me in as the person who referred them. I got an email from the TiVo Rewards asking if I would like to sign up for an account and get credit for the referral, which I then did. (Irritation #1: despite the fact that I already have an account for my own two TiVos, the company required me to sign up for a separate account because my friends used an email address different than the one I have on file with TiVo. Period, no question, no ability to actually apply those points to the account I’ve had with them for years.)

The referral credit never showed up, so I started doing a little investigation and learned that there’s a way to request credit, but it has to be done within 60 days of my friends activating their service. (Irritation #2: the process requires that I provide the cryptic TiVo Service Number of my friends’ account, meaning that they have to navigate through their TiVo menus to the right place, write down the 15-digit hexadecimal number, and then send that to me.) Today, we were finally able to hook up long enough to get their service number, and I went to the aforementioned page to request the credit… only to find that the field specifying the year of their service activation doesn’t allow you to choose the year 2004. You know — the year that ended less than a week ago, that’s not an option.

Luckily, I was able to call, reach a competent customer service person with less than a ten-minute hold time, and get her to recognize the problem; she spoke to the relevant people and had them apply the credit while I was on the phone. (Irritation #3: the TiVo customer service phone line makes you go through one of those “tell me what you want to do” voice trees, where you have to guess the right phrase that’ll get you on your way.)

What’s the lesson here? Be careful that your customer loyalty programs — like TiVo Rewards — don’t make your customers more irritated with you than they do loyal to you. Having to chase down the credit for my referral, and then being unable to do so through the intended channels, makes me less likely to want to refer people to TiVo again, and thus, ends up having the opposite of its intended effect.