Random Stew It seemed like a good idea at the time.

9Nov/070

Customer Serviceā€¦.NOT! Part Quatre

The way to a customer’s heart and wallet lies in how well we initially serve our customers and recover from poor service. Unknown

As I've blogged before here, here, and here, I've been enjoying wonderful customer service from my local telephone company regarding my slow DSL speeds .......................... (long Borat-esque wait here) ............................................... NOT! In my last post on the subject, the service technician had left a voice mail saying that my download speed should now be 6Mbps. That was Monday, November 5. Of course, the speed was not 6Mbps, it was only about 1Mbps. The technician didn't leave a callback number, nor did I have a trouble ticket number. I sure didn't want to endure the telco's outsourced technical support call center again. So I went online to the telco's site and found a form to Submit a question or trouble ticket. At 9:39AM on Monday, November 5, I submitted a request for them to reopen my trouble ticket and send a service technician to my house to diagnose the problem. The telco's site promises a response within 24 hours. I received a response at 11/08/2007 02:02 PM -- 77 hours later. And what was their belated response?

Response (Avel P.) - 11/08/2007 02:02 PM   
Thank you for using Windstream's Support E-mail System.  We would like to thank you for being an Windstream customer, your service is very valuable to us.  The problem you report is not easy to fix over email.  We suggest you contact our helpdesk at one of the numbers provided and we will be happy to troubleshoot with you.

Windstream strives to provide the highest level of service and answers to every question.  Please contact us at 1-800-990-4449 (dial-up) or 1-888-292-3827 (broadband) if you have any other questions or further assistance.

Sigh.

The pleasures of call centers.

Resignedly, I call the broadband technical assistance number, a.k.a. the outsourcing of Hell. This time I talk to "Jim". Jim begins taking me through the exact same customer management and technical diagnosis scripts that I endured for hours last week. Damn, but these support people are trained to the point of becoming automatons. However, Jim surprisingly readily agrees to reopen my previous trouble ticket, but as he's doing so, we are disconnected. Recall that I was disconnected last week when talking to this same support center -- a support center for a telephone company.

Sigh.

I call back. This time I'm apparently connected to a different call center. "Andrea" answers the phone and she has an American accent. And, in sharp contrast to the over-the-top politeness of the other support personnel, Andrea has a very brusque attitude. She begins to insist that I disable all firewalls and plug my computer directly to the DSL modem. I still can't believe that this is the technical support of an ISP suggesting I plug an unprotected Windows-based PC directly to the Internet. A quick Google search reveals all sorts of articles about the inadvisability of doing just what Andrea is advising me to do. When I refuse to do so and instead ask that she reopen my previous trouble ticket, she flatly states that she cannot help me unless I cooperate with her request. I ask to speak to her supervisor. Andrea says she doesn't have a supervisor (how convenient) but that she'll connect me with a "senior technician".

Now Vestil (sp?) gets on the line. Vestil is very polite but he also insists that I plug a computer directly to the DSL modem. Again, I refuse. Vestil then tries to tell me that he will not be able to help if I don't comply with his request. I tell him I will not be able to continue as a customer with his company if he doesn't comply with my request and send a service technician to my house! I told Vestil that his company is unable to deliver on the level of service they promised and now that I'm informing them of the problem and asking that they fulfill their obligation, I'm essentially being told "tough shit". I also asked him to provide a solid technical reason for why I should risk an unprotected computer on the Internet; of course, he could not provide a reason.

How I'm feeling at this point.After much wrangling, I finally told Vestil to forget it; I wanted to cancel the service and receive a complete refund. Now he starts backpedaling, saying he really wanted to help me, they valued me as a customer, yadda yadda yadda. I told him it was too late that he had just lost my business. Finally, I'm connected to the billing department which, I'm told, will cancel my service and provide me with a refund.

Instead of billing, I'm connected to what I'm calling the "customer retention desperation department". What I feel like now.Joyce comes on the line, and she's good. Joyce is obviously well-trained and skilled in sales. She immediately tries to connect with me by telling me she lives in a nearby city and has visited my area many times. She asks why I wish to cancel my service and listens with an attentive and empathetic ear. And despite my knowledge that this is a technique for me to spend my frustration and make me more manageable, damned if it doesn't work. Yes, Joyce weaves her magic and talks me into giving them another chance.

Even so, Joyce did provide a few concessions. First, my service will be free for two months while I try it out. Second, a technician will be here Tuesday morning (my first available time slot), between 9AM and noon, to fix whatever the problem may be at no charge. Finally, Joyce provides me with her direct telephone number as a point of contact for any problems; I guess my file has been marked as a customer in need of special handling -- at least, I hope so.

So, in spite of myself, I'm giving the telco one last chance. At this point, I have spent 6 hours dealing with this stupid issue. At my billing rate of $150/hour, that equates to $900 or, as my business partner pointed out, 60 months of the $15 savings the telco is supposed to provide me over cable broadband service. And I swear, if they don't fix it this time, I'm submitting a bill for my time. I know they won't pay it, but it's the money of the thing, not the principle.

31Oct/070

Customer Service….NOT!

Warning: This is a rant.

If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends. JEFF BEZOS

As a self-employed programmer, I work from home a great deal and rely on a solid and fast Internet connection. For years, I've used Time-Warner's RoadRunner service because it seemed to be the best value for speed and reliability. That's not to say I haven't had issues with them over the years. I recently decided to switch my broadband service from RR to DSL. RR costs $45/month and the local telco offered a deal of $29/month for a DSL connection with 6Mbps download speed. My cable connection is normally about 3.5Mbps but degrades severely in the afternoons and evenings when all of the neighborhood kids get out of school and online. DSL does not share bandwidth with the neighborhood, so I figured I would take advantage of a two-fold increase in speed with a savings of $16/month. So, I accept my telco's offer and sign up for DSL. I give them a username and password for my account and am told I will receive a package with my modem and software within the next couple of days. Cool. They call back the next day with apologies and say they have "lost" my information. After having them verify they are indeed from the telco, I again provide them with a username and password. Again, I'm told the modem package is on the way. Today, I received my goodie package. I'm excited to try the new service. The first thing I notice is that the username/password combination is not what I provided and is instead a obviously system-generated username with a password of "changeme". Yes, that is the real password. It's incredible that an ISP would not provide a strong, random password. Oh well. I hook everything up and am immediately online. I quickly change my password to something much more secure. The next thing I do is perform a quick broadband speed test. WTF?!? I only have 1.8 Mbps download speed -- less than 1/3 the promised speed! I unplug my router from the DSL modem and plug it into the cable modem. Hmmmm...the cable connection is running at 3.5Mbps.